If you are adventurous, or ever wanted to strike off the beaten trail and take the road less traveled, then photographer Clyde Butcher is your kind of guy. The gruff, grizzly bear of a man who has changed the visage of Big Cypress Swamp from uninhabitable mosquito laden hell-scape to a picturesque slice of primordial Florida has made it his mission to dispel the myths and fears of the raw, wet landscape by taking guided tours into the swamp, bringing city slickers thigh-deep into the muck of South Florida.
Butcher has been retreating into the wilds of Big Cypress for more than 40 years, capturing moments and scenes in photographs that pique imaginations and incite an urge to protect and conserve. And though many of the places he photographs have been seen by just a handful of humans, he aims to bring people closer to nature by actually getting them into the thick of it, waist deep in the swamp, gators and snakes eyeing cautiously from the peat moss embankment.
To get visitors closer to nature and experience ‘The Swamp,’ Butcher welcomes visitors out to his Big Cypress Gallery twice a year for his famed “Open House and Swamp Walks.” Historically, these swamp walks were strictly biannual excursions on Labor Day and Presidents’ Day weekends, with Butcher leading hikers into Big Cypress swamp for hour-and-a-half walks. The popularity of the walks was so great, they are now available on select weekends throughout the year, led by Southwest Florida naturalists. But the biannual open house events are still, by far, the most popular time to hike the swamp, giving art lovers and naturalists a chance to explore the enchanted scenes of Butcher’s photographs at two distinct times of year: winter and the end of summer.
During the Presidents’ Day weekend tours, February 14-15, the temperate weather makes Big Cypress a more muted scene, with the cypress trees losing much of their foliage and taking on a grayish hue, allowing for the sunlight to pierce through to the watery swamp below. Birds that normally spend the summer months in the northern reaches return to the swamp, making these walks a birder’s dream. And the cooler weather makes for a great time to experience the swamp without losing 10 pounds of water weight.
During the Presidents’ Day weekend open house, Butcher will be showing a collection of new limited-edition archival pigment photographs in the gallery. He will be on hand to greet guests and hikers, signing books and more—this is definitely one of those “only in Florida” kind of experiences, and not to be missed.
- Tours leave every hour on the hour, from 9 a.m.-2 p.m., February 14-15. Tickets for the tour cost $50 per person, which includes a $25 credit to Clyde Butcher’s gallery. Clyde Butcher will be in the gallery daily from 11 a.m.-5 p.m. to give gallery tours and sign books. The Presidents’ Day weekend tours are quickly filling. To RSVP, click here or call 239-695-2428
For those looking to brave the swamp, here are a few tips and things to bring: wear long pants, a hat and old tennis shoes. Bug spray is a must; after all, it is a swamp. Bring a change of clothing and a waterproof camera if wanting to take some pics, you will get wet!