Photos: Loop Road, Everglades, Florida
Posted on 01/26/2011
This old road is like a window to the wild side of the Everglades from the comfort of your vehicle, but with a lot of history behind.
That’s the interesting part about Loop Road, but sadly years ago the road was partially closed because the swamp water over-topped the roadbed creating unsafe conditions for the traffic. The closure was implemented south of the Gator Hook Strand and to the West of the Educational Center. This closing, if still in place, denies some of the most picturesque and secluded areas of the backcountry road.
Loop Road runs to the south and almost parallel to the US 41 (also known as Tamiami Trail, a composed word used for Tampa-Miami). The eastern entrance is located by the Forty Miles Bend, just after passing the Miccosukee reservation. Around 17 miles further to the west, the narrow road rejoins the Trail at the intersection where still survives the decaying Monroe Station near Ochopee, the location of the smallest post office in the United States.
Loop Road shows nature’s beauty but it gets even more interesting when you learn about the previous existence of a city in the area, the vanished town of Pinecrest.
Pinecrest was founded in the 1920s, at the times of the Trail construction. The town came existence as the indirect result of a dispute between the counties implied in the building of US 41, after the differences caused a detour of the original road plan through lands under Monroe County jurisdiction. With the construction of the road, intended to be the actual Tamiami Trail, the land sales exploded around it and later some people began moving in.
After a while the Florida government changed its position in favor of the actual Tamiami Trail route through Lee County lands and the fate of Pinecrest and Loop Road was at that point sealed.
The secluded area ended with a road that just did a huge loop or detour deep into the Everglades to end back in the trail (we can say that it was a road to nowhere). The isolation of the region eventually brought some other things: moonshine, gangsters, and many wild men.
Today the only surviving structures from that time close to the road are the gas station built in 1921 (located in private property), and the steps of a hotel that many affirm was in part related to the Al Capone empire.
The bluegrass musician Ervin Rouse, author of the famous fiddle “Orange Blossom Special,” used to live in Pinecrest and played in the most famous bar of the area: The Gator Hook.
Today Google Map satellite images show geometric lines in the area that appear to be parts of the vanished streets (there are quite a few).
If you decide to go there first get information about the area and any road closures through the Big Cypress National Preserve (the website also has info about other scenic drives in the region).
Also, note that this is “frontier land” and, in the deepest portions of the road, there is no wireless phone reception. A handful of residents survived the insertion of the lands as part of the national preserve, so be respectful of their properties and privacy.
There are some campgrounds around there but not many services are offered and wildlife is abundant.
Enjoy some of my photos from 2007!