Billie Swamp Safari - Explore! Billie Swamp Safari - Explore!

Billie Swamp Safari

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Billie Swamp Safari is named after Kissimmee Billie a Seminole woman who stood up to the soldiers during the Seminole wars to enable her clan to escape from them. The Safari is located near Clewiston, Florida, near the northern end of the Everglades.  Here we present the story of Billie Swamp Safari.

History

There were around 200,000 Native Americans living in Florida when the Spanish arrived in 1513, but the Seminole Tribe of Florida traces its lineage to the Creek Tribe.

The Creeks lived in what is now Georgia and Alabama and some of its members were drawn to Florida by Spanish missions in the early part of the 16th century. Over the decades the influx of disease and warfare reduced the total native population of Florida to around 40,000 by 1690. In the early 1700’s the English arrived and killed and enslaved thousands of the native people, further decimating the native population.

Chickee

Historic Seminole Chickee

The Seminole Tribe was quite small then at about 1,200 people up until the War of 1812 and its numerous sub-plots. Those sub-plots included continuing wars against the Creeks beginning in 1813. After Andrew Jackson forced the Creeks in Alabama to give up millions of acres of territory, some survivors fled to Florida to join with the Seminole Tribe swelling their ranks to about 5,000.

The Seminoles began fighting for their very existence in 1818 with the First Seminole War through the Third Seminole War that ended in 1858. By then, less than 100 Seminoles remained. This small band of people survived as hunters and sometimes as guides or even as tourist exhibits.

It wasn’t until 1907 that the Seminoles got 540 acres to live on. The Seminoles, like other tribes, had little interest in the concept of land ownership and resisted living on the reservation. By the early 20th Century however, the Seminole Tribe says: “The reservation question divided the Florida native peoples into two camps. One group would become known as the Miccosukee Tribe of Seminole Indians of Florida. The area provided a safe haven for people who held traditional views. The second group took the offer of the reservation lands and began a new way to sustain the Seminole culture. They used the reservations as preservation areas in which to maintain the customs, language and self government of the Tribe.”

Today, the Seminoles operate a number of Casinos and other business enterprises. On the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation these enterprises include a rock mine, a museum and Billie Swamp Safari, the topic of this story.

A Wildlife Park

Asian Water Buffalo

Asian Water Buffalo

Initially the area was planned as a hunting resort. However, it became a refuge for the animals who lived in the area – essentially a wildlife park. When I visited in 2014, the Seminole Tribe was caring for various local and imported animals including Asian water buffalo, ostrich, bear, wild boar, Florida antelope, deer, raccoon, and many species of birds. We understand that the Safari is now removing the non-native species and returning the area to its natural roots.

Activities at Billie Swamp

If you visit Billie Swamp Safari you will find various events going on in different centers in the park. They are timed so you can participate in all the ongoing events throughout your day. These activities include:

  • a guided airboat ride
  • a guided swamp buggy ride
  • an alligator show
  • a snake show
  • a panther exhibit
  • a bear exhibit and
  • a critter show

There is a Butterfly Garden, a full service restaurant, gift shop with ticket sales and a very large tortoise.  The restaurant offers local fare including frog legs, catfish, breaded alligator and bison burgers.

Seminole Dugout Canoe

Seminole Dugout Canoe

In addition the area includes a traditional Seminole Village, the Cypress Casino, Seminole Crafts, dugout canoe exhibit, and an otter habitat exhibit.

Overnight accommodations are offered in an authentic Seminole Chickee with individual and family huts on the lake. There are restroom and shower facilities with overnight parking available. There’s also a VIP cabin and a Boardwalk nature trail to explore.

tortois225There are swamp buggy Eco-tours through the 2,200 acre park on a trail which begins with a bumpy trek through the swamp. I was there during the dry season and the swamp was only a couple feet deep. During the wet season, according to our guide, this section of the park is mostly underwater. The swamp buggy handled the terrain very well. It was amazing to me how well this buggy travelled through water, mud, sand, over rocks and the deep compost of the Everglades jungle floor and through the dense cypress canopy.

Our guide was pleasant, polite, well informed and entertaining. He readily stopped the air boat and swamp buggy rides, respectively, pointing out pertinent history along with the exotic and local birds and animals of which we viewed many along the trails. Both the airboat and buggy rides are very fun as well as educational. A word of warning, the buggy ride can be very bumpy! While the exhibits are small, the shows were entertaining and informative. The park is picturesque with easy access for all. Our group thoroughly enjoyed the adventure, but the swamp buggy ride was by far everyone’s favorite!

More Information

For more information see the Billie Swamp Safari website and Facebook page.

Credits

The historical photo of the Seminole Chickee is by Reverend Alexander Linn (1882-1975) and is in the public domain. All the text and the other photographs are by Trish Haugen, Chief Scout, and ©2014 Global Creations LLC, All rights reserved.

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2 Responses to “Billie Swamp Safari”

  1. Thanks Da’nasia, glad you enjoyed it.

    Best wishes,
    -Jerry-

  2. Da'nasia says:

    Loved this history thought it was greatly published

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