The 487 acre Charlotte Flatwoods Environmental Park is managed by Charlotte County. It is located between Punta Gorda and Ft. Myers at 15801 Tamiami Trail, Punta Gorda, 33955. The entrance is right on US-41 as you near Zemel Road. There is a paved parking area at the entrance but, you can drive through onto a hardshell road.
Today was just a short walk on the main path to see what the park was like. I had been there a couple of years ago before much work had been done on it. I’ve driven by it several times since but, today was the first time I stopped to look around.
About .25 miles down the road from the gate is a another parking lot and another gate. This entry gate is generally locked with a walkaround at the side. It appears to me that wheelchair access is possible through the walkaround with a bit of maneuvering.
Once through the gate you find a hardshell road which is easy to navigate as far as a rest area with a picnic table. There are drainage ditches to either side and these are overgrown with marsh grasses and foliage. In season, they are abundant with dragon and damselflies. The area is also rich with wildflowers in season.
The rest area was a pleasant place to stop on my brief walk. At this point, the trail goes right and enters the flatwoods or to the left it borders a large grassy marsh. Even on the flatwood portion, the marsh is not far away and a few steps up the bank gives you a fine high view over the grassy marsh. The undergrowth in these woods is light and it is an invitation to walk off the path and deeper into the woods. Unfortunately, I wasn’t dressed for that today so stayed on the path.
A few steps up the bank from the picnic bench yields a great view over the marsh.
The hiking paths are marked by colors and the path around the marsh is the red path. I followed it to the left around the marsh. The path there is a hardshell grade which is easily passable. There are some rises but none are strenuous. The full path around the marsh is about 1.5 to 2 miles. I only did about a quarter mile on either side of the rest area. The grade is well above the marsh level and so provides excellent viewing. I was there at about 2:30 PM and there wasn’t much activity. Mornings or evenings would undoubtedly be better. This is one view looking across the marsh from the left branch of the path. The rest area is along the treeline to the right. The treeline is also along the path. Note the self portrait bottom left 🙂
The path to the right from the picnic area runs below the bank surrounding the marsh. You will be surrounded by trees. On the first leg, you will hear and see traffic on US-41 through the trees. Although still close to the marsh, this part of the primary trail is pine flatwood. A few yards away is a rougher trail which follows the border of the marsh.
The palmetto in the undergrowth isn’t as dense as it appears. This would be a pleasant off trail walk if dressed accordingly. Remember, Florida is NOT a petting zoo. This is prime habitat for the Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake.
Here are a couple more views from the park. Check the link in the first paragraph for information from the Charlotte County website.