We'll start right at the entrance of the Marsh Trail, located on the Tamiami Trail, three miles east of the road to Marco Island. Leaving the parking lot, we must move south along the paved road to reach the observation tower that will allow us to see the vast horizon of several kilometers of inland islands between the sawgrass and mangroves, going from fresh to salt water.
From this point, the track becomes an earthen dam that stands three or four meters above the surface and, depending on the season, will be more or less flooded. After about a mile we reach the end of this section in which we will be on the flat platform that long ago contained the extractor machinery of an oil well belonging to the prominent Collier family, heirs of the founder of the county. Currently, the only visible thing here is a small weather station. This remote place is inhabited by hundreds of animal species, so we must ride with caution. In the coastal sector there are dolphins, turtles and manatees that abound along with many other kinds of fish documented to date. In this area there are countless birds, otters, raccoons, rodents, snakes, bobcats, foxes and even an occasional black bear or elusive Florida panther. Among the headlands that emerge from the dark waters of the lagoons, some were man-made, twenty centuries ago, by the Calusa culture.
Port of the Islands was conceived by Bill Ray, who acquired the enclave in 1980. After his death, there was only an apartment building but today there are numerous housing complexes, a hotel and a marina. Then we return to the solitude and remoteness of the everglades for three more miles, to get to where the long-gone Weavers Station used to be. Now there is a stretch of the old road that was abandoned in the mid-90s. Next to that remains an Indian village with several of their typical Chickees, elevated structures on poles, thatched with palm fronds and devoid of walls that have traditionally been used by groups in the area, in this case the Seminoles and Miccosukee. There is also a shop with handicrafts and tribal curiosities.
We are also at the Big Cypress Bend, a scenic entrance to the Fakahatchee Strand Forest which in turn has a walkway that goes under the shaded forest, offering wonderful sights. If we stop for a moment and just listen, we will be fascinated by the variety of sounds offered by this gigantic forest where archaeological remains of more than 2,500 years old have been found.
For the next six and a half miles from the Tamiami Trail to the east, we will find very typical tourist attractions of the area, such as handicrafts and several points that offer airboat tours to almost levitate above the sawgrass. For a price that sometimes is not so modest, it is possible to penetrate into the bogs and see more closely if there are dangerous animals like alligators in there. Before reaching the State Road 29, at the popular resort of Carnestown, we’ll have on both sides the road through which the old railroad of the Atlantic Coast Line once circulated -until 1957-, between Harrisburg and Everglades City. From here, we will return to the Marsh Trail entrance to the park of the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, to conclude our journey.