By Noelle H. Lowery
Want to learn a little more about the flora and fauna along the Blackwater River? Want to see ancient mangroves and royal palms? Want to know how the Semi-nole Indians survived in the swamps of southwest Florida?
Then take a guided canoe trip at Collier-Seminole State Park. Now available Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, beginning at 9:30 AM, the guided tours explore a 13.6-mile canoe trail that twists and turns down the Blackwater River through the state park. The cost is $30 per person for ages six years and up, and each trip is about three hours long. Sunscreen and insect re-pellent are a must.
Collier-Seminole State Park was created in 1923 by Barron Collier to preserve it as one of three original stands of the rare royal palm in Florida. The 7,271-acre park lies at the junction of two of tropical Florida’s most interesting natural fea-tures, overlapping the northern edge of the great mangrove swamp of south-western Florida and the southern edge of the Big Cypress Swamp. The park is the meeting place of the land and the sea, fresh water and salt water, and tropi-cal and temperate zone vegetation. Because of this blending, a great diversity of plants and interesting wildlife are found here.
The park also is the site of a National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark — the last existing Bay City Walking Dredge. Built in 1924, it was used to build the Tamiami Trail Highway (U.S. 41) through the Everglades and Big Cypress Swamp, linking Tampa and Miami and opening southwest Florida to travelers. Further, it serves as a memorial to both the Seminole Indians and the U.S. Army personnel who fought in the Seminole wars.
For the guided canoe tours, canoes, lifejackets and paddles are provided, or folks can use their own equipment. No animals are allowed. Full moon guided trips are available as well on Jan. 13 and 14 and Feb. 12 and 13 from 7:30-9:30 PM and on March 13 and 14 from 8:30-10:30 PM. The cost is $35 per person for ages 12 years and older.
Reservations can be made at the Collier-Seminole State Park Ranger Station or by calling 239-394-3397. Collier-Seminole State Park is located on U.S. 41, eight miles south of County Road 951 (Collier Boulevard), at 20200 Tamiami Trail East, Naples, FL, 34114.