Elizabeth in Big Cypress
Elizabeth VanderPutten in Big Cypress National Preserve in early February, 2001. Photo by Brian Larkin
Photo by Brian Larkin, February 2001

"Pickle Barrels and PT Hulls"

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 their 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 for development.