South Florida National Parks Trust

Big Cypress

Welcome to the Western Everglades

The Big Cypress Swamp is an amazing place…

  • A place so flat that mere inches make a difference in the landscape.
  • A place so large that the name itself – Big Cypress – only hints at the vast expanse of this ecosystem (more than 2,400 square miles).
  • A place so wild that ghost orchids bloom in splendid isolation and panthers roam the land, rarely seen by people.   

The Big Cypress is an amazing place – but it remains a mystery for many.

Few people who live or travel in Southwest Florida truly appreciate what makes this incredibly diverse and distinct region of the Greater Everglades ecosystem – a place often called the "Western Everglades" – different from its better known cousin to the east.

The Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center, which opened in March 2010 on U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) in Southwest Florida, promises to change that dynamic by introducing a new generation of visitors to the rich history, culture and ecology of the Big Cypress Swamp.

Tens of thousands of people are expected to visit the center each year to learn about the Big Cypress, its wetlands and wildlife (for directions & hours, call 239-695-4758).

The Big Cypress National Preserve and the National Park Service built the $2.2 million Welcome Center to serve as a destination – and a point of departure.

The Welcome Center’s 18 exhibits describe the history, hydrology and habitats of the Big Cypress and invite people to explore the region – on their own or with a ranger.

The Campaign for the Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center

More than 200 individuals, corporations, foundations, government agencies and partners helped to make the Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center possible by giving generously to the South Florida National Parks Trust for its Big Cypress campaign in 2009 and 2010.

Contributions from these donors provided the matching funds needed to build and install 14 of the Welcome Center’s 18 exhibits on the history, hydrology, wildlife and ecology of the Big Cypress.

The Trust thanks the following Big Cypress donors for giving generously to support the new Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center:

Stewardship Circle (contributions of $25,000 +)
Mrs. Lavern Norris Gaynor, in honor of Lester J. and Dellora Norris and Naples Backyard History
Clyde & Niki Butcher and the Friends of Big Cypress
The Big Cypress Basin, a local arm of the South Florida Water Management District

Big Cypress Pioneers (contributions of $10,000 +)
Wachovia Wells Fargo Foundation
The Collier County Board of County Commissioners and the Tourist Development Council
Mr. Ron Bergeron and the Bergeron Everglades Museum and Wildlife Foundation

Big Cypress Patrons (contributions of $5,000 +)
The Kirch Foundation and the Terry Kirch Family of Naples, Florida
The South Florida Bush Paddlers and other friends and family of Charlie Arazoza
The Friends of Fakahatchee

Big Cypress Partners (contributions of $2,500 +)
Robert & Christel Skinner
Neal McAliley & Maricarmen Martinez and their children Jack & Ava
Janet McAliley
David & Arlene Gates and Lisa Gates
Tom & Judy Maish
Ver Ploeg & Lumpkin, P.A. in memory of Anthea Williams Ver Ploeg
Deborah & Wayne Rassner and their sons Heath & Jacob
Patrick & Jennifer White
Mr. Allyn Golub

Big Cypress Friends (contributions of $1,000 +)
Family and Friends of James E. Shirey, a Big Cypress National Preserve volunteer
Ms. Tamara D. McKeown
The Merrill G. & Emita E. Hastings Foundation
Porter Wright Morris & Arthur LLP
The Cusco Family
Mr. Don Finefrock
Mr. Nathaniel P. Reed
Ms. Claire Sickel
Mr. Charlie Aragunde

The Trust thanks the following partners for supporting the Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center campaign:
Filmmaker & Cinematographer Elam Stoltzfus
Ms. Jackie Butcher Obendorf
Redwood Creek Wines
Dr. Lois Bolin and Naples Backyard History
Ms. Jennifer Tisthammer and the Deering Estate at Cutler
The von Liebig Art Center
Mr. Keith Basik


Documentary tells the story of “The Western Everglades”

Cinematographer Elam Stoltzfus, photographer Clyde Butcher and musician Sammy Tedder have created a film that takes viewers deep into the heart of the Big Cypress Swamp. The hour-long documentary features some stunning footage captured in the Big Cypress, and interviews with folks who know and love these “Western Everglades.”

DVD copies of the documentary are available for purchase through the Trust, for $20 plus $5 for shipping and handling. All proceeds benefit the Welcome Center. To purchase a copy, contact the Trust office at 305.665.4769 or by email at

To learn more about the film, go to

Sammy Tedder, Clyde Butcher and Elam Stoltzfus