Everglades National Park, Florida, founded in 1947, protects the once-vast wetlands of southern Florida, home to an amazingly diverse collection of wildlife.
Visitor Rating (write your own review below)
|Scenery||Grasslands, pine forests, mangrove swamps|
|Uniqueness||This is some of the last remaining pristine wetland in the US|
|Wildlife||Alligators, manatees, fish, birds of all shapes and sizes|
|Diversity||Several different areas, driving, long and short hikes, canoeing, boat tours|
ILNP Park Review
In a Word “Teeming”
“Who has divided a channel for the overflowing water, or a path for the thunderbolt, to cause it to rain on a land where there is no one, a wilderness in which there is no man; to satisfy the desolate waste, and cause to spring forth the growth of tender grass?” -Job 38:25-27
Our Visit We visited Everglades NP during May as part of a trip to southern Florida which included Biscayne NP.
Our Weather The weather was warm (high 80s) and sunny. A slight breeze kept most of the insects at bay and made for cooler walks.
Overall Impression If you live in Florida, the Everglades is nothing exciting because you see alligators, large birds and mangrove swamps every day. However, to a visitor, the Everglades is an astonishing collection of wildlife you’ll find in few other places set in a vast and surprisingly diverse landscape of grass, swamp and woods. While the Everglades lacks the breathtaking beauty of some other parks, it packs a myriad of surprising (and surprisingly close) encounters on a smaller scale for those willing to look.
Favorite Spot The Anhinga Trail at the Royal Palm Visitors Center
Minimum Time Required About 1 hour. In an hour, you can make a quick visit to either the Shark Valley (north) or the Royal Palm (east) Visitors Center and get a good close-up view of alligators and large birds. The Royal Palm Visitors Center is especially good for those looking for a quick peek at the park because it sits at the junction of grasslands, mangroves and a hardwood “hammock” of gumbo limbo trees set in a jungle. Two short (1/4 – 1/2 mile) walking trails, the Anhinga Trail and the Gumbo Limbo Trail, allow you to explore these areas easily. If you’re traveling along US 41 across the north side of the Everglades, stop at Shark Valley to see a dense population of gators in a thick swamp setting. If you’re not up for the 2-hour tram into the grasslands, you can walk or bike as far down the road as you’d like to get away from the crowds at the Visitors Center.
A Longer Visit Everglades NP is well worth a full day or two. In a half to a full day, you can drive the main road from the Ernest Coe Visitors Center to Flamingo City on the southern coastline. Evenly spaced every few miles are points of interest, and each is worth at least a quick stop. We started at Royal Palm Visitors Center and the Anhinga Trail. As soon as we got out of the car, an 8-foot gator came walking out of the hallway next to the visitors center restrooms and along the sidewalk–talk about a close encounter right off the bat! Taking the main road west takes you through Pinelands, a large area of pine forest among the grasses, Pay-Hay Okee (grassy waters), Mahogany Hammock, and a series of small lakes before you get to Flamingo City. We picked some spots for the drive out and some for the drive back. Our drive out included Mahogany Hammock, a dense jungle area which boasts the country’s largest mahogany tree. There is a short boardwalk loop which gives you a nice walk and good feel for the hardwood stands in the Everglades.
The Flamingo City area was in rough shape when we went due to the previous season’s hurricanes. The gift shop and marina were open, but the lodging was all closed. If you are up for a longer visit, Flamingo City is the launching point for boat tours and canoe trips into the waterways. We were content to eat lunch and admire the ocean views before heading back. On the return trip, we stopped at Nine Mile Pond and watched the local birds and gators trolling around for fish. We had a fussy child in need of a nap, so we had to cut things short and return after dinner. In the evening, we took an abbreviated trip including a return trip to Royal Palm Visitors Center and the Gumbo Limbo Trail, a brief stop at Pinelands and a short hike to watch the sunset from the boardwalk at Pay-Hay-Okee overlook.
The next day, on our drive back to the Tampa area, we stopped at Shark Valley Visitors Center along US41. We were not disappointed! Unlike the main area of the park, cars are not allowed along the road. You can walk, rent a bicycle (available at the gift shop) or take the free tram (2 hours). We didn’t have time for a longer hike, but even in the first 1/4 of road we walked, we were rewarded with close-up photo ops of dozens of alligators and several large herons which live in the waterway adjacent to the road.
Suggestions If you want to see the most wildlife, especially birds, you need to go in early spring near the end of the dry season (Dec-Apr). If you want no crowds and don’t mind bugs, the wet season (Summer and Fall) is for you. . . most people choose the former. We went in May which turned out to be a good time of year. We missed many of the birds, but we also missed the bugs and the crowds.
Allow more time for driving than you think. The map makes the only road look short, but it’s 38 miles with lots of stops and you have to drive it twice. Speed limits are typically 50 mph, though, so its not painfully slow.
Nearby Towns Homestead, Naples, Miami (Florida)
Official NPS Website Everglades NP
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