Big Cypress National Preserve | WHEN TO VISIT

The swamp is 90% dry in the Dry Season at Big Cypress National Preserve

The swamp is 90% dry in the Dry Season at Big Cypress National Preserve

There are two seasons at Big Cypress National Preserve, the wet season (May-October) and the dry season (November-April). Roughly 70% of the tourist traffic (870,000 in 2014) comes during the dry season, with January, February, and March being the busiest months. A Ranger told me that the best time to come in order to beat the crowds is November or December before all of the retired people start flocking to Florida for the winter. However, I was there in February and did not find the crowds a problem at all, though getting a campsite was a little difficult. This advice goes for the Everglades as well, for anyone visiting Big Cypress is also visiting the Everglades.

During the dry season, about 90% of the park is bone dry. The backcountry roads that are submerged during the wet season are nothing by typical dirt roads during the dry season, and you can easily walk or bike land that is otherwise difficult to access. It is interesting to learn what lies beneath the wet swamp—dirt and grass. There is nothing evil or menacing down below.

There are three reasons why the dry season is the best time to come. First off, the weather is perfect. In the summer, south Florida is hell on earth, and I don’t know how anyone can live there, but in the winter it is paradise. During my February visit I had sunshine every day and temperatures that hovered in the 70s, though there were a couple of nights in the low 30s (this includes my Everglades trip as well).

Second, mosquitoes and other bugs are sparse, if not non-existent. This has nothing to do with the temperature, but the fact that there is no water. During my visit I had no problems and never even put on bug repellent. There were so few bugs that I began to wonder if there was some sort of bug epidemic that killed everything off. During the wet season, the mosquitoes are so thick that park employees must wear full mosquito suits when working outdoors.

Third, animals flock to the few wet spots in the park, many of which are along Highway 41, the Tamiami Trail. This makes wildlife viewing very accessible for tourists. During the wet season the animals can fan out across the 700,000+ acres of Big Cypress, and the last place they want to be is near people.

During the wet season, 90% of the park is underwater. It rains four to nine inches a month, with the worst month being September (only Chicago has a September as wet as south Florida, if you can believe that). Overall, the park gets about 50 inches of rain a year, nearly all during the summer and fall. How anyone can stand the oppressive heat, constant rain, and the swarming mosquitoes is beyond me, but about 30% of the tourists come during this time. That’s roughly 350,000 people—surely miserable people, most of who I doubt strayed too far from the car or the air conditioned Visitor Centers.

Of course those visiting in the dry season miss the whole “swamp” dynamic, sort of like going to the beach in the winter. There are a few swampy areas during the dry season, but you must hike to find them. The National Park Service even offers Discovery Hikes into these wet sections of the park, and I highly recommend experiencing the swamp environment during your visit to Big Cypress National Preserve.

Keep in mind that the park does not turn dry nor do the bugs disappear on November 1st. Though you may beat the crowds by coming in November or December, my advice is to wait until further into the dry season if possible.

There are still swampy regions at Big Cypress National Preserve in the Dry Season

There are still swampy regions at Big Cypress National Preserve in the Dry Season

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Last updated on June 14, 2023
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