The Everglades Trail
Tamiami, Alligators and Art – The Everglades Trail – A Backroad Florida Adventure
Most Florida travelers have heard of the Tamiami Trail (State Route 41) going from Tampa to Miami, Florida. There is a section of the Trail that is rarely traveled since the opening of the I-75 expressway from Naples to Miami. The I-75 toll road is misnamed the “Alligator Alley”. The name was for the swamp home of alligators that had to be disrupted to build the road. Seeing an alligator while traveling this concrete highway, however, is very fortunate. Most have moved further into the Everglades.
There are a few miles of the Tamiami Trail, south of the I-75 superhighway, which is truly a backroad Florida day trip adventure. This section of the Trail from Carnestown to the Miccosukee Indian School is more aptly named “Alligator Alley”. This less traveled highway includes a trek directly through the heart of the Everglades. On many warm sunny days, alligators line the swamp alongside the Trail.
Traveling east while leaving Naples, Florida, you arrive at Carnestown, a crossroads of Rt. 41 and state road 29. Rt. 29 south travels to Everglades City., one of the last frontiers in the Everglades. For our adventure, stay on Rt. 41 that begins a journey through Florida backcountry. Along the way, the first village is Ochopee with the smallest Post Office in the country. This little one-room post office is about the size of an outhouse! It is a tourist attraction.
This little area, Ochopee, was nothing more than a tomato farm over a hundred years ago. The population grew until the government started buying property as part of a movement to preserve the Everglades.
A few miles down the road is Wooten’s Airboats. The trails through the Everglades are followed by Wooten’s and other airboat operators to give visitors a sense of the beauty and diversity of the swamps and lowlands. It’s a fun trip and plenty of picture taking moments with up closeup views of alligators and their habitat. Birders will delight at the many glade’s species.
As you travel the Trail you have the opportunity to see one of Florida’s most magnificent preserves called The Big Cypress Swamp. You will see everything from the colorful Everglades’ birds to densely wooded areas harboring panthers, bears, wild boar and deer. The changing natural backdrop seems to come and go around each corner.
At about mile marker 53, keep an eye out for a road called Loop Road. We have written about this true alligator heaven. Read about how this Loop Road cuts through an area we only recommend with certain preparations. A Loop Road backroads Florida adventure is not for the meek or someone who is adverse to the “swamp angels”. Make Loop Road a bucket list Florida backroads adventure.
After passing Loop Road, be prepared to stop at one of the most interesting art galleries you will encounter anywhere. Yes, an art gallery in the middle of the swamp called the Clyde Butcher Galleries. Butcher has dedicated his life to capturing the sights from deep within the Everglades. His portraits see life as it exists from dawn to dusk as only the Everglades can produce. Don’t miss this stop on your Florida day trip.
You can’t travel the Trail without encountering the villages, art and attractions of the Miccosukee Indians. This native American tribe is an offshoot of the Seminole Indians. The Seminoles aligned themselves with the British in the Revolutionary War. The new Americans persecuted the Seminoles and drove most of them into reservations in the west. Some refused to leave Florida and migrated to south Florida and the Everglades where they were hard to find. They became the Miccosukee Indians named after a village burned by Andrew Jackson in the early 1800’s.
The Miccosukee have been granted their territory in the Everglades called The Miccosukee Nation. Besides government assistance, they have their own governing authority. The Miccosukee have a large retail presence along I-75 with rest stops, visitor shops and exhibitions.
The Miccosukee survived the harsh Everglades. They found a way of life that represented freedom even at the cost of most comforts created by generation after generation in America. They persist today and try to preserve their culture.
Our trip ends at the Miccosukee School and village you will see on the south side of the Trail. Perhaps you can imagine life in the swamp 150 years ago when the Miccosukee fled here. Even today the contrast of the swamp versus America’s playground, Miami Beach, just a few miles east is hard to visualize. Many Florida backroad travels we encounter have these stark contrasts.
Other Backroad Florida Adventures include: