Aiden at Wetlands Sign

Touring Wild Turkey Strand Things to Do in SWFL

Recently, I attended a Conservation 2020 guided walk event at Wild Turkey Strand Preserve in Fort Myers, Florida. I’ve driven by it dozens of time and like many others I paid no attention to the classic brown park signs on the side of the road. I also had no idea how historically significant artifacts at the preserve were to the World War II war effort.

Wild Turkey Strand Preserve PhotosWild Turkey Strand Preserve consists of just over three-thousand acres and has a really interesting historical twist that many other preserves don’t have; it includes part of the former Buckingham Army Airfield, a World War II-era training base from 1942-1945. I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I didn't realize just how much of Lee County Florida, about 65,000 acres, was once a part of the Buckingham Army Airfield and the Flexible Gunnery School.

Wild Turkey Strand Preserve offers plenty of recreation activities which include hiking on boardwalks and marked trails, bird watching, nature photography and picnicking in addition learning a little bit about WWII history. One of the main trails, Gunners Trail, offers a well-manicured walk around restored preserve lands and a segment of the old gunnery ranges. The concrete munitions buildings and bases for gun turrets remain near the trail. They can easily been seen without leaving the pavement and have plaques which detail their use and training purpose for the nearly 50,000 gunner trainees who attended the school.

The paved portions of trail are made of rubberized asphalt which is easy to walk on, or push a stroller. I had the grand kids in tow on this tour so Wild Turkey Strand Preserve is officially field tested, and passed, for being kid-friendly. That means we easily spotted a few little critters, flowering plants and birds and it wasn't too long for them. In a nutshell, it means that they didn't get bored and turn on me.

Along the trail there are elevated boardwalks and wetland lookout areas. At one of the prairie marsh lookouts we ran into a gentleman who had just hiked the unpaved, marked trail and stumbled upon a sow and a litter of baby wild hogs. Much to his surprise he had interrupted a panther about to feed on them! He was nearly breathless as he shared his once in a lifetime sighting with us. It was fun to hear about as our only drama was a close encounter with a decent sized, non-venomous, yellow rat snake.

We did venture down the unpaved trail but we turned back when we ran into some areas too wet for little feet. There is no doubt that the unpaved portion trail will have a few wet sections if you go after a rain or in the summer months, so keep that in mind when you plan your visit.

For the record, we didn’t see any wild turkey on this trip but there’s always next time …

Wild Turkey Strand Preserve offers free entry plus parking is free and plentiful. The trail is partly ADA compliant with picnic tables and restroom facilities on site. Leave your pooch at home, pets are not permitted.

Wild Turkey Strand Preserve is located at 11901 Rod & Gun Club Road, Fort Myers, Florida located just off of State Route 82. Visit for more information.

Happy Trails and Boardwalks!

Find the entire list of parks and preserves located on a navigable Google map, with links to photos and commentary at


This article is special to Southwest Spotlight.