Happy Travel Tuesday!! I totally missed out last week due to a photo fail. I desperately need to do some consolidation, but time, time, time. Anyway, I’m back this week and in continuing the National Park theme, we’re going down to the Everglades National Park in south Florida.
I went to law school in Miami so not only did I have quite a few opportunities to see the Everglades, I also got to work with some of the water law cases going on down there. Farming further north has caused issues with flooding and water pollution in this delicate ecosystem – it’s one of those people v. nature things where no one really wins.
The swamp lands of the Everglades once covered the majority of southern Florida; however farming and cities eventually carved out their niche through a series of drainage systems. Now the National Park, which was designated in 1947, only protects the southern one-fifth of the historic Everglades ecosystem. In addition to being a National Park the Everglades are also a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, a Wetland of International Importance, and a specially protected area under the Cartagena Treaty.
The Everglades National Park was established primarily to preserve a portion of the vase Everglades ecosystem as wildlife habitat. The park is the most significant breeding ground for tropical wading birds in North America; contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere; is home to 36 threatened or protected species including the Florida panther, the American crocodile, and the Western manatee; and also supports over 700 species of animals.
In addition to the National Park, several local tribes have access to the Everglades and offer alligator shows and airboat rides to various “historical” locations. I’ve done all of the above at some point or another and there are pros and cons all around. It’s interesting to learn about the tribes and how they came into being, but knowing what I do now, I’m not so sure about the ethical part of gator shows and airboat rides (there’s still pollution from them). They also serve up somewhat of a delicacy in the tribal visitors areas – gator bites. All I can say is that alligators are plentiful and gator bites are tasty. Judge me if you will (smile).
Know Before You Go:
Getting there: From Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, or Naples, there are two primary roads across southern Florida – State Road 41 and Interstate 75. Both go through portions of the Everglades. I prefer 41 because it’s a slower pace and there are more stops along the way – Everglades and tribal lands.
When to go: The winter dry season from October to April is considered the best time for wildlife viewing in the park. Weather conditions are generally pleasant during this time and standing water levels are low, causing wildlife to congregate at central water locations. I’ve been at all times of the year and never had a problem spotting fish, gators, and tons of birds.
What to wear: Please keep in mind that the Everglades is, basically, a swamp. It’s usually very humid and there are a lot of bugs. I recommend close-toed shoes and layers. You’ll want that long sleeved shirt just to avoid the sunburn and bug bites! Also, sunscreen and bug spray are your best buds.