Not far from where we are staying (Imperial Bonita Estates) is The Nature Center (of Bonita Springs). Its mission is "to promote conservation and environmental stewardship through education." It is located near the banks of the Imperial River (that drains freshwater from the Corkscrew Watershed into estuaries of Estero Bay).
There is a Butterfly Garden with Florida-friendly plants that attract them. We saw many Zebra Longwing and Gulf Fritillary butterflies flitting around as well as various several other species.
A bat house is located nearby that is home to Free-Tailed Bats. Only 4" long and weighing .5 ounce, they are important to controlling mosquitos in the region. An area is fenced off to protect Gopher Tortoises (threatened species) that live on the preserve, although we only saw their burrows during our visit. The gopher tortoise originated 60 million years ago in western North America and is the only tortoise found east of the Mississippi River today.
The education center was closed when we were there. And, honestly, there is not too much to see. But we did enjoy the trails very much here.
Link to information about The Nature Place: http://www.cityofbonitasprings.org/parks/wp-content/themes/rttheme9/forms/BNP.pdf
We began our hike on the Nature Trail at the rear of The Nature Center, Mount Bonita, that connects to Cullum's Trail.
Steps lead to Mount Bonita (a tongue-and-cheek description of the highest, but not very high, point here), and the path continues through the forest to the canoe and kayak launch into the Imperial River.
We picked up Cullum's Trail here. Opened in 2013, the trail has a path of packed shells and boardwalks over low-lying areas near the banks of the river. Benches are also available for a short rest or to enjoy the surroundings.
Old growth cypress trees are seen along the river banks as well as towering oak trees. The cypress knees are always fascinating to me... And the reflection of the sun off the water was so pretty.
The trail ends underneath I-75 (in sharp contrast to the peaceful trail along the Imperial River).
At this point we retraced our steps along the trail and returned to our car through the large parking area for Cullum's Trail and a short walk along the road to The Nature Center parking lot.
We really enjoyed this hike and so did our sweet doggy, Sadie. We will probably be back as it feels like you are far from civilization (even though you are not!), it's free, and dog-friendly. Sometimes it is hard to find parks that will allow dogs on the trails.
Link to information about Cullum's Trail: http://www.cityofbonitasprings.org/11151/cullums-trail-by-the-bonita-nature-place-july-2013/