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Fodor's South Florida 2014
Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge
Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge Review
When this refuge opened in 1989, it was off-limits to the public to protect endangered cougar subspecies. In 2005, responding to public demand, the 26,400-acre refuge opened two short loop trails in a region lightly traveled by panthers so visitors could get tastes of wet prairies, tropical hammocks, and pine uplands where panthers roam and wild orchids thrive. The 1.3-mile trail is rugged and often thigh-high under water during summer and fall; it's closed when completely flooded. The shorter 0.3-mile Leslie M. Duncan Memorial Trail is wheelchair-accessible and open year-round. For either, bring drinking water and insect repellent. Although sightings are rare, you may spot deer, black bears, and the occasional panther—or their tracks. Annual events include the Save the Panther Week in March, with an open house, plant walks, and tours.
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