One of the true gems of Southwest Florida is far removed from the luxurious beaches and world-class fishing for which the area is largely known. Six Mile Cypress Slough Preserve is a 2,500 acre wetland preserve that offers a glimpse of natural Florida right in the heart of the bustling city of Fort Myers. Not only is this an ideal place for a peaceful walk, but the preserve provides a rare chance to defy nearby development and observe a wealth of natural wildlife
Highlighting the experience of a visit to this Lee County park is a walk along the facility's 1.2 mile raised boardwalk. The elegant trail offers a unique sojourn through a swampy wetland that would otherwise make a very muddy trip. Indeed, the majority of the preserve remains wet throughout the year, though depths swell substantially during summer's rainy season.
Six Mile Cypress Slough (pronounced "slew") allows rainfall from a 33 mile watershed in central Lee County to drain naturally on its journey to the sea. Though the preserve is only 1/3 mile wide, its 9 mile length capably supports runoff. The complex additionally provides habitat for a multitude of native animals, including alligators, fish, turtles, birds, raccoons, otters, snakes, and wild hogs.
With the raised boardwalk permitting a smooth walk for visitors of all ages, the trail is rated easy by hiking standards. Numerous cutoffs provide scenic lookouts for sights such as Gator Lake and three smaller ponds, where sunbathing alligators are commonly observed. Several stopping points also offer a resting place under cover from the Florida sun, although the slough's cypress trees rising from the water otherwise create the perfect canopy.
Picnic tables and restrooms are available near the beginning of the trail. The preserve further features an interactive welcome center with plentiful information about local animals and native habitat. In fact, seven beneficial suggestions are offered for spotting wildlife, which encourage walkers to remain as quiet as possible and proceed with slow steps.
Recognizing the need to protect this environmentally significant land, Lee County set aside the preserve over 30 years ago and first welcomed visitors in 1991. Open daily from dawn to dusk, admission to Six Mile Cypress Slough is free and attendees are only asked to pay a nominal $1 per hour charge for parking.
During the pleasant months of January through March, guided walking tours are offered everyday at 9:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. The times for similar trips vary during other parts of the year and tours are only offered on Wednesdays in the humid summer months.
Located at 7791 Penzance Blvd., the preserve fittingly sits off Six Mile Cypress Parkway in Fort Myers. The park is easily reached from the Daniels Parkway exit of Interstate 75 and much of the preserve actually coexists peacefully beside the busy highway. Though not receiving as much attention as other attractions in this vacation hotspot, Six Mile Cypress Slough is highly recommended for hikers, photographers, bird watchers, children, or anyone else seeking tranquility in nature.
A closer look at the protected animals and wondrous sights of Six Mile Cypress Slough can be found in the accompanying Photo Gallery.
For more information, visit the official website or call the facility at (239) 533-7550.
Enjoy this article? Receive e-mail alerts when new Fort Myers Outdoor Recreation articles are available. Just click here to subscribe.