No Mouse

Here is a thing I love about Florida. The state has preserved and continues to maintain the historical and natural areas within the excellent State Park system.  Even though the Army Corp of Engineers had its way with “draining the swamp” and controlling water flow in the early 1900’s, it’s possible to get a feel for the old Florida— pre Mouse.

We are situated in Kissimmee, the heart of Disney development, congestion and commercial extravaganza, but you wouldn’t know it, kayaking on the serene Shingle Creek.  

Shingle Creek, headwaters to the Everglades, flows for 23 miles, beginning near Orlando. Just after the Civil War, the Steffee family and other pioneers established a community here. Shingle Creek was named for the cypress shingles, hand split, milled and shipped to Kissimmee. The cabin was built in 1890 and probably used for recreation.  The family recorded that “there were so many deer, turkeys and smaller game for the table.  Panthers, bears and wolves were plentiful in the swamps.”




I don’t think we will see a panther but the ranger told us to look for an alligator just before the picnic area. 


I spotted her, sunning herself on the bank.

I paddled too close and she immediately whipped around to face me. And I did a fast backpaddle! The ranger told us that if a female alligator feels her babies are threatened, she will swim in the opposite direction to decoy danger away from her clutch. 


Just beyond these crossed trees we entered an old growth cypress swamp.

The river narrowed and the birdlife increased. I need to brush up on bird identification but I think this is an ibis. We also saw anhingas, osprey, and herons.

Yellow belly turtles don’t mind if you get really close.

I’ve never seen a stop sign on a water trail before. Time to turn around.

On the way back, mama gator was on high alert. We passed a group of kayakers and pointed her out to them. Their naturalist guide said that alligators are the only reptiles that care for their young. And that they are good mothers. She said to look for the yellow stripes to see the babies hiding in the brush along the bank. I looked as hard as I could, but I couldn’t find them.

Years ago, when we had small children, we paid a few visits to Disney attractions. How this area has changed with mind blowing development! I really wonder if anyone has statistics on how many days you could go to a different Disney theme park in this area — not counting other brands — without repeating yourself. Months? Also, what would it cost? Thousands!

I’ve had a wonderful day, connecting with nature, enjoying the outdoors, contemplating how folks used to live. I’ve happily relinquished all things Disney to my daughter Caitlin who lives in Santa Monica, and with two little boys, has a PhD in theme parks. No Mouse for Gary and I. Today it was hard to remember that there is crazy traffic along Florida I 4. I just drifted along the river, peacefully dipping an occasional paddle.

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  1. Looks like a wonderful day! And it is 6, 4 parks and 2 water parks…we haven’t done it, but did do a week at Disney when our kids were younger, and it was pricy. We did a package, if you just go in, I think tickets are about $150/day! Glad we’ve done it!

  2. WOW……….had no idea this was so close to Kississimee!!!! About three years ago we got stuck on I-4 and in 40 minutes we managed to drive two miles!!!!!!!! I had it and couldn’t get us out of the area fast enough! Forget the Disney/theme park stuff……..this area where you were is ideal!

  3. Terry, this is amazing! I feel a calm washing over me just looking at your photos! Except perhaps for the Mama alligator! I’m sorry we missed each other but it looks like you win the day! I’m going to explore this beautiful place while we’re here. Thanks!

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