Saturday, September 21, 2019

Beyond the Mangrove Trees

Stepping Stones

Go There, Do That!

What: Beneath the Emerald Waves Presentation by Bob McConville

When: May 20, 2019 at 7 PM

Where: Rose History Auditorium, 180 S. Heathwood Drive, Marco Island

Cost: Free MIHS Members/$10 non-members

Seashores, sunshine, paddleboards, boat tours and jet skis… what a great experience our South Florida guests had this winter. The weather was fantastic, and the beaches were crowded. New dolphin calves were playing in record numbers along the shorelines, entertaining our “snowbirds.”

Some guests, and many locals, trekked further inland to discover another part of Florida that lies past our pristine sands and beyond the mangrove trees. Here anyone can enjoy what many refer to as “Old Florida,” a land dominated by virgin cypress trees, hardwood hammocks, grass prairies and our state trees, the sabal palms. 
Driving to Shark Valley to gaze in awe at the alligators, wading birds and migrating species is always a great journey, as is a trip to the closer by area of Everglades City. No one needs to drive far at all to discover nature’s wonders and they are always amazing. Even a crocodile or two will give you a glance, just minutes from Marco Island.

You are in the western Everglades known as Big Cypress Swamp. From Marco Island simply drive San Marco Road until it ends at U.S. 41 and turn right. Just three miles down the road is the Marsh Trail, where hundreds of migrating White Pelicans could be seen on a regular basis a few months ago. Regular residents like Bald Eagles, Ospreys, Great Egrets and Little Blue Herons are a normal sight, as are Wood Storks. Oh, yes… don’t forget those gators!

Six miles further down the road is the Big Cypress Bend boardwalk. If you like plant life, as well as wild animals, this is your new heaven. There are more royal palm trees here growing next to bald cypress trees than anywhere else in the world. More than 30 species of orchids call this home as well. The well adapted strangler fig trees and even a species of holly grows here. For our Canadian friends, watch for those maple trees growing naturally in the wild.

Is there wildlife here? You bet! Gators, non-venomous Florida water snakes, a bevy of bird species, bobcats and even a recent panther sighting are common along the boardwalk. Keep an eye in the sky for two juvenile bald eagles that have just received their flight plans. Further down the walk, listen for that familiar hoot of the local Barred Owls.

There is new development nearby that will delight nature lovers. An expansion of the Big Cypress boardwalk has been approved and will result in an enhanced learning center, a view of the grass prairies and a walk along the little known Green Heron Lake. Progress is underway and great things are expected.


The American Alligator is a familiar sight throughout the Everglades. Their numbers total over one million statewide.


The Everglades overall has gotten a boost recently from new Governor Ron DeSantis.
His passion to correct some manmade mistakes that began a hundred years ago is drawing national attention. His fight to produce reservoirs that will filter Lake Okeechobee waters before they are released to the Gulf has some bite. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) once again has moved in a good direction due to the Governor’s initiatives.

There are many other trails and swamp walks, boat tours and kayak adventures to enjoy in addition to the above mentioned walking areas. Check them out, see which ones suit your desires for exploration and learning and go enjoy. You never know what you’ll find, beyond the mangrove trees!



Join Bob on May 20th at the Rose History Auditorium on the Marco Island Historical Society campus as he talks about wildlife in the Everglades and recent efforts to improve that area. Start time is 7 PM and the event is free to MIHS members and only $10 to all others. This is always a popular event so come early to get a good seat!

Bob is a naturalist on board the dolphin study vessel Dolphin Explorer. He is the author of two books, both available locally. Bob loves his wife very much!

Editor’s Note: Congratulations to Bob McConville on winning the Association of Free Community Publications Award for third place in Best Original Writing- Column to Inform, for his Stepping Stones column, “Is the Gulf of Mexico Dying?” which appeared in our April 26, 2018 issue and may be found online at coastalbreezenews.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *