Even before I had Roadside America and Weird US to guide me, I always sought out the strange, the unusual, the odd and offbeat while traveling. Finding myself in south Florida recently—like, WAY south—I knew I had to visit the Everglades, and I just HAD to stop by the SKUNK APE RESEARCH HEADQUARTERS in Ochopee. This small community is inside the Everglades, inside the Big Cypress National Preserve (the northernmost parts of the Everglades are more swampy; the lower part is wetter), and is a part of the Miccosukee Indian reservation. The story goes that, during the time of the Trail of Tears Indian removals, the Seminoles (who were an offshoot of the Creek Nation of my native Alabama) retreated to the swamplands of southern Florida, where Andrew Jackson’s jackbooters (Everyone pause here to spit, as I mentioned Jackson’s name.) couldn’t get to them. Ol’ Andy and his cronies eventually gave up and just declared the Everglades area to be the reservation. “Just let ‘em stay there!” Andy reputedly said. It’s an oversimplification, but accurate enough. If, then, the Everglades offered such a fine hiding place for the Seminoles (from which the Miccosukee split off the mid part of last century), it certainly would provide prime cover for a Skunk Ape, Bigfoot’s smaller, smellier, and meaner southern cousin.
Frequent reports of Skunk Ape sightings led to the establishment of the “research headquarters” in Ochopee. Was it worth the long haul across the ‘Glades to see it? Read the continuation of this story in my follow-up article.