First, there is nothing like the Everglades…its vast and critical…an enormous river of grass.
Burns Lake Campground is a little more than an hour from home…but it is surrounded by primal wilderness of a different sort.
The campground itself, is…well…primitive. Bring your own water, period. Most of these primitive campgrounds in Big Cypress are used by hunters or recreational vehicle owners. You are out there…in the middle of nowhere. You would need to drive a considerable distance on 41 east or west to get to a service station that might have what you are looking for. Its quiet…in a nature sort of way. In the winter months, it will fill up as do all campgrounds in Florida…mostly with northerners cruising RV's. Being primitive, expect nothing more than a picnic table, fire ring and pit latrine.
Tent camping any time between April and November is hot…be prepared. Also prepare…no, wait…over prepare for biting insects. They spray for mosquitos along the inhabited coastline, so rarely do you even see the nasty creatures…but out here they are active and hungry. Remember too that the sun is hot, sometimes seemingly oppressive…you have a lake in front of you…but you can't swim in it…in fact, you don't want to take your eyes off the water when you are close to its edge. Gators lurk…it's true…and in these parts, they get big, real big. Though I didn't see any, venomous snakes do inhabit these parts as well.
Bears can be pesky…keep your food sealed in containers…in your car. You may still get a visitor anyways. "Florida panthers" have been seen, but are very elusive.
If its cooler and you can't seem to find any gators…my favorite spots nearby are the Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk (17 miles west from the campground on US 41) The boardwalk extends some 2300 feet back into Fakahatchee Strand. You'll almost always see a gator sunning itself along the bank (which is uneasily close, as you walk by). Even if you don't see a gator…its a relaxing walk.
Ordinarily you will see hordes of gators in the canal on the northside of US 41 the entire way.
There are two other options: One much closer to the campground…just 3 miles out and to the west to HP Williams Roadside Park. I always see gators there of varying size…and really enjoy the rangers that share words of wisdom there.
Thirteen miles east from the campground brings you to Big Cypress Oasis Visitor Center. Guaranteed gators. A boardwalk in front of the visitor center stands above numerous monster gators in the water below. This makes for some great photo opportunities for the shutterbug. The visitor's center is newer and fascinating. (sidenote: If you really wanted a more immersed wild, natural Florida hiking/camping experience…park in the Oasis Visitor Center parking lot…advise the rangers…and hike behind the visitor's center on the Florida Trail. Pack it in, pack it out)
There is really so much to do and far more to see in this natural wonderland. You can check out Wooten's airboat rides or any number of the other's along US 41 for a neat experience…or drop down into Shark Valley and explore even more. Shark Valley in the winter months is triple A+…gators galore…see my upcoming review and photos on that NPS.
Or consider canoeing or kayaking the Everglades and camp on the Chickees along the way.
Remember from June to November is "hurricane season"…from July on to late October, you'll likely experience rain daily as storm bursts roll through. (Take note: Florida is the lightning strike capital…but the displays are awesome!)
Monument Lake Campground and Burns Lake Csmpgrounds are nearly identical in every way…with Burns Lake being a bit further back from US 41.
Also, you may find the campground closed at different periods, so have an alternate plan.