Due to current conditions, Stewart Road is closed from between Faka Union Canal and Jane’s Scenic Drive in Fakahatchee Strand State Park until further notice.
For additional information, please call (239) 348-7557.
Picayune Strand State Forest is the fourth largest state forest in Florida and is named after the largest of several cypress strands that once occupied much of the eastern portion of the property. The 78,000-acre forest is comprised of two tracts, the South Golden Gates Estates Tract to the east and the Belle Meade Tract to the west.
Picayune Strand State Forest is located in southwest Florida in eastern Collier County, approximately 2 miles east of Naples. The forest can be accessed via Everglades Boulevard from the north, Jane’s Scenic Drive from the east, and Sabal Palm Road from the west. The forest office is located at 2121 52nd Ave. SE, Naples, FL, 34117.
Picayune Strand was logged for cypress and pine trees in the 1940s and 1950s. After logging was completed, land in what is now the South Golden Gate Estates Tract was purchased by developers and drained for the construction of what was intended to become the largest subdivision in the world. This area became the setting for the infamous “swampland in Florida” scam. Potential buyers were flown over the land during the dry season and subjected to high-pressure sales tactics. Many lots were sold to people who never saw their land on the ground. Few homes were ever built in the subdivision due to the lack of electricity and high summer water levels.
By the 1970s, it was obvious that the extensive road and canal system was having an adverse effect on the natural communities of Picayune Strand and associated ecosystems, including Faka-Union Bay and the Ten Thousand Islands area. Soon after, support for the restoration of Picayune Strand began to gain momentum.
In 1985, a plan was put into place for the state of Florida to purchase the land in South Golden Gate Estates using Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) funds under the Save Our Everglades program. This was an incredibly large undertaking that involved acquiring land from 17,000 landowners. The Picayune Strand State Forest was officially named in May of 1995. In 1998, the federal government provided $25 million in aid to the state to help bring the land acquisitions to completion.
The Picayune Strand Restoration Project (PSRP) began in 2007 and aims to restore the natural hydrology of the forest and associated ecosystems, including that of the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge. Construction of the first phase of the PSRP will be complete in April 2016, and it is anticipated that the entire project will be completed by 2022 or sooner.
Picayune Strand State Forest is in the heart of the Big Cypress Basin. The majority of this hydric forest is under water during the wet season. The forest is a mosaic 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 a variety of wildlife, including many threatened and endangered species. Although Florida panthers are rarely observed, visitors often find their tracks on many of the sandy roads and trails throughout the forest.
Picayune Strand State Forest offers many recreational opportunities.
- The Belle Meade Tract provides equestrians with a 22-mile trail that is included in the Trailtrotter Program. An equestrian campground adjacent to the forest office serves as the eastern trailhead for the trail and features 10 paddocks, a non-potable water source and a portable restroom. Please note that all horses on the forest must have current negative Coggins test results, proof of which is to be carried by each rider at all times.
- The Sabal Palm Hiking Trail is a 3.2-mile trail that provides hikers with the opportunity to view the many cypress trees that were too small to harvest in 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. The Sabal Palm Hiking Trail is part of the Trailwalker Hiking Program.
- There are ample cycling opportunities on forest roads and old trams/trails.
NOTE: OHVs are prohibited on Picayune Strand State Forest.
In keeping with its mission to protect and manage Florida's forest resources, the Florida Forest Service has developed rules that apply to all state forest visitors. Find out more about state forest fees and rules.