Bonita Nature Place Trail


Nestled in the far eastern corner of Bonita Springs, down a road most people will never have a reason to drive by—even if they live in Bonita Springs, lay an other-worldly marvel that looks like it has no place 2 miles away from the heart of downtown Bonita. The newly established trail, Cullum's Trail (named for their biggest advocate) at the Bonita Nature Place looks ancient, if not prehistoric.

 Heading east from the center of downtown Bonita on E. Terry St., most locals will readily identify the YMCA on Kent Rd. Without any other reason to go down Kent Rd, fewer people will recognize the Bonita Nature Place, a city owned nature center along the banks of the Imperial River.

As of July 2013, another 100 yards beyond that is the new coquina lined parking lot that leads to some short trails that stretch from Kent Rd. to I-75. Less than a mile round trip, the trails wind over coquina paths underneath century old water oak, live oak, and sabal palm with a mix of other native flora and fauna. 

Our trip took place toward the end of a very rainy summer—one of the wettest in recent history. The rain that flowed into the river from all over the Collier Regional Ecosystem Watershed (CREW) had the river bulging. Though still two feet short of the high water line, the river had spilled well over its natural banks, creating a flooded spectacle. Much of the trails we walked down were not only submerged up to knee deep, but many had small schools of mollies and other fish swimming down them. During the dryer winter season, you are unlikely to see fish on these trails. 

We walked through some higher areas that were bone dry. Others were submerged anywhere from an inch deep to knee deep (although to be fair, we're very tall. Maybe waist deep on a normal person). The water was crystal clear, but the tannic acid and sandy dirt bottom gave the water a rust colored hue. We kept a vigilant eye for gators or snakes, but neither are likely due to the fast moving current of the river. We did however run into some palm sized spiders, some massive grasshoppers, and in a surprising change, the smallest lizard I've ever seen. 

It's rather easy to tell when you reach the end of the trail. First, you can hear the end from a good distance away. Your next hint is a tangle of trees and shrubs in front of a massive concrete overpass. The unmistakable sound and sight of "progress" stops you at I-75. The good news? You get to walk back the same way you came. After walking the short trail up and back, we decided we would relax on one of the park benches by the dock. I tried my hand at fishing, and not having much in the way of freshwater fishing knowledge, I was only able to get a few cichlid roughly the size of my lure (and a few larger) to follow me in. It was easy to sight fish in the crystal clear water, but even the larger fish that I saw swim by couldn't be fooled. After a little more exploration and a pleasant afternoon siesta, we decided that this park would be visited again soon, and next time with our dog (on a leash, of course). 






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