Accessible Activities in Big Cypress National Preserve

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By: Christian Portilla

Big Cypress National Preserve is located about one hour west west of Miami and offers stunning views of a diverse freshwater swamp ecosystem that houses a range of plants and animals. It is a true wilderness – but is surprisingly accessible for visitors with disabilities. 

Scenic Drives

Visitors with mobility challenges will find that the preserve’s landscape can be enjoyed from inside a vehicle – either directly on Tamiami Trail (US 41) or on two scenic drives accessed from US 41. The Loop Road Scenic Drive and the drive on Turner River Road both provide an interesting viewing experience. Note that an SUV or higher-profile vehicle is recommended during the rainy season (generally May through November) on the Loop Road Scenic Drive.

Accessibility at the Preserve’s Welcome Centers and Boardwalk Areas

The preserve’s two welcome centers (the Oasis Visitor Center and the Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center) have wheelchair-accessible restrooms. Throughout the preserve, the campgrounds and some boardwalks are wheelchair accessible. These boardwalk areas are “short raised” so that people with a motorized or manual wheelchair can enjoy the view, and they range from 100 feet to a mile long. 

When traveling from Miami, the first place you’ll encounter is the Oasis Visitor Center. In front, you’ll see a boardwalk with wheelchair access. Here, you can see fish, turtles, birds and even alligators. 

Another boardwalk is located approximately 12 miles west of the Oasis Visitor Center, at the Kirby Storter Roadside Park. One of the most popular locations in the preserve, this boardwalk is accessible and offers a lovely mile-long (round-trip) journey into a cypress swamp with a gator hole at the end.

If you’re looking for a shorter path to nature, keep driving west to H.P. Williams Roadside Park. Its wheelchair-accessible boardwalk is about 100 feet long, and you’re nearly guaranteed to see alligators. 

If you continue west, the Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center has a breezeway about 100 feet in length where you can access the boardwalk and look for manatees (more common in the winter months).

Activities for Differently Abled Visitors at Big Cypress National Preserve

Other activities to consider at Big Cypress include camping at the Midway Campground, which is wheelchair accessible and the only site that offers full RV hookups. Due to COVID-19 precautions, ranger-led tours are temporarily suspended. The Big Cypress Institute is still leading nature tours, however, including birding tours that can be modified for those with mobility challenges. Call the Institute ahead of time at (239) 719-2483 so the tour guide can select a more accessible trail.

Accommodations for Visitors with Sight or Hearing Challenges

For visitors with hearing impairments, a variety of informational publications may be obtained at both visitor centers. There are also about 50 exhibits and panels with illustrations and text about natural and cultural features (in both English and Spanish) displayed throughout the preserve and in the visitor centers. For those who require sight accommodations, Big Cypress National Preserve offers educational brochures in braille. 

The welcome centers offer an orientation film that provides a history of the preserve with closed captions in English, Spanish and German. If needed, the staff can increase the volume. 

For More Information

For more information, go to Big Cypress National Preserve or call (239) 695-2000.

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