Total Acreage: 78,909
Picayune Strand State Forest
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Picayune Strand State Forest is primarily comprised
of two major tracts of land, the South Golden Gate Estates
Tract and the Belle Meade Tract. The South Golden Gate
Estates Tract comprises the majority of the forest.
The land which is currently Picayune Strand State Forest
was originally logged for cypress trees in the 1940's
and 1950's, and then in the 1960's, a developer purchased
over 57,000 acres to create the largest subdivision
in America to be called "Golden Gate Estates".
A massive system of canals and roads were built and
thus began the infamous "swampland in Florida" scam.
Potential buyers were flown over the area during the
dry season then subjected to high pressure salesmen
who were selling lots averaging 2.5 acres apiece. Most
of the land south of Interstate 75 could never be developed
due to the summer flooding, and the development eventually
In 1985, a plan was put into place to purchase South
Golden Gate Estates using Conservation and Recreation
Lands (CARL) funds under the "Save Our Everglades"
program. This was an incredibly large undertaking as
it involved acquiring land from 17,000 landowners. In
1998, the federal government gave 25 million dollars
in aid to the state of Florida to help bring the land
acquisitions to a completion. Once the land acquisition
is completed, hydrological restoration activities will
begin in earnest. This will restore the sheet flow of
freshwater that is necessary for the continued existence
of the ecologically sensitive Ten Thousand Islands and
the Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve.
Picayune Strand State Forest is located in southwest
Florida in western Collier County, approximately two
miles east of the town of Naples. The forest can be accessed
on Everglades Boulevard from the north or Janes Scenic
Drive from the east. Public parking and restroom facilities
are located at 2121 52nd Ave. SE, west of Everglades
PHOTO: Wood storks can be found on Picayune Strand State Forest.
Picayune Strand State Forest is in the heart of an ecosystem called the Big Cypress Basin. The majority of this hydric forest is under water during periods of considerable rainfall. The forest is comprised of cypress strands, wet prairie, and pine flatwoods in the lowlands and subtropical hardwood hammocks in the uplands. The northern section of the Belle Meade Tract contains many second growth South Florida slash pine, with some remnant trees being over 100 years old.
The forest provides habitat for many species of wildlife making wildlife viewing a popular activity. The following species have been sighted on the forest: black bear, bald eagle, wood stork, Big Cypress fox squirrel and
swallow-tailed kites. Although Florida panthers are rarely visible, they do leave tracks for the observant visitor. Female panthers have borne cubs on the state forest in recent years.
Restoration plans have been formulated and efforts have begun to block several of the 45 miles of canals and remove 227 miles of roads constructed by land developers in the 1960s. the return of the sheet flow of freshwater through the strand and into the Ten Thousand Islands and Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is essential for the survival of the natural ecosystem of southwestern Florida.
Picayune Strand State Forest offers many recreational opportunities.
• The Belle Meade Tract provides equestrians a 22 mile horse trail which is included in the Trailtrotter program, 10 paddocks, non-potable water and an equestrian camping area. All horses on the forest must have current negative Coggins Test results, proof of which is to be carried by each rider.
• The Sabal Palm Hiking Trail is a 3.2 mile trail that gives hikers an opportunity to view the many cypress trees that were considered too small to harvest by loggers of the 1940s and 50s. Some of these cypress trees are now over 100 years old. Bird watchers might be able to catch a glimpse of wood storks, hairy woodpeckers and red-cockaded woodpeckers. Picayune Strand State Forest is part of the Trailwalker Hiking Program.
Off-Highway Vehicle activity is illegal on Picayune Strand State Forest except in designated areas. Anyone riding an OHV on the forest, other than in designated areas, will be cited according to the law.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission coordinates all hunting activities held on the forest. Visit Picayune Strand WMA for information.
In keeping with its mission to protect
and manage Florida's forest resources, the Florida Forest Service has developed rules which apply to all State
Forest visitors. Find out more about state forest fees and rules.