Barred Owl Fakahatchee

Things to Do | Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk

The last few weekend adventures have included crisscrossing the Everglades on US 41. I made a point to stop more than once at Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk at Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. It’s on US 41 about seventeen miles west of CR 951 in Naples, Florida. It’s an easy trip off the beaten path and an escape from the franchise lined streets we’re confined to living on the coast.

This time of year the water is high and the preserves are in peak condition so it’s worth the drive to head east. The boardwalk is a great spot to see some of the best examples of flowers and foliage now that they’re rejuvenated from the summer rains.

The Big Cypress Bend boardwalk is about two thousand feet long so it isn’t a huge time commitment and it’s great for all ages. It features instructional plaques along the way with the basics on the plants and animals you may see. I will mention that many people on the nature boardwalk forget that there isn’t going to be a flashing light or a bell ring when there is something notable to see. You really have to use your eyes, your hearing and your senses.

It goes without saying that spotting wildlife or a once in a lifetime opportunity generally happens only when you’re focused and quiet. I mention this because my last trip to Cypress Bend I was crouched down taking photos of one of the biggest Barred Owls I’d ever seen when two tourists from Boston walked up and squeezed around me. I ask them if they’ve seen anything interesting and without missing a beat they replied that they hadn’t seen a single thing. I had a feeling they weren’t appreciating the whole observation part of the walk. Gesturing, I spoke up and asked if that had seen the Owl. Yes, they were surprised.

That owl was no further than six feet away, sitting on a branch, looking just like just another lichen covered cypress trunk. Moments earlier I had nearly walked by this owl, too. It was mid-morning and I was by myself on the boardwalk. Walking quietly, I had hoped to see something interesting to photograph. I stopped in my tracks because I had that spooky feeling that I wasn’t alone. I looked to the right and there he was. Owls have mastered stealth and the only clues were blinking eyes.

Owlportunities like this don’t come along every day so after I froze for a moment, then raised the camera and popped off a couple of shots. This owl was a charmer and humored me by posing for quite some time. He eventually grew bored with celebrity and flew away.

Not long after I heard the distinctive “who cooks for you?” hooting call of the owl. On my way back to the entrance I then heard a pair of owls caterwauling in the distance. It was a treat to both see and hear them that day.

Owls are just one of dozens of great finds at Big Cypress Bend. If you visit the boardwalk know that it’s shaded with a few benches along the way for rest. Entrance is by donation/honor system $3 per adult. You can learn more about Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk at and listen to the Barred Owl at

Happy trails and boardwalks.



This article special to Southwest Spotlight Newspaper

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