Big Cypress Welcome Center

An Introduction to the Preserve and Spotting Manatees!

Big Cypress Welcome Center

The Everglades and Big Cypress National Preserve Welcome You Back!!!

As marinas, parks and green spaces reopen in our city, the Everglades are a fantastic place to come and get some fresh air while practicing safe social distancing guidelines. Big Cypress which is part of the Greater Everglades is OPEN. Here's the latest:

  • All areas of Big Cypress National Preserve are now OPEN including all park roads, trails and boat launches.
  • The Main Big Cypress Swamp Visitor Center has reopened
  • The Oasis Visitor Center has reopened
  • All campgrounds are now open for public use. Reservations and payment must be made online.
  • Several tours and concession services in the area have resumed with enhanced health and safety measures. The following are conducting Eco Tours now:

For more info check out Big Cypress National Preserve: Alerts and Conditions

The Big Cypress Welcome Center is your starting point if you are coming from the Gulf Coast. If you are coming from Miami, this is the last stop before exiting the Big Cypress National Preserve.

But even if you have already traversed the vast swamp and find yourself at the end of the journey, a stop at the Big Cypress Welcome Center is great just to check out the viewing platform and see if there are any manatees around.

The Welcome Center is like all visitor centers where you find information and brochures, wildlife exhibits, a film about the Preserve, bookstore, restrooms, and the super-friendly staff that can answer any question you might have.

Enquire about their ranger-led programs, they have some great swamp walks, canoe trips, bike tours, and other activities during the dry season.

The viewing platform at 
 Big Cypress Welcome Center

Spotting Manatees at Big Cypress Welcome Center

Manatees seem to be regulars here when temperatures in the Gulf drop and they look for the warmer waters inland. You can inquire at the Welcome Center whether there have been any sightings lately.

Manatees are not easy to spot but definitely patience pays. These mammals need to come up for air every 4-5 minutes or so, they come up for just a brief period before diving down again, so pay close attention! Look up and down the whole length of the viewing platform, they could be anywhere!

First you are likely to see some ripples and a bit of a surf in the water as they are swimming near the surface and then you see the shade moving, a sort of elongated form...

Manatee swimming at 
 Big Cypress Welcome Center

Then you see the snout just barely breach the water, this happens in a split second before they dive down again after taking a breath...

Manatee pausing for air at 
 Big Cypress Welcome Center

And if you're lucky the manatees will be in a show-off mood and you'll catch a glimpse of the paddle-like tail as they dive down!

Big Cypress Welcome Center at a Glance

Where: 33000 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee, Florida 34141, approximately five miles east of SR 29.

See the Tamiami Trail Map here.

When: Visitor Center is open every day year-round, except Christmas Day December 25, 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Boardwalk is open 24/7.

Entrance Fee: Free!

Parking: Yes!

More Info: Official Site of the Big Cypress National Preserve

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