Living Sanibel: Four Mile Cover Ecological Preserve
A true natural treasure in the midst of the sprawling city of Cape Coral, Four Mile Cove Ecological Preserve offers hikers as well as kayakers a welcome reprieve from the urban surroundings. Most of the park’s 365 acres are dedicated to mangrove forests and estuarine environments. A small section known as the Veterans Memorial features a replica statue of the famous American flag raising during the battle of Iwo Jima in World War II, as well as a memorial to the soldiers who fought during the Vietnam War. Veterans Parkway runs directly adjacent to the park, which can be distracting at times because of the constant road noise. Next to the parking lot is a small visitor center that has a number of displays such as indigo snake skins and gopher tortoise shells.
Once you leave the parking area and start walking the 1.2 miles of hiking trails, the sound of the traffic and the urban landscape quickly fade into the mangrove habitat-mostly red mangroves, but with several stretches of white, buttonwood, and even a few areas of black mangroves as well. A raised boardwalk allows visitors access through the unending tangle of mangrove roots and periods of high tide when the entire area is under water. While on the boardwalk be on the lookout for yellow-crowned night herons, great egrets, and green anoles. The boardwalk trail is well kept and features two overlooks on the edge of the Caloosahatchee River where the views are spectacular.
An even better way to see the park is by water. Just before the parking area a road turns north to a kayak/canoe launch and small kayak/canoe rental concession that operates seasonally on weekends from October to May. The attraction here is the labyrinth of waterways formed by Alligator Creek. This tidal creek twists and turns through the interior of the preserve and is renowned for its excellent fishing and wildlife sightings. There is an 800-foot portage that requires some effort along the trail, so keep this in mind before setting out. Three floating kayak shelters on the river allow paddlers a place to relax, have a picnic, or get out of the rain.
While in Cape Coral you may want to spend some time looking for the threatened burrowing owls. The Cape is home to more than 1,000 nesting pairs of these adorable birds. City Hall, Cape Coral Library, and Veteran’s Park are among the sites of established nests. There is even a live webcam at one of the nests (www.capecoralburrowingowls.com). Burrowing owls are covered in the bird section of this book.