A Swamp Walk in the Everglades

Updated January 2023

“I know you’re into adventure travel,” said my friend Carol. “How about a walking tour and photo shoot through the swamp in the Everglades?”

Small alligator
A Florida Gator

“Sure,” I replied, not considering any danger. Carol’s right, I’ve jumped into my fair share of crazy escapades, so why not a swamp walk? Besides, if former President Jimmy Carter could do this, why not me?

Photographer wading through the swamp
Wading through the swamp

Last January Carol, her husband and I headed off toward Miami. We arrived at Clyde Butcher’s Gallery in the Big Cypress National Preserve about hours later. Clyde is a famous Florida photographer known for his large format black and white landscapes. He often takes photos while in the swamp, so I hoped to peek at the landscape from his perspective. Butcher also owns a few acres along the Tamiami Trail where he operates one of his Galleries and two rental properties.

Clyde Butcher's Big Cypress Gallery
Big Cypress Gallery-

We luckily had reservations for his one bedroom bungalow that is hidden behind the studio. The bungalow makes an ideal place to stay as there aren’t many options along this stretch of highway. The rental unit features a modern kitchen, sleek bathroom, screened-in porch and updated furnishings. Carol and Larry would take the large bedroom, and I’d snooze on the fold out bed. The best part, however, was that we were right in the thick of things – sleeping in the wetlands so to speak.

The Bungalow at Clyde Butcher's Gallery.
The Swamp Cottage Bungalow

Butcher hires knowledgeable and passionate guides to host the swamp walks. They usually last one and half hour tours, but special photography tours take up to three hours and start earlier – mine at 7:15 am. Reservations are necessary.

What to Wear on a Swamp Walk

Carol and I dressed as directed in quick-dry hiking pants and a pair of old sneakers. “No waders needed,” said our guide. “Don’t worry, we don’t have pythons here. There may be a few small gators in one area, but nothing to be anxious about, ” he continued. Guess we believed him because we were ready to wade in.

Starting point for a Swamp Walk
The beginning of the Swamp Walk Trail

Our group assembled and we all grabbed walking sticks, a necessity to maintain balance from hidden tree roots, rocks and slimy surfaces. We applied bug spray, strapped our cameras around our necks and carried a small backpack with extra supplies.

Air Ferns in the swamp.
Air Ferns growing in the swamp.

The Swamp Walk Begins

We gingerly stepped into a shallow still water creek under a canopy of ancient Cypress trees. “Start walking slowly and feel where you place your feet,” said our guide. So we did, the group maxed out at eight participants. We followed along in the mucky terrain. The depth was only a little higher than our ankles, so it didn’t seem scary, just awkward. However, as we proceeded further, the water grew deeper – up to middle thigh level. Occasionally my foot got stuck in the mud.

Bring your tripod on the Photography walk.
On the Photography walk.
Following the leader.
Following the leader on the group tour.

The surrounding scenery revealed eye-popping lush Oz emerald green foliage, humongous ferns and subtropical plants. We were walking in authentic Old Florida, a luscious landscape twinkling with shards of sunlight nudging between the trees.

Rays of sunlight filter into the swamp.
Sunlight beams into the Swamp

Our guide explained details about the flora and fauna in the Big Cypress Preserve, seasonal changes and the ongoing conservation efforts. Our walk became an educational experience as well as a once-in-a-lifetime atypical adventure.

Debi in the swamp photographing the landscape/
This is me loving my job.

We snapped lots of photos, but finding a focal point proved difficult. The abundance of ferns, air plants, fungi, bromeliads, Cypress knees and swaying Spanish moss overwhelms and the scattering of old broken branches disrupts the desired shot. (I have the feeling Clyde cleans up the scene for his photo shoots.)
Near the end of our walk, we moved from the verdant wet ecosystem to a drier, grassy area. It appealed in a diverse way, a monochrome montage of browns.

Brown, dry grass on the fringe of the swamp.
The dry grassy area with a few yellow flowers.

I recommend this serene escape: it isn’t just a walk in the swamp; you become the swamp.

I became the swamp.
Becoming the swamp.

Reservations for a swamp walk:

Photographers in the swamp.
Photographers in the swamp
Swamp walk black and white photo.
A black and white photo from my swamp walk.

4 thoughts on “A Swamp Walk in the Everglades

  1. Great photos, but it looks to me like waders instead of old sneakers might have been better footware. The swamp walk sounds like a great adventure. Did the bug spray work?

  2. What an adventure and great photos but I’m not sure I’d be up for it. “Small gators” I’d have to ask what his definition of small is. Like Donna I’m wondering if that bug spray worked.

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