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While the scenery is lovely, this particula trail is very soft and not good for running. Stay on the edges where the sand is packed hard.

Tucked away off Del Prado Boulevard in Cape Coral is a jewel of a little preserve that I explored for the first time last week. Yellow Fever Creek Preserve sounds pretty ominous. And one has to wonder how a creek in Southwest Florida acquired the name of an epidemic that caused such devastation in the 1800s, and continues to do so in many less-developed countries.

I don’t know the answer to that question. I searched and as best as I can tell, yellow fever did not make it to Fort Myers. Although Fort Myers was quarantined in 1874, it was because of yellow fever in Tampa and Key West.

Perhaps the name has nothing to do with the epidemic. The Sanibel Captiva Visitor and Convention Bureau makes mention of the name being coined by early settlers. Maybe it was the color of the water or pollen on the water. Maybe I’ll never know.

But what I do know is that my first introduction to Yellow Fever Creek was several years ago when I was teaching a Florida Master Naturalist Program class. One of my students lived on Yellow Fever Creek in North Fort Myers and was an avid kayaker.

His final class project was developing an interpretive Google Earth route of Yellow Fever Creek. During his presentation, he talked about the dense canopy and how at dusk thousands of bats emerge from the creek. It sounded pretty spectacular.

Years went by and I had purged Yellow Fever Creek from my memory — until my friend Andrea posted a picture she took there. Andrea is amazing! She spent much of 2018 fighting for her life. Diagnosed with cancer in early 2018, she endured surgery, chemo and radiation. Today she is cancer free and earlier this month she ran a half marathon — all 13.1 miles! Some people are so completely awe-inspiring, and Andrea is at the top of my list.

Anyway, Andrea renewed my interest in Yellow Fever Creek, and I knew I had to put it on the must-visit list. And visit I did.

Yellow Fever Creek Preserve was purchased by Lee County in 2001 using their Conservation 2020 program. The preserve is 339 acres and includes portions of the headwaters to Yellow Fever Creek and a small man-made pond where fishing is allowed. The preserve also contains 2.5 miles of well-marked trails.

There are two trails. The Yellow Trail makes a short one-mile loop close to the parking area, and beyond that the Green Trail makes another 1.5-mile loop. The trails are marked with metal posts that have green or yellow tape ringed on top. A portion of the Yellow and Green trails merge and are marked with yellow and green tape.

Much of the preserve is pine flatwoods. Right now, there are some beautiful wildflowers in bloom along the edges of the trails. The trails are pretty wide — 6 feet, maybe — and recently mowed. A large section of the green trail is along the property line and was raked, perhaps as a fire line. That section is kind of sandy and lumpy, but I was able to find hard-packed dirt along the edges to run on.

Lee County’s website says the park is currently closed for hydrologic restoration, but when you get to the site, it is clearly open. There are sections on the west side that are fenced off (the sign says to allow for the establishment of native plants), but the trails are all open.

Another noteworthy point is that many online trail sites indicate well-behaved pets on leashes are allowed, but the sign onsite clearly says no pets allowed. Sorry, Fido!

Yellow Fever Creek Preserve can be accessed from Del Prado on the south side of the road. There is a small parking area with about five parking spaces. There are no on-site facilities, so you may want to make a pit stop at one of the nearby convenience stores on your way.

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” — John Muir

Betty Staugler is the Charlotte County extension agent for the Florida Sea Grant Program and an active runner. Contact her at staugler@ufl.edu or 941-764-4346.

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