The Everglades are wetlands called "The River of Grass" because they are created by a slow-moving river that originates in Lake Okeechobee, which is fed by the Kissimmee River, and flows southwest at about 0.25 miles per day into Florida Bay. This water travels very slowly from north to south and is one of the world's largest and slowest flowing rivers; it's only eight to twelve inches deep depending on the rainfall and is bathwater-warm in the summer.
The Everglades National Park
was established in 1947 to conserve the natural landscape and prevent further loss of its land, plants, and animals. This is the third largest national park in the lower 48 states; it covers 2500 square miles, the southern 25 percent of the original Everglades, and is visited by over a million people a year.
Things to do in the Everglades National Park
If you're a nature or wildlife lover and want to see the heart and soul of 'the real Florida' the Everglades is a must-see, but with so many places to go, you can spend a few days with plenty to do.
Take an Airboat Rides
There are many airboat tour companies with many different boats that accommodate any-sized group of people to take you through the Everglades. They utilize experienced, professional guides that point out birds, plants, and of course all the wildlife.
More about Everglades Airboat Rides »
Wildlife Viewing on the Anhinga Trail
The Anhinga Trail is short at only 0.8 miles round trip. It is self guided and consists of paved walkways and elevated boardwalks over the water. It is wheelchair accessible; that and all the wildlife are probably what contribute to its popularity.
More about the Anhinga Trail »
Take the Tram Tour to the Shark Valley Observation Tower
The Shark Valley Tram Tour is a two-hour, narrated, open air tour that takes you on a fifteen-mile loop through the Shark Valley section of the Everglades National Park. Halfway through the tour you come to a 45-foot high tower with an observation deck that offers a view extending twenty miles out in all directions, giving you a chance to see something different everywhere you look. The open vehicles allow guests to see the wildlife in the sawgrass prairies on both sides of the tram. They are always on the lookout for wildlife and are really great about stopping when they see something of interest so you can get a picture.
More about the Shark Valley Visitor Center »
Experience the Back Country and Florida Bay in Flamingo
Everglades National Boat Tours offers fully narrated trips with park-trained guides who are able to provide detailed information about wildlife and area history. Two tours are offered, the Back Country tour and the Florida Bay tour.
More about Flamingo »
Visit the Miccosukee Indian Tribe
When you visit the Miccosukee Village, located in the heart of the Everglades, you'll gain insight into the culture, lifestyle and history of the Miccosukee Tribe. Long before the pirates and privateers, Spanish Conquistadors and settlers, Native Americans roamed these lands and were the caretakers of these waters. The tribe today occupies several reservations in southern Florida, principally the Miccosukee Indian Reservation.
More about the Miccosukee Indian Tribe »
As you can imagine, this is a great place to see and photograph
many natural wonders; there are have several trails for just this purpose, and if all you prefer is to just go on a hike, they are great for that, too. If you'd like to spend a couple of days exploring the park, they have two different places to camp, the front country and backcountry. In the front country camping there are two drive-in campgrounds, Pine Island and Flamingo; they accommodate tents and RV's and have a limited number of group sites. The backcountry has ground sites, beach sites, and elevated camping platforms or chickees. These are more remote, you can get them by canoe, kayak, or motorboat and a few by hiking.
Two Seasons of the Everglades
There are two distinct seasons in the Everglades, the wet and the dry. The wet season is normally May through November and is characterized by 90 degree weather, humidity over 90%, and afternoon thunderstorms. The water levels rise and animals seek shelter from the heat; visitation in the Everglades is lowest during the wet season, unless you are a mosquito.
The dry season is normally December through April and is characterized by 77 degree weather, low humidity and clear skies. Water levels drop during this time, forcing animals to congregate around the remaining water holes, making them easy to spot and snap a picture of. The cold weather up north drives many species of birds to the warmth of the Everglades, and birding becomes exceptional. This is the time of year that the park becomes crowded.
Wildlife in the Everglades
The Everglades National Park is known for its vast wildlife. Hundreds of species of birds such as the roseate spoonbill, great blue heron, white ibis, anhinga or 'snakebird', a variety of egrets, and osprey call the Everglades home. The marine life in the Everglades' includes alligators and many fish such as largemouth bass, redfish, snapper, and catfish. You can also find American crocodiles at the southern end of the Everglades. Other wildlife in the Everglades include the white-tailed deer, bobcats, marsh rabbits, more than 28 different snakes, some venomous, and the endangered Florida panther. The park has nine distinct habitats that house all this wonderful plant and animal life.
Fishing in the Everglades
is a favorite pastime here too. You can saltwater-fish in Florida Bay, Ten Thousand Islands, Whitewater Bay, and in the park's coastal zone. Popular saltwater gamefish like snook, tarpon, redfish, sea trout, and bonefish can be caught within the park borders. Freshwater fish such as largemouth bass, alligator gar and bluegill are caught in the northern areas of the Everglades. Fishing with a charter boat captain is suggested for those without local knowledge or a lot of time. Those bringing their own boats will find ramps available throughout the Everglades National Park.
Fishing from the shore is limited within the park but there are many shallow-water flats, channels, and mangrove keys. Some areas within the Everglades National Park require both saltwater and freshwater fishing licenses, so be sure to check what you'll need at the Everglades NPS website
The Future of the Everglades
In 1948 the Central & Southern Florida Project legislation was passed to provide a water supply, water management and other benefits, but it was found to have unintended adverse effects and is now being modified under the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan
or CERP. Through the guidance of CERP a framework has been provided to protect and preserve the water resources of central and southern Florida which include the Everglades. This plan covers sixteen counties, over 18,000 square miles, and centers on an update of the Central & Southern Florida (C&SF) Project, also known as the Restudy; these projects will take more than 30 years and an estimated $9.5 billion to complete.
Alligator VS Python
In 2005 a famous incident was photographed in the Everglades. It seems a thirteen-foot Burmese python tried to swallow a six foot alligator, the alligator fought back and ended up bursting through the python's skin, they both died in the struggle. Widespread video and news coverage of the event brought attention to the problem of the spread of pythons, which are an invasive species in the Everglades.
By Beverly Martinez-Collins – PlacesAroundFlorida.com