“One of many lush trails through one of the Everglades' archetypal ecosystems: the Pineland.
— Hunter R
The Gate 3 Trail is one of many doubletrack trails in the Everglades area that provides visitors with a beautiful escape into one of its characteristic natural habitats: the Pineland.
Distinctive from the hardwood hammocks and grassy wetlands of the surrounding area, the Pineland habitat is unusual in that the trees here flourish on the seemingly impenetrable bedrock limestone that underlies them. Due to these areas of bedrock, this ground sits marginally higher than the surrounding landscape, allowing the area to drain properly and support more diverse, dry-land plant species as a result. Popular plant species include pines, saw palmettos, as well as over 200 species of tropical plants.
Unsurprisingly, the lush, wooded nature of this landscape offers predators the perfect environment to hunt their prey. One of the most effective natural hunters in this area is the Florida panther. However, when humans moved into the area over a hundred years ago, the Florida panther was slowly pushed out of its native habitat. With the shrinking of its habitat, along with other acts of human interference, Florida panther populations began to diminish. Consequently, this area exists as one of the last natural habitats for the Florida panther. Thankfully, various conservation efforts are slowly bringing panther populations back from near extinction. But, it is only through the cultivation and preservation of natural spaces such as the one at Pineland Trails that these majestic animals can have a chance at survival.
While the thought of panthers may deter visitors to the Pineland Trails, they have no reason to worry. Florida panthers are nocturnal hunters, and thus pose little to no risk to day-runners along the trail. However, while the chance of seeing a panther in the daylight is next to none, that is not to say these animals move around untraceably. Visitors keen on viewing traces of Florida panthers should gaze down at the trail surface, as panthers are known to leave large, softball-sized prints in loose ground.
Pines, saw palmettos, and over 200 species of tropical flora are abundant along this trail. Keep your eyes peeled for signs of the fleeting Florida panther.