One of the highlights of my recent trip to Fort Myers, Florida last week was an afternoon spent wandering around the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve.
In 1976, a group of Lee County, Florida students studying the role of forested wetland in Florida’s ecology became alarmed at how fast these environmental treasures were disappearing to private interests. The students, known simply as “the Monday Group,” envisioned a place where visitors could stroll amongst majestic cypress trees and catch the whisper of Florida’s primordial past. They sought an oasis where guests could observe the vast array of plants and animals that can live in a place which is sometimes land, sometimes water, sometimes both. In such pristine surroundings, they hoped that people could begin to learn how wetlands provide priceless, but often hidden benefits such as water purification and storage, natural flood control, and wildlife habitat. Knowing the Six Mile Cypress Slough (pronounced slew) was under imminent threat from logging in the channeling away of its water, the Monday Group launched a daring campaign to save it for future generations. Lee County, Florida voters responded overwhelmingly by increasing their own taxes to purchase and convert the Slough into a preserve.*
Along the beautiful 1.2 mile elevated and fully handicapped-accessible boardwalk, there are a number of observation decks that shoot off the beaten path with benches for sitting still, relaxing, reflecting, communing with nature, photographing and contemplating the thought-provoking quotes posted along the way.
I hope I captured even a snippet of the beauty and grandeur of this 3,400 acre, 11-mile long wetland to share with you here, and it encourages you to visit if you are ever in the area.
This gator was enchanting to see swimming nearby…
…but this 12-footer across the lake was really something to see!
There were dozens of species of songbirds, wading birds, and birds of prey – including many which are threatened or endangered. The Slough also serves as a resting spot for many migrating birds.
I watched this snowy egret successfully fish for lunch,
and turtles sunning and warming themselves.
There was no way to take it all in, and I am certain that one could walk it every day of the year and experience something new each time.
The Slough offers guided tours if you like. I chose to take it at my own pace, meeting and chatting with others along the way, including an avid unofficial tour guide, who showed me tracks and rubbings and explained much of the plant and wildlife.
What a wonderful way to spend a Tuesday afternoon in February… with a great friend… in the warmth of sunny Florida away from the wintry, snowy weather of home… and enjoying nature – at Life in Between.
Cheers & Hugs,
*from pg 23 of Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve Explorer’s Companion – History of the Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve
**Boardwalk Photo: Weekly Photo Challenge – Symmetry