1934: National Park
About the SiteEverglades National Park is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States. It's a river of grass, flowing from central Florida south and west to the Caribbean, and southeast to the Atlantic. It's fed only by rainfall; no rivers refresh the one to two feet of water flowing slowly to the salty seas. This vast tract of watery land (or shallow sea) plays host to a wide range of wildlife, including threatened or endangered species. The American crocodile, the West Indian manatee, and the Florida panther all call this region home, and all are threatened with extinction.
What You're Going to SeeEverglades National Park has extensive fresh, saltwater, and estuarine areas. There are hardwood tree stands, cypress domes, open Everglades prairies, areas of pine trees, and mangrove forests. There's no other place in the world where you can find alligators and crocodiles in the same place, coexisting more or less peacefully. There are plenty of things to do there, including trail walking, canoeing, bicycling, kayaking, hiking, fishing, tram touring, picnicking, and just exploring the five visitors centers: Ernest F. Coe, Royal Palm, Flamingo, Shark Valley, and Gulf Coast. Some creatures you might find in freshwater habitats include the wood stork, the bluegill, the crayfish, the Florida gar, the largemouth bass, alligators, the ibis, and black vulture and the zebra butterfly. Some creatures on the saltwater side include the great white heron, the American crocodile, the endangered loggerhead turtle, the endangered manatee, pink shrimp, the mangrove snapper, the blue rab, the brown pelican, the osprey, the roseate spoonbill, and the endangered southern bald eagle.
Personal ObservationsOkay, I knew intellectually it was all about the water, but I didn't realize what that really meant until I drove through the Everglades. Except where man had walked and bulldozed, there was six inches to two or three feet of water everywhere I went. How could the trees live in that? Didn't their roots rot? To this desert boy, all that water seemed, well, unhealthy. How could you ever dry out? I guess the animals and plants manage somehow.
Getting ThereFrom Miami, take highway 821 (or highway 997 or U.S 1, dependering where you are in the greater Miami area) south to Homestead. Continue going south of Homestead for less than a mile, and turn west (right) onto state route 9336. In about 7 miles, you'll find yourself at the Everglades boundaries and the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center.
Nearby AttractionsBig Cypress National Preserve is directly north. Biscayne National Park is 15 miles to the east. Dry Tortugas National Park is a wet 100 miles to the east southeast.