Big Cypress Loop Road is not on most lists of Florida tourist attractions, but maybe it should be.
It is a lonely road about 27 miles long that parallels US-41 on it's south side.
On Tamiami Trail (US-41) about halfway between Naples and Miami there is a ramshackle old building at a place called Monroe Station.
It was built in the 1920's as a waystation, restaurant and boarding house for early travelers on the lonely stretch to Miami.
The building has been abandoned for years, and every time I drive by I'm amazed that it's still standing. It is only one hurricane away from being strewn all over the Everglades.
Update: Monroe Station was destroyed by fire on April 9, 2016. Authorities say it was torched accidentally in a photography stunt gone bad.
There are two ways to travel on Big Cypress Loop Road.
The first way and the hardest way is to take the partially improved section of the Loop Road leading south from Monroe Station. It's official designation is CR-94.
It heads south for several miles, and then bends east and north where it hooks up with Tamiami Trail again. The first 19 miles of this road can be rough going during wet conditions or if the surface has not been recently graded, but the average car will have no trouble in dry weather, but going slow.
Tamiami Trail was opened in 1928, and the Big cypress Loop Road opened about the same time. It is probably the loneliest 27 mile stretch of road in Florida.
A few hardy pioneers used to live along this road. Most of them are gone, their homesteads purchased by the federal government when the Big Cypress was assembled as a national preserve.
If you drive this stretch in a conventional car, the going has to be slow because of the wet spots, rough spots and potholes.
They say in the old days it would take 3 hours to drive those 27 miles. I drove it recently in a Toyota Corolla in 1 hour and 20 minutes. Part of going slow was that I wanted to see the natural scenery.
Another way to see Big Cypress Loop Road is to enter the road from the eastern end near the Miccosukee Indian headquarters and give your car or truck or bike a break on the nice paved road.
The eastern entrance to the Loop Road is at Forty Mile bend on Tamiami Trail just west of the Miccosukee Indian headquarters building. It's called Forty Mile Bend because it's 40 miles from downtown Miami.
The first thing you will see are some nice concrete block houses on your left where some Indian families live. Shortly after that, the road gets lonely but it's easy driving.
You may see alligators, bears, panthers and a human now and then. The humans are generally fishing in the numerous shallow streams and swampy areas.
You won't see many signs of civilization, but will get a good feeling for how primitive life must have been in this wilderness for the early pioneers.
I like to play the country favorite Orange Blossom Special as I go through this lonely country. This is in honor of the late Ervin Rouse, who lived on the Loop Road some years ago.
He is famous for writing the "Orange Blossom Special", a country fiddle classic. In his later years he got by playing fiddle at local juke joints in the Glades. He sold the rights to the song for peanuts and never made any real money from perhaps the most famous of all country music songs.
One of Ervin Rouse's hangouts was the Gator Hook Lodge. It was a joint that opened in 1958 and was owned and operated by the former police chief of Sweetwater, a small town in the western Miami area. Jack Knight was known for his ability to maintain law and order among the unruly regulars at his saloon.
Gator Hook Lodge survived until 1977 when it and most everything else man made in the area was swallowed up by the Big Cypress National Preserve.
If you like the Orange Blossom Special, click on the video above for an amazing rendition that I never get tired of hearing.
After about 8 miles this paved section ends at a Big Cypress ranger station and a trail head that will give you a great walking experience through the Big Cypress Swamp.
Near the ranger station and still on the paved road, you will come to an interesting collection of old motorcycles, trailers, a tall wooden fence, firewood for sale, and a Lucky Strike sign.
Sometimes this place is open to the public and it's a visit you should make if you are out on the Big Cypress Loop Road anyway.
This is the home/studio of LUCKY COLE, EVERGLADES PHOTOGRAPHER.
Maybe they call him Lucky because he has figured out a way to get beautiful women to pay him to photograph them in the nude.
Search for him on the internet and you will get a glimpse of his work. Like his neighbor down Tamiami Trail, Clyde Butcher, Lucky is a nature photographer.
While Clyde is the Ansel Adams of black and white photographs of the silent beauty of the swamps and hammocks of the Florida Everglades, Lucky takes photos of another kind of natural beauty at his place on Big Cypress Loop Road.
He appreciates the female form and is passionate about photographing women in their nude glory.
Lucky's place is a collection of weathered trailers, connecting decks and porches and a lot of interesting bizzare statuary and props that he uses in his photography business. Some of his photographs are on display at various locations around the property.
Lucky was raised in Miami Springs, and he and his wife Maureen moved to Big Cypress Loop Road in 1991. Lucky is familiar with the history of Big Cypress Road since he has been coming out to the area even as a boy.
Lucky doesn't sell anything to tourists, but will give you a beer and sit and gab for a while. He does accept donations to his retirement fund. When I visit him next I plan to bring some 12 year old scotch as a gift.
You will enjoy sitting around the firepit with Lucky and Maureen while he tells you about all the characters and gangsters that used to hang out on Big Cypress Road before the government bought most of them out.
PINECREST AND AL CAPONE
In earlier times the Loop Road was the location of the village of Pinecrest. It was a logging town that grew to have about 200 people in the 1930's.
Pinecrest was also supposedly where Al Capone had a moonshining operation and gambling den that was operated by his cousin.
Al also reportedly visited now and then from his winter home in Miami.
The only other residents of this lonely road today seem to be the Miccosukee Indians mentioned earlier who live in neat modern concrete block houses toward the eastern end of the 8 mile paved stretch.
More pictures are available at on my Facebook photo gallery at Big Cypress Loop Road and Lucky Cole's Place.
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Loop Road was Wild and Free
.... and a fine place to grow into a man. In the 50s & 60s Loop Road was still wild and free. I'm a sixth generation Cracker and as a boy seriously …
2013 -Big Cypress Loop Road Florida
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Loop Road Childhood
I used to live on loop road when I was a kid in the Everglades in 1977. When I was about 6 or 7 we lived on the loop road in an old hunting camp. (I …
Lucky Cole Loop Road Photographer
Just wanted to let everyone know we open to visitors most Saturday and Sunday afternoons. I tell friends that are coming out just to see us to please call …
Loop Road and Lucky's Place
On Tamiami Trail (US-41) About halfway between Naples and Miami there is a ramshackle old building at a place called Monroe Station. It was built in the …
Gator Hook Lodge
I'm Charles Knight, son of Jack Knight Sr. Gator Hook was built by my brother Jack Jr. Dad eventually owned it but only after my sister Joyce tired …
Living in a Beautiful Place
When i was 6 years old we moved to Ochopee. We lived on Burdine Road. I loved that place so much: learned how to fish and to get gators to eat. I used …
Rugby: One of the Founders of Loop Road
My husband's mother's father was one of the first to walk Loop Road. My husband Vince grew up out there as a boy. His Grandfather, Orville Rugby went …