Big Cypress, as well as the Big Thicket National Preserve in Texas, was the first national preserves in the United States National Park System in 1974. Big Cypress consisting of 720,000 acres, is located in southern Florida roughly 45 miles west of Miami.
Boarding the wet freshwater Mari prairies of Everglades National Park south along with other state and federally protected cypress country in the west. Water from the Big Cypress flows south and west into the coastal Ten Thousand Islands. It was originally, intended that Big Cypress be part of Everglades National Park. Due to the fact, the land had not been purchased from its private owners and ultimately released from the park system.
During the summer, some of the hottest days in South Florida are in Big Cypress, with an average temperature of 94 degrees. In January, the average high is 78 degrees. On 159 days a year highs exceed 90 while falling below 70 on just 10.
Differing from Everglades National Park, Big Cypress when it was established by law in 1974, the Native Americans were provided with permanent rights to occupy and use the land in traditional ways. They have first rights to develop income-producing businesses related to the resources and uses of the preserve. Two such businesses are guided tours and hunting. Businesses and homeowners are permitted to use off-road vehicles and keep their businesses in the preserve.
Big Cypress was touted as a recreational paradise by the Department of Interior to accommodate access for off-road vehicles by hunters. It has been noted by both scientists and conservationists that an increase in ORV recreation has impacted wildlife populations and habitats. In 2001, this prompted the National Park Service to proactively manage the ORV recreation to 400 miles of primary trails within the preserve.
Petroleum exploration as in Everglades National Park was permitted. Plans are underway for the government to buy out the remaining leases in order to shut down non-governmental commercial access to the environment.
Opposed by environmental groups, in 2006, park officials announced a new study, to determine if the recreational benefit of more trials is worth the risk of additional damage to the ecosystem.