Corbitt's National Parks
               National Park


1934: National Park

Size: 1,505,933 acres

2008 visitors: 822,118

Stamp: Yes

Rating (1-5):

About the Site

Everglades 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.

All is not well in the Everglades. The terms "South Florida" and "shady land developers" go hand in hand, and the Everglades have suffered because of it. Many canals and levees have been cut through this area, to establish dry land, and to provide plenty of drinking water for South Florida's burgeoning population. These "improvements" have seriously affected the Everglades' ability to remain the glorious subtropical treasure that it is. Without the seasonal flow of water, the nests of wild animals and their eggs are destroyed. The wood stork's habitat is not nourished. There are poisons flooding this once-pristine area as well, as agriculteral runoff brings toxic fertilizers where they don't belong. Mercury levels are much too high, and something must be done to save this area which, apart from being a National Park, is also an International Biosphere Reserve, a World Heritage Site, and a Wetland of International Importance. Figuring out how to balance the needs of South Florida residents, and the biosphere of life in the Everglades, is a daunting task.

What You're Going to See

Everglades 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 Observations

Okay, 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.

I didn't have much time to wander, so from Miami I drove to to the Royal Palm Visitor Center. It's a good visitors center, with some natural grasses and wetlends around back for the cautious. What I was more interested in, however, was the Anhinga Amble. At least, that's what I think it was called. There is a boardwalk built above the water that wanders around a section of Everglades, allowing visitors like me an up-close and personal look. Tours are available, but with my limited time I just wandered on by myself. There was a bird, I think, making an interesting call and I tried to track it down as I wandered along, but either he was flying under the radar around behind me, or there were more than one, becauwse I never could pinpoint its location. Birds 1, human 0. Some German visitors noticed a tiny alligator, all four or five inches of him, and I saw the snail-shell on the leaf that I used for the main picture above. We don't have much of that in Arizona. It amazes me -- who first decided that this would be a good place to live? There were Native Americans living here for hundreds of years, and later Europeans made this area their home too. Let's just say it wouldn't be my first choice of domicile.

Getting There

From 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 Attractions

Big 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.

Visited July, 2006.