Big Cypress National Preserve | NATHANIEL P. REED VISITOR CENTER

Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center at Big Cypress National Preserve

Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center at Big Cypress National Preserve

LOCATION

33000 Tamiami Trail East
Ochopee, Florida 34141

Telephone: (239) 695-4758

The Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center (aka Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center) at Big Cypress National Preserve is located on the west side of the park on the Tamiami Trail (Hwy 41). It is the first place that you come to when entering the park from the Naples area.

OPERATING HOURS

The Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center is open daily from 9 AM to 4:30 PM, except when closed on Christmas day.

AMENITIES

  • Ranger-staffed information desk where you can pick up information on Big Cypress Swamp and Everglades National Park, and a paddling brochure for the Turner River and Halfway Creek
  • Sign up for various Ranger-led tours
  • Wildlife observation deck
  • Book and souvenir store
  • Auditorium what serves as the park’s movie theater and a rental facility for hosting events.
  • Indoor and outdoor exhibits
  • Restrooms

For more information about renting the auditorium, see the National Park Service’s Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center Auditorium web page.

Information desk and exhibits at the Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center, Big Cypress National Preserve

Information desk and exhibits at the Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center, Big Cypress National Preserve

PARK FILM

An excellent film about Big Cypress National Preserve shows in the auditorium. It runs 22 minutes and is suitable for all ages. The film is also shown at the Oasis Visitor Center.

EXHIBIT AREAS

The indoor exhibit area at the Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center focuses on both the human and natural history of Big Cypress. Exhibits cover the five distinct ecosystems within the park—Hardwood hammocks, Pinelands, Prairies, Cypress Swamp, and Estuaries—and the history of the Indians and early white settlers who lived in the area. It takes about fifteen minutes to read the information.

Exhibit on the human history of the park at the Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center, Big Cypress National Preserve

Exhibit on the human history of the park at the Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center, Big Cypress National Preserve

Outside the building are just as many, if not more exhibits than inside. Two information panels tell the history of the park starting back in the 1920s, there is a display on the Florida panther, and you can play an alligator trivia game. Another fifteen minutes of your time allows you to read through these exhibits.

Alligator trivia game at the Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center, Big Cypress National Preserve

Alligator trivia game at the Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center, Big Cypress National Preserve

In a separate building is an old Swamp Buggy. Back “in the day” these were assembled by the locals from various truck parts, but today there are companies that make them. Swamp buggies have giant tires mounted on a bare-bones truck chassis with seats high enough off the ground to keep passengers out of the water when driving through the swamps. The buggy on display is enclosed inside a glass building, and you can’t go inside (at least not when I visited). This is an awful way to display the vehicle because the sun glares on the glass and you can barely see inside. Why it is under lock and key is beyond me—it’s not the Titanic. There are three information panels outside that discuss the history of swamp buggies.

Swamp buggy exhibit is barely visible in the sun's glare at the Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center, Big Cypress National Preserve

Swamp buggy exhibit is barely visible in the sun’s glare at the Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center, Big Cypress National Preserve

WILDLIFE OBSERVATION DECK

Behind the Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center is a boardwalk overlooking a man-made canal that connects to Halfway Creek. Manatees make their way up the canal, and you may see their bloated shapes loafing around in the water. I also saw plenty of birds and even an alligator swimming in the canal.

Wildlife viewing from the boardwalk behind the Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center at Big Cypress National Preserve

Wildlife viewing from the boardwalk behind the Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center at Big Cypress National Preserve

Manatees swim in the canal behind the Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center at Big Cypress National Preserve

Manatees swim in the canal behind the Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center at Big Cypress National Preserve

SCHEDULING YOUR TIME

Assuming that you watch the park film, plan to spend at least an hour, and up to two hours, for your visit to the Nathaniel P. Reed Visitor Center.

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Last updated on June 14, 2023
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