In the heart of the Everglades, off of State Road 29, there is an old dirt road called “Jane’s Memorial Scenic Drive”. Stretching 11 miles, this road runs through the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, and ends at the edge of the the Picayune Strand State Forest, the site of the now infamous “Swampland in Florida” scam.
The drive was originally developed back in the 40’s and 50’s as a logging trail in order to access the ample supply of Bald Cypress. While the route is easily traveled by most any vehicle, prepare for a good wash-down afterward. As seen above, it’s a “hard-packed” (dirt/rock) road and will leave your vehicle in a thick coating of limestone and calcium carbonate (seashell) dust.
Back in Copeland FL, where the road is more easily accessed, the environment is primarily prairie and marsh. It’s not until a few miles up that the surroundings begin to change and nature starts to close in on you.
My visit was during the dry season. And as such, I spent a lot of time exploring places that would normally be waist deep in water. I was really looking for some kind of photographic treasure exposed by the extremely low water levels.
Almost halfway down the drive and I hadn’t seen much in terms of wildlife. I was getting back in my car when I happened to look down the road and saw this little guy pop out from the bushes and start walking down the road.
Surprisingly, I was able to get in close contact, just as long as I didn’t try to go behind it’s line of sight.
Further North, the surroundings change from bald cypress to primarily hardwood.
With the weather being as nice as it was, I opted to roll the windows down so I could smell the surroundings and listen to the birds sing. Unfortunately, this also meant that Horse flies, size of small hummingbirds, would take it upon themselves to dive bomb into my car and become entrapped in the space between the window and dashboard. As much as I wanted them to find their own way out, have several of them in the car with you does become a bit distracting.
Making it all the way up to the Picayune Strand entrance, I figured I would get out and have a look around.
Separating the Fakahatchee from the Picayune is one of the many man-made canals from the old Swampland for sale project.
I caught some shots of this cooter turtle making the trek over the road to the adjacent canal. Here you can see him looking at me trying to tell me to get the heck out of the way.
About that whole “scam” thing. In the 60’s a developer purchased 57,000 acres in an attempt to make the largest subdivision in America. People were flown in from all over the world and hard pressed to buy 2.5 acre lots. Unfortunately most of the land would become sub-aqueous in the wet season and the project ended up going bankrupt. Thus earning the notoriety of the infamous “Swampland in Florida” scam.
In 1985, a move was made to purchase the southern Estates with Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) funds under the “Save Our Everglades” program. This meant acquiring property from roughly 17,000 landowners. While most has been purchased, with the help of the federal government, there remains a select few, still holding out to this day. It’s not particularly a good idea to go out exploring the area unless you have a gps, or local knowledge on how to make it through all the unmarked roads. Either or, I’ve herd some interesting stories from this area, enough to make me pass it up .
Not quite done with my “Nature Time” I turned around and started my trek back down Jane’s Scenic Drive.
Let it be known, if riding in a car and looking out the window the whole time isn’t your thing, don’t worry. There are old logging trails called “Trams” that will take you deep into the forest. There are quite a few of them, and some are more popular than others. I picked one that looked like it would have a nice mix of hardwood and swamp and headed out to explore it.
Finding the trams isn’t hard. They are easily marked by a metal access gate of which you can just walk around. How well the gate is kept up is a good indicator as to how accessible the tram will be.
On average, the trams are still wide enough for an ATV to make it through.
Off to the side of the trams are the drainage canals. These were created when construction needed fill to build the tram and also to help keep water off in the wet season. Since my trip was in the dry season, alligators, like this one, are reduced to sunning themselves next to whats left of the water. In this instance, the only body of water for a few miles was a 15 foot puddle of mud water.
I took this opportunity to get off the tram and into the dried mud for some better photos. I’d say I was able to get almost to the waters edge (across from the gator) before it decided to leap into the water directly at me. It was quite startling, but that gator wasn’t going to take any chances with me and wanted what little protection it had. I think I was already back up to the tram before he made it completely into the water.
Off the beaten path, you can see just how low the water level really is.
Here’s looking back at where the gator is now hiding.
Around from the other side as well.
The sunlight peaking through the canopy, onto the bald cypress stumps, made from some interesting photos.
Golden leather ferns can be found sprouting on top of cypress knees.
And after a few miles down the trail, it was time to head back and make sure I still had a car to drive home in.
If you ever get the chance to head through Jane’s Scenic Drive, take it. Early in the morning will give you better chances of seeing any animals. But even if it’s in the afternoon, the drive will definitely give you a sense of how Florida used to be navigated.
I’m lovin those off the beaten path shots. Place looks awesome. How were the skitters out there?
This was in the early spring, so they were non-existent. However, I just went back last weekend on a different tram, and to say they were annoying would be putting it lightly.
Thank you so much for sharing. My friends, Jack and Rena, took me down this route on my visit with them. Jack grew up in Naples. This is a wonderful hidden adventure for this once Chicago now Michigan gal. I feel blessed.
No problem! I am glad you were able to get out there and enjoy it.
I’m very glad a google search brought me to this post!
My father was a Geology professor at UM and had spent a lot of time in the back roads of the Everglades.. and this is one road he took the family down a few times. My mother was able to recall the name of the road, which I hadn’t thought about since the ’80s..
My dad took me down this road when I was too young to truly appreciate it. Every time I go back down it I’m thankful of the childhood in the wilderness I had. 🙂
this is a day trip
looks like good “photo op” on the drive through preserve
in SPRING …fewer mosquitos
When are wet / dry seasons?
Summer is wet and Winter is dry. So wet season is just around the corner.
Thanks so much for posting these pix. I’ve not visited the Everglades, but your gallery is certainly evocative. Wonderful stuff here. VERY WELL DONE!
Thank you very much! 🙂
Loved seeing this. My husband and I are going to Marco Island for a week on 4/6/13 and our friends who live in LaBelle suggested we try Janes Scene Drive. Looking forward to it. Hope it isn’t too wet, though! Thanks for the great pics!! Great job!!
Thank you! Also, make sure you check out Tigertail Beach on Marco Is. and see if there are any birds in the area.
what is the tram?
Sorry for the massively late reply. A Tram is an old logging road that is maintained just enough so you can walk down it.
Impressive shots. I grew up in Florida but have lived in Virginia for 22 years. Moving back in 2 months and this is why. I drove Janes Scenic back in June and can’t wait to go there again. Thanks for sharing these pics.
Thank you. By now you should be back in Florida, best time of year to hike out in the swamps.
Thanks for the pics. We hiked Jane’s Scenic Drive from Gate 12 to the north end and back Dec 29th, 2013 on a cold day. I would highly recommend it. There was still plenty of water and no bugs. Moving slowly = hiking is the way to see the amazing landscape/wild life.
Has anyone hiked end of the park, to Sabal Palm Road?
I saw some trails when I last visited, but needed to make my way back. Someday I want to be able to hike all of the trams. Supposedly one of the trams has a part where you can wade through water to get to a boyscout campsite. I need to check with my friend and see if he can remember which one.
We ventured down this road today, it is very cool and presents great photo opportunities but beware—there are numerous, large potholes to navigate around. I recommend a 4 x 4 vehicle with high clearance!
I live in Naples and am facinated with the wildlife and the history of land use in the county. What did you mean when you said “I’ve heard some interesting stories from this area, enough to make me pass it up.” I’m just curious because I find Golden Gate Estates and the like facinating (and not a good way, in an irritating way.) I also have heard that some houses that were built in the areas that are now owned by the conservancy are still there but don’t have services. Sounds kind of like a rumor.
All the stories I have heard involve agitated backwoods types who are open carrying firearms and don’t take too kindly to others exploring the areas. 🙂