Rookery Bay Reserve Launches New Geocaches

Dec. 22, 2014

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAGeocaching has become a popular way of enjoying the outdoors since the international trend ramped up in 2000. Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve is now using this technology to engage its visitors and has launched a new set of caches on the Environmental Learning Center grounds.

Geocaching is modern-day treasure hunting using geographic positioning system (GPS)-enabled devices such as smart phones. Participants find their desired cache online, download and navigate to its set of GPS coordinates, and then attempt to find the container, or cache, hidden at that location. Once a cache is found, the finder records their presence in the logbook and on the geocaching website, replaces a trinket inside with their own, and takes away a greater understanding of the natural and cultural features in the area.

“Geocaching is a great way for us to reach out to different user groups,” said Jill Schmid, the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) specialist for the Rookery Bay Reserve. “This is an audience that might not have found out about the reserve or our Environmental Learning Center if our caches were not on the map,” she added.

Four caches in total have been placed in the reserve with varying levels of difficulty. The first one was launched in the parking area in August and has had 14 “finds.” One of the new multi-caches includes “Pioneers in Paradise,” which is located near a cultural site on the Snail Trail. The other two caches, “CatBird Loop” and “Slash Pine,” take geocachers on a nature filled walk on primitive trails.

Comments received from geocachers shared with other users on the Geocaching.com website include “Great trails to hike on a super day!” and “Never been to the center before, we’ll be back for sure!” A cache-in, trash-out motto is encouraged to minimize disturbance to natural sites.

Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve encompasses 110,000 acres of coastal lands and waters between Naples and Everglades National Park. It is managed by the Florida Department of Environmental Protection in cooperation with NOAA. For more information about the reserve visit www.rookerybay.org.

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