Kissimmee, FloridaKissimmee, Florida, has lots of wetlands which is very important for the environment, regulating the river flow, filtering pollutants, is a spawning zones for many species of fish and provide a habitat for a great diversity of life forms. It has also been credited to help prevent floods, absorbing a great volume of flood water. However, the local people took up airboating and retired folk from colder climates came with motorboats, upsetting the balance of nature in the Kissimmee watershed. In 1981, the Resources Rivers Act directed the district and others to provide recreation in "an environmentally acceptable manner" and later a project to restore the Kissimmee River and the associated wetlands was initiated.
Pay a visit to Kissimee to see how they restored the Kissimmee River and the wetlands associated with it. There is also a nearby Lake Kissimmee State Park for nature lovers. Kissimmee is also near to many famous themed park, especially the Walt Disney world Resort which is withih a short drive.These themed parks are enjoyed both by children as well as adult. This means you can kill more than 2 birds with one stone.
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Panama City BeachPanama City Beach surrounded by a lush region known with well known great biodiversity one of the six most important places for diverse and rare species in the US. Panama City Beach, located in the Panhandle has an assemblage of plants and animals that occurs nowhere else on earth. There are a number of places which will be of interest to nature lovers:
St. Andrews State Recreation AreaThis park has rolling, white sand dunes separated by either pinewoods or marshes. There are many dunes covered with sea oats while dunes farther inland are populated with sand pines, scrub oaks, rosemary and other hardy plants that help prevent soil erosion. There are freshwater and saltwater marshes teeming with wildlife and birds. The Button Bush Marsh is frequented by a variety of birds including herons and ibis.
There are many trails for hikers. A popular trial for hikers is the Blue Heron Trail take will take you through various plant communities. There is also the Gator Lake Trail good for spotting alligators and a variety of waterfowl, wading birds and other small animals.
Shell IslandShell Island is a 700 acre pristine and undeveloped barrier island providing a great spot for sun bathing and for collecting shells. There is an interesting Water Planet's "Swim with the dolphins" program on Shell Island. Swimming is therapeutic and it is said to be able to cure mild to moderate depression. You can snorkel on the shoals where the grass beds are. The seagrass beds are where many marine life starts.
You can find all kinds of lifeforms there including the horseshoe crab (which is actually not a crab but an Arthropod) and is one of the oldest animals on earth. Others include the Blue Crab which is the most common edible crab in Florida, the Stone Crab which is reddish brown and the largest of the mud crabs (harvesting of this crab is regulated), the Ghost Crab (so called because it is difficult to see due to its sandy color and also because it is active at night), the Horse Conk, the largest conch in the world, the Sand Dollar (Phylum Echinodermata) which consist of mainly a hard shell and very little live tissue, The Starfish (Asteroidea) with 5 points and neither head nor tail, right nor left and can move in any direction without turning, the Sea Hare(Aplysia brasiliana) which looks like the garden slugs. the jellyfish and the Brown Pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis) one of the larges birds whose span of the wings can reach 2 1/2 m with a dark brown body, a massive nozzle and a throat in the shape of pocket and the Armadillo.
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Fort Myers BeachSea turtles come to Fort Myers beach to nest from May 1 to October 31 which have been officially declared as the Sea Turtle Nesting Season. And for this season, these are the conditions set via public notice regarding beach furniture. Summary: "All beach furniture and equipment must be removed by 9pm every evening to behind the permanent dune line or 200 feet from the mean high tide line whichever applicable. shall not be set out in the morning before 8:00 AM or before completion of daily monitoring for turtle nesting activity by Turtle Time, a non-profit organization authorized by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission to conduct daily sea turtle nesting monitoring." So Fort Myers Beach is one area you can observe turtle laying eggs, something that is getting rare.
There is the Lovers Key State Park is especially known for its gulf and estuary bird life.
There is also the 12 mile long Sanibel island, known for ecotourism, whose 6,000 residents fiercely protect its natural beauty. You can find bike paths but no chain restaurants or structures taller than the tallest palm tree. There is the J.N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge, with more than 5,200 acres of mangrove ecology ands home to manatees, alligators, otters and other creatures.
North Captiva Island is known for its known for its dazzling white sand beaches, lush tropical vegetation and shelling with thousands of perfectly shaped shells along the shoreline. There are no cars on North Captiva Island. Other activities available on North Captiva include boating, fishing, nature walks, birdwatching, biking and diving. Note that nude bathing is popular on one side of the island and you may want to avoid that part if you have children with you.
The seven-mile-long Estero Island is a protected island with abundant population of dolphin, manatees, and other marine life. Little Estero Island Critical Wildlife Area is a popular sandbar for birds making rest stops from a major flyway. For a boardwalk trail into mangrove and gumbo limbo forest, go to Matanzas Pass Preserve. At the northern tip of Estero Island is Bowditch Point Regional Preserve whose beach is a shelter for gulls, terns, sandpipers, and many number of other shorebirds.
For a diversion from nature, you may want to pay a visit to the well preserved winter homes of Thomas Edison and Henry Ford in Fort Myers itself along along the Caloosahatchee River. Edison had a love exotic plants. The prolific inventor had a huge botanical garden, and brought in plants from all over the world. There is now a 400-foot wide Banyan tree from Calcutta, India. in his garden.
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