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Cape Coral, Florida, United States

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Like Visiting Jurassic Park

Welcome to 6 Mile Cypress Slough Preserve

The Six Mile Cypress Slough (pronounced “slew”) is a 2,500 acre wetland in Fort Myers, Florida, that measures approximately 9 miles long and 1/3 mile wide. This ecosystem is a preserve and natural drainage way collecting runoff water from a 33 square mile watershed area. It is home to many varied species of plant and animal life. During the wet season (June-October) the floor of the slough is covered with 2 to 3 feet of water and provides a wet habitat. The dry season (November-May) is a different scenario with dry conditions fostering brownish scrub grasses and providing an alternative habitat. A must see if you are ever in the Cape Coral/Fort Myers area.  For information click here:
6 Mile Cypress Slough

A steamy, humid quiet morning greeted my arrival at 6 Mile Cypress Slough.  The early morning stillness along with the subtle beams of the morning sun was hypnotic as I made my way down through the parking area into the preserve on the boardwalk trail.  Instantly I was transformed from the asphalt parking area into a botanical wonderland complete with buzzing dragonflies and thick vegetation composed of red maple, slash pines, wax myrtle, cypress swamps and clusters of fern. I was looking for the sign:  Welcome to Jurassic Park!

I was alone the first to enter the slough that July morning.  Camera in hand and a day pack with a few water bottles I made my way to the first way point Alligator Lake home to blue herons, white ibises, and of course alligators .  It was as if I had left the 21st century behind me and transverse back in time. 
I was scanning the overgrowth and the slough floor for any movement- a bird, a reptile, perhaps even a possible sighting of the famed Florida Panther which had been spotted in this area a few months ago.  Small sounds greeted my auditory function - water dripping, a small rustling in the underbrush. Was there something there, lurking, eyeing me as I made my way down the boardwalk?

 Approaching the outdoor amphitheater at Alligator Lake I marveled at the scenery. The morning humidity creeping  into the still morning air had colored  the swamp with a mild haze.

Alligator Lake Sunrise 

Alligator Lake West Shore 

Alligator Lake 

Alligator Lake - Reflections

The 1.4 mile trail  continues on into the depths of the cypress swamp, the forest closes in around you. It becomes a dark place with the rustling of branches and dripping water conjures all sorts of imaginary apparitions.  . Looking  up, and you’ll  see the heavy forest canopy sunlight streaming through here and there.  
I arrived at the observation deck at Wood Duck Pond. Sitting on one of the benches I relished in hydrating with one of the cold water bottles as I observed the stillness of the pond looking for that elusive alligator.  Suddenly  movement on the water caught my eye and yes there he was as a remnant from those prehistoric times the American Alligator was swimming across the bond and into camera range.  A graceful animal with that tell tale armor plating and sleek body design.  Unchanged by evolution and at the top of the food chain I was now on his turf!

After my "gator encounter" I continued on the trail passing large sections of the cypress swamp and large areas of snap ferns.  Many times I turned and looked behind me to see if anyone or anything was on the boardwalk.  Could my gator friend find a way onto the board walk?  Can gators "stalk" you?  Again a run amok imagination was playing all sorts of tricks on me. The only "stalkers" were the occasional lizard and a large grasshopper.  

On to Otter Pond where I was rewarded with numerous ibises and turtles swimming in the pond.  Returning on the main trail there were beautiful venues of vegetation floating on the watery surface, reflections of the overhead canopy where on the water gave it a surreal appearance.  There were numerous growths of snap ferns overtaking the tall trees.  
Turtle sunning on Otter Pond

Reflections on the Slough

They sky and overhead canopy reflecting on the water 

Part reflection and part growth on the surface of the water

Invasion of the Snap Ferns  I called this one the Medusa! You have to admit a sauropod sloshing through the water would make this as a scene from Jurassic Park - the movie! 

A Multitude of Plant Species 

A short walk from Otter Lake and back on the main trail I found my voyage to Jurassic Park coming to a conclusion.  I picked up the sound of footsteps and voices from individuals entering the park.  I was back to civilization.  

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