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Picayune Strand State Forest and Wildlife Management Area is a tract of land composed of 76,000 acres or approximately 124 sq. miles that is undergoing a restoration program to put the land back into its’ natural state which is a hydric forest and swampland. The strand in the 1950’s and 1960’s was partially developed by unscrupulous land developers and sold off to unwitting land owners who could not use their property or build there because the land was under water most of the year. The developers did build a series of canals and roads which removed water and damaged a natural wetland system. The state had to locate thousands of landowners who owned lots and buy back their land in order to restore this wetland system which is vital to the ecosystem and environmental health of South Florida.
The South Florida Water Management District and other agencies have so far removed 65 miles of canals and roads and put in pumps to help channel water through the strand. The Picayune Strand is located next to the Big Cypress National Preserve and is located in it’s water basin. I drove through part of the Picayune Strand in the rainy month of July and took some pictures of the forest and trail areas which is open to the public for hiking, horseback riding and camping when weather permits. The Florida Forest Service which manages the park along with other agencies has a good website describing the history of the state park.
Picayune Strand is located in Collier County about 2 miles east of Naples, north of U.S. 41 and south of I-75. The area is part of the Florida’s’ wetland restoration efforts included in the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan.