The Everglades are subtropical wetlands that stretch down the southern half of Florida from the Kissimmee River near Orlando through Lake Okeechobee to Florida Bay at the southern tip of the state. In the wet season the water forms a slow-moving river that is 60 miles wide and over 100 miles long the giving the Glades their ‘River of Grass‘ nickname. The Florida Everglades has several different ecosystems this diversity makes it possible for many different species of plants, animals and birds to call the Everglades home.
One of the places I visited in the Everglades was Everglades National Park. The Park was established in 1947 and covers the southern 25 percent of the original Everglades. It’s the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, and the third-largest national park in the lower 48 states. This year, I was one of the over a million people who visit the park annually.
The Everglades has two main seasons the West Season and the Dry Season. The Dry Season, December through April, has low humidity and clear skies, the animals and birds come out to enjoy the mild temperatures. This is also when most people visit the park because there is so much to see and photograph. The Wet Season, May through November, is very hot and humid, the animals take cover and the only things flying around are mosquitoes. Most people stay away during his time of the year, but not me this is when I was there. Don’t get me wrong I had a great time when I went and can’t wait to go again but I wasn’t exactly the best prepared. First I wore a bright yellow shirt, not the best choice of colors, I might as well have put a bug target on my back, and then I didn’t put bug spray on right away – big mistake. I know no one likes to bring this up but, folks, it is a swamp and swamps have bugs, please take and use bug spray.
Everglades National Park
While in the Everglades National Park we visited a two of their visitor centers Shark Valley and Flamingo. At the Flamingo visitor center we took a tour boat ride from the marina, after we stopped in the little store there and got an ice cream fortunately they have a shady area with some tables where we could eat it. On our airboat ride we saw a crocodile, many alligators, the small ones are so cute, tons of birds and beautiful Mangroves. At Shark Valley we took the tram which takes you on a two hour ride through the Everglades and about half way you stop at this 45 foot observation tower where you can see twenty miles in each direction, it’s beautiful. All tours are led by park trained naturalists in open air buses which are great because when the guides see an animal or something interesting they stop the bus and allow you to get a picture or two, so we did.
They also have many walking/hiking trails that are great for spotting wildlife and birds. The Anhinga Trail is a park favorite, this is a self guided trail is less than a mile long, but its wheelchair accessible so all can enjoy.
Everglades Safari Park
Air Boat Tours
Air boat tours are popular in the Everglades; we went on the Gator Park tour which was great. Again we saw many gators, birds and greenery and after the air boat ride we went to their animal show which included gator wrestling, now before you think they are just being cruel you have to understand their purpose for demonstrating this. Back in the old days the native people would sometimes hunt for food days away from their villages but then they had no way of keeping the meat fresh until they got it back unless they kept it alive. They used the ‘gator wrestling‘ technique to subdue the gator, tied it up and take the fresh meat back to their village. This was important to their very survival which is why is it demonstrated.
Speaking of the ‘native people’ the Miccosukee Indian Tribe make their home in the Everglades and have for many years. They have a great village with a museum, and an area where they showcase members of their tribe weaving and making things, a gator show where you learn about the tribe and of course there is a gift shop where you can buy things like handmade necklaces, clothing and blankets. They also have a resort and casino, so, of course, we had to stop by but we were good and only gambled a little. We did end up eating there; we had a delicious steak dinner that was unbelievably inexpensive and in a beautiful setting.
Everglades Park Mangrove
I spent a great few days in the Everglades and can’t wait to go back again during the Dry Season. Even though I saw many animals and birds I know when I go back I’ll see even more, maybe different kinds, that’s the great thing about the Glades, it’s constantly changing so even if you’ve been, go back and by all means take plenty of pictures and don’t forget your camera.