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A Serene Flyover of the ‘Yucapan’ Shows Off This Hidden Gem In Florida

This striking aerial video captures one of many forgotten treasures along the Florida Gulf Coast. While it is home to larger tourist destinations like Sanibel, Naples, and Fort Myers Beach, Southwest Florida touts many undiscovered gems, like this one: the coastal Yucca Pens Preserve.

Visit the Yucca Pens – sometimes colloquially referred to as the “yucapan” – and you’ll find a beautifully-restored natural shoreline, not that different than what it would have looked hundreds of years ago, before the encroachment of western civilization.

This part of Florida was originally coastal swamp, cypress groves, and mangrove forests. The Yucca Pens remain a haven for many species, both on land and in the water. The preserve was formed between 1999 and 2006 by the Conservation 20/20 program, which purchased many parcels in the area as they became available for permanent preservation. This protective measure came at a time when these natural habitats were at risk from illegal recreational activity like camping and hunting. After the land was purchased, an effort was made to remove non-native plant and animal species that had made their way into the area through both mismanagement and accidental introduction.

This footage takes you from the snaking trails of the Yucca Pens Preserve to the waters of the nearby Gulf Coast. The landscape is a mirror for the past – a time before the mangrove forests were slashed and burned to make way for suburbia. The afternoon sun reflects off calm water, and you can almost imagine a time when there were sand bars and mangroves as far as the eye can see.

Towards the end of this footage, you’ll see a reminder of the permanent damage to this otherwise pristine area. Seagrass that covers the shallows has been cut and marred by irresponsible boaters who travel too close to shore, destroying the natural beds of seagrass that serve as a primary food source for local aquatic species like the West Indies manatee.

To see it for yourself, visit Cape Coral, FL and take Old Burnt Store Road to Fishing Entry #1.