Reasons to Visit Everglades National Park in Florida

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Everglades National Park, Florida

Spotting alligators in Florida is just like spotting heads of cattle in Texas: you don’t have to look very hard because they are commonplace. There is even a road dubbed Alligator Alley where these reptiles can be seen basking alongside the highway. You don’t realize how common they are until you set foot in Florida’s Everglades NP where they can be seen hiding in the grasslands, hunting for prey in the ponds or whiling away the afternoons snoozing on park trails.

It wasn’t always like this: American alligators were nearly wiped out from the landscape during the 1950s when hunters and house construction firms invaded their habitat. Fortunately, timely intervention by conservationists saved these 150-million-year-old reptiles from extinction through the Endangered Species Act.

Everglades National Park Facts

  • Location : Florida, United States
  • Natural Environment : Freshwater sloughs, marl prairies, tropical hardwood hammocks, pineland, mangrove swamp, coastal lowlands, marine and esturine ecosystems
  • Climate : Tropical savanna and tropical monsoon
  • Co-ordinates : 25°19′0″N 80°56′0″W
  • Established in 1934
  • 1.1 million visitor numbers per annum
  • UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1979

1. A Focus on Conservation

This is what this magnificent park is all about: conservation. It is a remarkable story of life trying to stay in equilibrium, a place where negative human actions almost destroyed the habitat and its residents and is now working to shield and revitalize them. Spanning the southern tip of Florida, it is the only subtropical preserve in the whole of North America.

It is home to temperate as well as tropical plant communities, including mangrove and cypress swamps, hardwood hammocks, and sawgrass prairies. There are also pinelands, freshwater sloughs, estuarine and marine environments.

Swamp Ecosystem - Egret in Everglades National Park

Swamp Ecosystem – Egret in Everglades National Park

2. Everglades Wildlife

Everglades National Park is famous for its hundreds of plant varieties, many species of birds and other animals as well as the presence of endangered species like the panther and manatee. Large wading birds such as the wood stork, blue heron, roseate spoonbill and egrets can be found in practically every area of the park.

3. The Everglades Alligator

The Everglades Alligator

The Everglades Alligator

4. The Anhinga Snakebird

Anhinga Snakebird Everglades National Park Florida

The Anhinga Snakebird Everglades National Park Florida

5. The Everglades Manatee

Manatee Everglades NP Florida

Manatee Everglades NP Florida

6. The Everglades Panther

Everglades National Park Florida Panther

Everglades National Park Florida Panther

7. The Everglades Great Blue Heron

Great Blue Heron Everglades National Peoark Florida

Great Blue Heron Everglades National Peoark Florida

8. The Roseate Spoonbill Bird

Roseate Spoonbill Bird Everglades National Park Florida

Roseate Spoonbill Bird Everglades National Park Florida

9. The Wood Stork – Everglades

Wood Stork Everglades National Park Florida

Wood Stork Everglades National Park Florida

The abundant presence of rare birds at this park was noted many years ago when early visitors started coming to the area. In 1832, J.J. Audubon was amazed at the presence of so many birds thriving in the various ecosystems of the Everglades that he formed The Audubon Society to spearhead efforts of protecting the birds from indiscriminate hunting. In 1905, one of the organization’s warders was killed by hunters, bring to the fore the serious threats that this area faced. Yet attacks by human continued to endanger this giant ecological carnival, prompting Congress to establish the Everglades as a National Park in 1934.

In 1947, it was formally dedicated as a park by President Harry S. Truman in a ceremony held at Everglades City. It became the first park to be established on the basis of its rich biological resources. Everglades National Park has since been designated as a World Heritage Site, a Wetland of International Importance as well as an International Biosphere Reserve.

10. The Third Largest Park in the US

Covering more than 1.5 million acres, it is the third largest national park in continental United States. It is also the biggest tropical wilderness in the US, and it receives more than a million visitors every year. The Everglades are a network of many wetlands and large forests that are fed by a river that flows from Lake Okeechobee. It is a very unique river that was formed from overflowing water from the lake. Consequently, it flows very slowly – one foot or so a minute – cutting across the gently inclined floor of southern Florida.

The river is a vital part of the ecosystem here. Without it, the park simply wouldn’t exist. Crocodiles, alligators and hundreds of other animals here are dependent on its water. The park is a surprisingly wonderful place that encompasses the shallow, blue waters and islands of Florida Bay, thick mangrove forests, towering palms, unending marshes and savanna-like river of grass. Everglades National Park is the only place on earth where alligators and crocs exist side by side.

From Miami, the main park gate (Ernest F. Coe Visitor Centre and Park Headquarters) is 40 miles to the south, near Florida City. From here, there is a park road which heads south to Flamingo, close to the edge of Florida Bay. Along the way, you will come across beautiful overlooks and boardwalk-style trails that penetrate the swamps and marshes. Once you reach Flamingo, you can take a boat ride for a better look at the marine and bird life.

There are two other entrances that provide additional views of the park: the Shark Valley Visitor Center and the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City. The former, located at the north-central side of the park, offers a two-hour tram tour through the park’s main sloughs, giving one an opportunity to see birds and alligators. In the last entrance, you can catch a boat that will take you through the parks Thousand Islands region. You will come across many great blue herons, 5-feet tall white pelicans, cormorants, terns and other birds and animals.

11. Multiple Ecosystems

A tour of the Everglades is incomplete without appreciating the various distinct interdependent ecosystems which exist within the park. At the heart of the park are the immense sawgrass marshes, the largest in the world. Appropriately nicknamed as the “River of Grass” they came into existence when water from the lake overflowed into the surrounding areas. Striking images of the African savanna, these marshes are the hallmark of the park.

The Pineland is the highest area in the park. It encompasses forests of slash pine and other plants such as the saw palmetto which thrive in the mulch of pine needles which have fallen to the ground. Other pines found here include southern Florida slash pine and the pond pine.

Pineland Ecosystem Everglades National Park

Pineland Ecosystem Everglades National Park – source – MDuchek

Tropical Hammocks are the other ecosystem within the park, rising several inches above the sawgrass marshes. They are usually the only dry area in the park, so trees are able to grow as their roots are not under water. Hardwoods such as mahogany, gumbo limbo and cocoa palm grow here. The hammock creates its own unique ecosystem that is cooler than the surrounding glades.

Next is the Mangrove Swamp near the coast where the salt waters of the gulf mix with the fresh water coming from Lake Okeechobee. Mangroves prefer such brackish waters, and they end up creating much new land when their roots and trunks trap organic matter found in the water. The swamps cover more than 500 sq. miles in the park.

The last ecosystem is the Coastal Prairie, a landform located in the southernmost section of the park. These areas are covered by yucca, grasses, buttonwood, gumbo limbo and other types of hardwoods.

A tour of the Everglades National Park presents one with countless opportunities to enjoy the beauty of nature. You can enjoy a multitude of activities such as canoe trips, hiking, biking, tram and boat tours as well as camping. You are guaranteed to have a truly enjoyable time.

Everglades National Park Maps PDF

Click the links to view and download the /everglades National Park Maps

Everglades National Park Map PDF

All images are sourced from Pixabay.com

Link : Everglades National Park Service

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