Contributed by Exploration Science student Christopher Muina
Ninety percent of Florida’s population is living in urban environments, so Florida’s wild side is not known by many. The unique landscape of this state refashions itself as one travels north from the Keys through the Everglades, into the tranquil cypress swamp and then the pine forests up to Georgia. The Florida Wildlife Corridor project is a collaborative vision to connect and protect the remaining natural lands that comprise Florida’s interior. The project hopes to bring awareness to the natural wonders that make up this great state by shedding some light on the animals, native cultures, ranchlands, rivers and how they are all interconnected.
In January of 2012 a team of three explorers set off from Everglades National Park and headed north towards the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge in southern Georgia. They traversed 1000 miles in 100 days documenting the trip by video, photography, media, blogs; talking to landowners, celebrities, and government officials along the way. A film was produced about the journey, the animals and the hard working ranchers that manage the land that so few have been exposed.
Hiking, camping, and wildlife are not words identified with the state of Florida. Words like sunshine, beaches, Disney World, are all more likely to ring a bell with this State. Florida is the top travel destination in the world (source). While it is true that most of Florida’s large cities are situated on its coastline and its economy driven by tourism, the inland backcountry is forgotten. Few people know about or have seen the black bears, panthers, whitetail deer, alligators and hundreds of other animals that live inland.
Maybe the fact that so few have experienced the wild natural environments that encompass this state is the reason why it is so special. The Florida Wildlife Corridor Expedition was able to capture a glimpse of Florida’s true mystic beauty and document its untouched landscape. They did so with the purpose to inspire government officials, businessmen, and citizens to realize that what their state possesses cannot be matched by dollar signs, or building projects.
For those of you that call Florida home, whether temporary or long term, I encourage you to get out of your comfort zone and encounter the wild side that few people see. Take a drive out to Everglades National Park, Big Cypress, or any other natural preserve in your area and go for a hike, rent some kayaks, or take a bike ride. Sometimes just driving through a scenic road and stopping for lunch will impact you in ways you never thought possible. Stop and observe, I guarantee you will be surprised by the natural beauty that calls Florida home.