Venture Walton goes south for the holidays

December 31, 2008

An alligator suns himself along the Tamiami Trail. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors
An alligator patiently waits for lunch along the Tamiami Trail. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

A look at wildlife along Tamiami Trail and Key West

I decided this Christmas that I would take a short break for a few days and head south to see family and friends. With family in Key West, and good friends in Sarasota, the two visits were the perfect reason for a journey.

With my cameras packed and enough time to take my time, I took the long road, and headed across U.S. Hwy. 41, also known as the Tamiami Trail, stopping along the Big Cypress National Preserve to take in a bit of the local wildlife.

An anhinga suns himself along the Tamiami Trail. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors
An anhinga suns herself along the Tamiami Trail. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Along the Trail there was an abundance of alligators and birds including storks, ibis, herons, egrets, cormorants and anhingas. A fascinating treat for any nature lover, the Everglades is a sure bet to be chock full of wildlife.

There are several state and federal parks along the way that offer a closer look at the indigenous life in the area. The Trail also has many roadside attractions including airboat ride opportunities and, the infamous Skunk Ape Research Headquarters (don’t bite the $3 entrance fee on that one, everything there you can see for free along the Trail).

The Tamiami Trail is a must for anyone who has never ventured through this part of Florida and viewed the beauty of the Everglades.

While in Key West, I decided to play touron (tourist) for an afternoon and went to the Indigenous Park located near the “beach.”  I say the term beach loosely, for the Keys have nothing on us living in the Panhandle.

The Indigenous Park was full of ibis – what my niece Kelly use to call “icky birds,” for they would frequently chase her around the neighborhood when she was a little girl. I wonder if, at the time, she had Ritz crackers in her hands, or a freshly made peanut butter and jelly sandwich!

There were butterflies, turtles and tropical flora in bloom all over South Florida during this late December journey. One note of extraordinary beauty was the vibrantly colored bougainvillea draped along fence lines everywhere. The colors rich in purple and magenta, as if in a seasonal celebration all their own.

Exploring Mother Nature and the vast amount of wildlife that abounds in Florida is rarely a boring experience. Having the time to stop and be in wonder was the best Christmas present I could of asked for.

In this time of uncertainty, there is no better escape than stepping outside and finding simple pleasure in what has always been there, if you take the time to look and listen.

Lucky for me gas was on the cheap this journey!

Venture Walton is a feature column for outdoor enthusiasts in Walton County, Florida and the surrounding area.

Lori Ceier is the publisher of, and can be reached via email at

    1. Beautiful video Lori! It looks so peaceful, yet so deadly with the gators. The turtle looked as if he really didn’t want to be on camera…cute! Thanks for sharing a bit of your trip with us.

    1. We drove the Tamiami Trail too! I couldn’t believe how many gators were sunning themselves along the canal.

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