Big Cypress WMA consists of 565,848 acres within the 720,566 acre Big Cypress National Preserve. The area spans parts of Collier, Dade, and Monroe counties and borders Everglades National Park adding to the diversity and protection of this unique ecosystem. Big Cypress, the first preserve in the National Park Service, was established in 1974 to protect water quality and to ensure the continuing ecological integrity of the area.
The name ‘Big Cypress’ refers to the extent of the area and not to the size of the trees. In fact many of the trees within the Big Cypress are dwarf pond cypress but areas of pinelands, tropical hardwood hammocks, and freshwater marshes abound. Both temperate and tropical flora and fauna are found throughout Big Cypress. Here you can find many rare and protected species including the Florida panther and black bear as well as the tropical liguus tree snail, royal palm, and cigar orchid.
Recreational opportunities include hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, paddling, hiking, biking, and camping. Designated campsites are available at several locations in the WMA. In addition, primitive camping is also available throughout much of the WMA except in the Bear Island unit where all camping is limited to designated campsites.
The Oasis Visitor Center is located on Highway 41 (Tamiami Trail) mid-way between Naples and Miami. There are two driving tours, abundant with wildlife, that lead you through open prairies, cypress swamps, hammocks, and pinelands; Turner River Road (Rte 839) and Loop Road (Rte 94). Turner River Road is a dirt road which dead ends approximately 20 miles north of 41 with no access to I-75. Loop Road has access points at Monroe Station and Forty Mile Bend Check Station and runs south of Highway 41 for 23 miles (15 miles, dirt; eight miles, paved).
Hiking trails of varying difficulty are located throughout Big Cypress, including 31 miles of the Florida Trail. Bear Island is a great place to ride a bike and the Turner River Canoe Trail winds through a variety of South Florida habitats. For most, visiting Big Cypress is more pleasant in the winter when bugs are fewer and both temperature and water levels are lower.