Big Cypress Wildlife Management Area
Managed in cooperation with the National Park Service.
Big Cypress WMA consists of 728,274 acres of the Big Cypress National Preserve. The Preserve spans parts of Collier, Dade, and Monroe counties and borders Everglades National Park, protecting the area's unique ecosystem. Big Cypress, which was the 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. Areas of pinelands, tropical hardwood hammocks, and freshwater marshes also 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 red-cockaded woodpeckers, tropical liguus tree snails, royal palms, cigar orchids and ghost orchids.
Recreational opportunities include hunting, fishing, wildlife viewing, paddling, hiking, biking, camping and the use of off-road vehicles (ORVs) on designated trails. 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, with abundant wildlife, that lead you through open prairies, cypress swamps, hammocks, and pinelands; Turner River Road (Route 839) and Loop Road (Route 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.
Add your bird observations to the Big Cypress National Preserve eBird Hotspot.
Rules Regarding Dogs
- Hunting dogs may be taken onto the WMA after 8 a.m. the day before the opening of a season and shall be removed by 6 p.m. one day after the end of the season. Hunting deer or wild hog with dogs is prohibited. The possession of dogs is prohibited, except bird dogs or retrievers are allowed for hunting purposes only. Dogs are prohibited in the Loop Unit and in areas posted as "closed to public access" by FWC administrative action. No person shall allow any dog to pursue or molest any wildlife during any period in which the taking of wildlife by the use of dogs is prohibited. Leashed dogs may not be used for trailing wounded game.