THE GREAT OUT­DOORS

Hik­ing, bik­ing and pad­ding for na­ture lovers, his­tory buffs and fam­i­lies

RSWLiving - - Features - BY ED BROTAK

In­ves­ti­gate hik­ing trails, wa­ter­ways and safety tips be­fore mak­ing your out­door ac­tiv­ity plans.

The weather of South­west Florida is ideal for out­door ac­tiv­i­ties such as hik­ing, bik­ing and pad­dling. From Oc­to­ber to May, it’s usu­ally dry and tem­per­a­tures are pleas­ant―—a great im­prove­ment from the north­ern cold. Even in the heat of sum­mer, you can cer­tainly get out in the rel­a­tive cool­ness of the morn­ing or per­haps later, if you take the right pre­cau­tions.

“Bonita Springs has a va­ri­ety to of­fer for the out­door recre­ational en­thu­si­ast,” ac­cord­ing to Ni­cole Perino, di­rec­tor of the city’s Parks and Recre­ation De­part­ment. “The fab­u­lous weather and flat ground are a great at­trac­tion for bik­ers,” adds Darla Le­tourneau of BikeWalkLee, a com­mu­nity coali­tion de­voted to safe and con­ve­nient bi­cy­cling and walk­ing routes.

Lee County Parks & Recre­ation’s Mike Ham­mond, co­or­di­na­tor of the Great Calusa Blue­way pad­dling trail, says, “The pad­dling in Es­tero and Bonita is like pad­dling back in time. You can start on the beach and kayak up the rivers un­til you feel like you’re in a jun­gle.” He sums up the area’s out­door op­por­tu­ni­ties: “Es­tero and Bonita have some­thing for ev­ery­one. Na­ture lovers will love all the na­tive and ex­otic plants and an­i­mals along the shore­lines; his­tory buffs will be fas­ci­nated by the Calusa and Kore­shan cul­ture left be­hind; and fam­i­lies will love the calm pro­tected wa­ters.”

Hik­ers, bik­ers and pad­dlers can get ex­er­cise and en­joy na­ture’s in­cred­i­ble beauty in the fol­low­ing places in the Bonita and Es­tero area: (Each web­site of­fers more de­tails on lo­ca­tion, fa­cil­i­ties, fees and hours.)

BARE­FOOT BEACH PRE­SERVE

is a 340-acre Collier County park on Wig­gins Is­land, south of Es­tero Bay. It is one of the last un­de­vel­oped bar­rier is­lands along the South­west Florida coast. The Alice Say­lor Na­ture Trail goes out a mile and a half to­ward Wig­gins Pass, with another half-mile round trip to the pass it­self. Guided tours are avail­able and there is a shaded path through the for­est. Bare­foot Beach Pre­serve is a good ex­am­ple of coastal ecosys­tems. Wildlife in­cludes go­pher tor­toises. And Bare­foot Beach Pre­serve is one of the best beaches in South­west Florida. col­lier­gov.net/in­dex.aspx?page=455#pre­serve

CREW BIRD ROOK­ERY SWAMP

is within the Corkscrew Re­gional Ecosys­tem Wa­ter­shed, lo­cated 1 1.4 miles east of I-75 off of CR 846. A 12-mile loop trail sys­tem is open year­round to hik­ers and bi­cy­clists. The trail, part of an old log­ging tramway sys­tem, of­fers vis­i­tors close-up op­por­tu­ni­ties to view wildlife in this cy­press-maple swamp. crewtrust.org/2013/06/26/bird-rook­ery-swamp-trail/

CREW MARSH TRAILS

are lo­cated on Corkscrew Road in the north­ern­most sec­tion of the Corkscrew Re­gional Ecosys­tem Wa­ter­shed, east of Es­tero. The CREW Marsh trails fea­ture a se­ries of loop trails that wind 5.5 miles through pine flat­woods, oak ham­mocks and along the edge of the 5,000-acre marsh. An ob­ser­va­tion tower al­lows for birds-eye views of the marsh. crewtrust.org/

CUL­LUM’S TRAIL

is a na­ture trail along the Im­pe­rial River at the Bonita Na­ture Place in Bonita Springs. The trail is less than a mile round trip through forests of oak, palm and cy­press. Clear wa­ter lets you see the fish swim­ming in the river. Mostly packed shells with some board­walks, the trail can be­come partly sub­merged dur­ing very wet pe­ri­ods. Bik­ing trails also avail­able. city­of­boni­tasprings.org/parks/bonita-na­ture-place/

DEL­NOR-WIG­GINS PASS STATE PARK,

lo­cated be­tween Bonita Springs and North Naples, is a 166-acre state park right along the coast. Although mainly known for its eas­ily ac­ces­si­ble beach, the park also con­tains a short na­ture trail. The trail (board­walk) starts at the far end of the last park­ing area. Dense veg­e­ta­tion in­cludes cab­bage palms and red man­groves. An ob­ser­va­tion tower about a third of a mile out of­fers great views of Wig­gins Pass and the Gulf. The round trip is less than a mile and is on flat ground, mak­ing for an easy walk. Walk out on the beach if you’d like a longer ex­cur­sion. flori­das­tateparks.org/park/Del­nor-Wig­gins

ES­TERO BAY PRE­SERVE STATE PARK

is com­prised of more than 10,000 acres. In­cluded are Es­tero Bay and its is­lands (the Aquatic Pre­serve) and the sur­round­ing shore ar­eas and wa­ter­ways (Pre­serve State Park). It also in­cludes Mound Key

Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal State Park and is bor­dered by Lovers Key State Park. The park is a per­fect lo­ca­tion for ex­plor­ing by kayak or ca­noe, with plenty of wildlife in the man­grove wet­lands. For hik­ing, the Win­kler Point Trails above Hell Peck­ney Bay (near the park’s north­ern tip) have three in­ter­con­nected loops: the 2.2mile Blue, 1.5-mile Yel­low and 1.1-mile Or­ange. Two ob­ser­va­tion decks over­look tidal ponds. There are man­grove forests, salt marshes and tidal marshes. These low, swampy ar­eas typ­i­cally flood dur­ing the wet sea­son and the best time to hike is Jan­uary through May. flori­das­tateparks.org/park/es­tero-bay

ES­TERO RIVER SCRUB,

in Es­tero Bay Pre­serve State Park, has four trails that to­tal nine miles and wind through pine flat­woods and tidal salt flats. Trails can be muddy or sub­merged in the wet sea­son; the best time to hike is Oc­to­ber to May. Off-road cy­cling is also avail­able.

ES­TERO RIVER STATE PAD­DLING TRAIL

is a nine-mile pad­dle from Kore­shan State Park to Lovers Key State Park. It is con­sid­ered easy to start but more chal­leng­ing as you reach Es­tero Bay with its tides, wind, waves and mo­tor boat traf­fic. Sites in­clude sub­trop­i­cal ham­mocks, man­grove swamps and many birds. us­gulf­coast­states­geo­tourism.com/con­tent/es­tero-river-statepad­dling-trail/gulCE0548603F1DDA7EC

GREAT CALUSA BLUE­WAY

is a 190-mile marked pad­dling trail along Lee County coastal wa­ters and oc­ca­sion­ally up some in­land wa­ter­ways. The south­ern part runs along and up the Es­tero River to the Im­pe­rial River. Ma­rine life and shore birds abound. fort­my­ers-sani­bel.com/calus­ablue­way

IM­PE­RIAL RIVER

ex­tends nine miles from Bonita Springs to Es­tero Bay. It’s tree-lined but goes through de­vel­oped ar­eas. Clear wa­ter al­lows views of fish, tur­tles and of­ten man­a­tees. The river is easy pad­dling but gets very shal­low to­ward the head­wa­ters. flori­daram­bler.com/florida-ca­noe­ing-kayak­ing-pad­dling/im­pe­ri­al­river-kayak-trail-bonita-springs/

KORE­SHAN STATE PARK

was a re­li­gious colony es­tab­lished in the late 1800s along the Es­tero River. Its his­toric struc­tures and land­scaped grounds have been fully re­stored, and guided tours are avail­able. There is a hik­ing trail along the river and a run­ning trail along the park boundary through a pine flat­woods habi­tat. Kayak or ca­noe on the Es­tero River out to Es­tero Bay. Ca­noe rentals are avail­able and pad­dling tours are also of­fered. flori­das­tateparks.org/park/Kore­shan

LOVERS KEY STATE PARK

is a fa­vorite place for hik­ing, bik­ing and pad­dling. Com­prised of four bar­rier is­lands, the 1,600-acre park lies be­tween Es­tero Bay and the Gulf, equidis­tant from Bonita Springs and Es­tero. For hik­ing, the 2.5-mile Black Is­land Trail and the 1.1-mile Ea­gle Trail go through mar­itime ham­mocks. The trails are typ­i­cally grass or hard dirt and are eas­ily ne­go­ti­ated. There are five miles of bik­ing trails (to be shared with hik­ers), in­clud­ing Black Is­land Trail and Ea­gle Trail. Bring your own bike or rent one. There are two and a half miles of kayak/ca­noe routes through the man­grove es­tu­ar­ies. Again, you can bring your own boat or rent one. The park is also great for bird watch­ing. flori­das­tateparks.org/park/Lovers-Key

MOUND KEY AR­CHAE­O­LOG­I­CAL STATE PARK

is an is­land in Es­tero Bay ac­ces­si­ble only by boat. It likely was a cer­e­mo­nial cen­ter for the Calusa In­di­ans. Shell mounds rise 30 feet above wa­ter. A three-quar­ter-mile trail spans the width of the is­land, through man­groves and over shell mounds. flori­das­tateparks.org/park/mound-key

Free­lance writer Ed Brotak is a re­tired me­te­o­rol­ogy pro­fes­sor turned stay-at-home dad. He and his fam­ily live in western North Carolina but they love Florida and va­ca­tion there ev­ery chance they get.

Mound Key Ar­chae­o­log­i­cal State Park

Es­tero Bay Pre­serve State Park

Crew Corkscrew Marsh CREW BIRD ROOK­ERY SWAMP’S BOARD­WALK GOES THROUGH THE “LARGEST RE­MAIN­ING STAND OF OLD-GROWTH BALD CY­PRESS IN NORTH AMERICA.”

Kore­shan State Park

Lovers Key State Park

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.