by Brian Larkin, February 2001
"Pickle Barrels and
Big Cypress National Preserve was added
to our agenda at the last minute when
Alan Bow asked us to pick up a park pin for him. It turned out
to be an extraordinary place filled with strange
marshes and impenetrable mangroves swamps, exotic birds, and with what must
surely be the biggest alligators in the country.
The "Big" in Big Cypress
comes from the size of its territory -- 2,400 square miles --
and not from the size of its trees. The cypress trees are mostly of the
dwarf pond variety and cover about one-third of the preserve. A few
giant cypresses, some 600 to 700 years old, remain after having, as the National Park Service puts it, "escaped
neighbors' earlier conversions to gutters, coffins, stadium
seats, pickle barrels and the hulls of PT boats."
Big Cypress was set
aside by President John F. Kennedy in 1974 to ensure its
preservation as a major watershed for the Everglades.
Developers planned to drain its 729,000 acres. It is now on the
America's 15 Most Endangered Wildlands list due to strong
signs that the Bush administration will open it