Swamp Fever at Babcock Ranch

Dated: January 17 2022

Views: 50

 We spent the morning taking the Eco Tour at Babcock Ranch.  Although I have been living in SW Florida for over 60 years, this was my first trip to the ranch.  We had a wonderful time going through the swamps and prairie land which I will discuss later.  As expected, when I got home, I had to do some research into the history of this ranch.

The name Babcock is well known in Southwest Florida, but I knew nothing about the family who started it all.  After a little research, I learned that the patriarch of the family, Edward Vose Babcock Sr, was born on a farm in Oswego County New York in 1864.  He started the Babcock Lumber Company when he was only 23.

 In 1911, Edward Babcock first came to Southwest Florida to look for undeveloped land.  Three years later, he purchased the 91,000 acre Crescent B Ranch from the Perry McAdow family, changing the name to the Babcock Ranch. The land was rich in timber and was perfect for raising cattle.

Babcock’s son, Fred, was a chip off the old block, and was put to work on the ranch at the age of 12. He worked closely with his father learning every aspect of the business.  Fred graduated from Dartmouth with a degree in economic geography.  Eventually, he took over the ranch where he diversified into vegetable and tree farming, logging, cattle and bison ranching, limestone mining, swamp buggy tours and hunting leases (News-Press).

Like his father, Fred was also an environmentalist who kept more than two-thirds of the ranch in its native state.  He planned his farming operation so that wildlife and cattle were protected. Fred loved the land and wanted to see it preserved for future generations.

In 1997, Fred died, and his heirs began discussions to sell the property to the state. Talks did not go well, and in 2005, the family began taking offers from private buyers.  In 2006, Kitson and Partners purchased the ranch’s 156,000 acres.  They then turned around and sold 80 percent of the ranch lands to the state of Florida and Lee County. This preserved more than 73,000 acres of the most environmentally valuable parts of the ranch.

Kitson continued to manage the preserve for the state until 2015 when the Tarpon Blue Land and Resource Management company took over.  The preserve is dedicated to protecting water resources, diverse natural habitats, and historic resources.  Including a diverse ecosystems of pine flatwoods and cypress swaps, the preserve is home to many different species of wildlife including gators, wild turkey, feral hogs, deer, and a wide range of bird species.

Today, the preserve is open to the public and offers hunting, hiking, wildlife viewing, bicycling, fishing, and camping.

 We took the swamp buggy eco-tour which was a 90 minute guided tour through the working cattle ranch and the ranch’s diverse ecosystems.  Our guide was very knowledgeable as he took us through the history of the ranch as well as showing off the wildlife.  We saw wild turkeys, sand hill cranes, wild hogs, many gators, and water birds to name a few.

Blog author image

Ellie and Bob Bunting

Ellie has returned to real estate sales after spending the last 40 years teaching English at Florida SouthWestern State College in Fort Myers She has teamed up with her husband, Bob, who has been a....

Latest Blog Posts

Murder on the High Seas: What Happened to the Kamerers? Part II

Lies and Cover-UpsYourell knew that something was not right with the way the investigation was proceeding.  The boat was finally brought to Staniel Cay where she was tied up to a public dock

Read More

Murder on the High Seas: What Happened to the Kramerers?

Lies and Cover-UpYourell knew that something was not right with the way the investigation was proceeding.  The boat was finally brought to Staniel Cay where she was tied up to a public dock

Read More

Death on the High Seas: What Happened to Bill and Patti Kramerer?

As I was going through back issues of the Beach Bulletin taking notes on the 1980s, I came across many articles about the disappearance of Bill and Patti Kamerer in July 1980.  I remember when

Read More

Tripping Down the Loop Trail

We recently spent the weekend in the middle of the Everglades.  After setting up camp at the Midway Campground, we hopped in the car and began our exploration of the “Loop Road”

Read More