Experience Everglades National Park

"There are no other Everglades in the world.  They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the earth; remote, never wholly known.  Nothing anywhere else is like them."

~ Marjory Stoneman Douglas, Novelist who founded Friends of the Everglades in 1969

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Welcome to Everglades National ParkEverglades National Park waterways
Welcome to Everglades National Park
Welcome to Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park waterways
Everglades National Park waterways

There is only one Everglades. Nowhere else on earth are there so many kinds of habitats united by a freshwater slough, creating this remarkable collection of species in one concentrated area. Visitors can hike through a hardwood hammock and encounter furry animals like raccoons, foxes, cottontail rabbits, and even a black bear, and then travel a few miles and find manatees and bottle-nosed dolphins, wood storks and spoonbills – all creatures located almost exclusively in tropical climates.

You can visit habitats in many other areas along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, but you have to come to the Everglades if you want to find all of these habitats in one place. This unusual variety results in one of the best wildlife viewing experiences in the country.  Did you know that the Everglades is the only place on earth naturally occupied by both crocodiles and alligators?

River of Grass

Marjory Stoneman Douglas published The Everglades: River of Grass in 1947 after compiling 5 years of research to present convincing evidence that the Everglades is a river that sustains a delicate ecosystem with thousands of species as its dependents.  That same year, Everglades was dedicated as a national park.  Douglas succeeded in taking the most significant action in the area’s history to stop approaching development that could have wiped out this extraordinary ecosystem forever.

The Manatee: Florida’s Most Endangered Mammal

There’s something appealing about the manatee, a very large marine mammal that evokes a certain protective instinct among people who have an opportunity to meet one face-to-face. Manatees are slow-moving and gentle; they face more than their fair share of hazards as they make their way through the waters of Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Collisions with fast-moving boats, as well as a decrease in appropriate habitat have led to a decline in the manatee population. They were listed as endangered as far back as 1967, well before the federal Endangered Species Act became law in 1973. Fewer than 2000 manatees live off the coast of Florida.

If you go out on a boat tour of Florida Bay or in several areas along the Wilderness Waterway, you may have the opportunity to see these wonderful creatures. If you happen to have a garden hose handy, turn it on and run the water in front of them – they love to drink it!

Are You a Birder?

Experts say that the everglades has more than 40 resident mammals, 10 lizard species, 360 bird species, and an astonishing 26 species of snakes.

Alligators laze in the sunshine and all but ignore the park’s human guests. Mangrove trees stand knee deep in the brackish water, growing roots that arch up and out before they plunge down into the water and sandy bottom.

If you’re a wildlife enthusiast, the Everglades should be a hot spot on your list!

If you’re a bird lover, there’s no better place than the Everglades, with its paths and boardwalks that provide close proximity to herons, ibis, storks and egrets.

So where are the Flamingos? Well, many years ago flamingos inhabited the area, but today, only occasional stragglers can be seen in the Everglades. In addition to birding, there’s a wonderful variety of tropical plants that grow in the everglades.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Manatees at risk from boats in the Evergladesmanatee enjoying a cool drink of watermanatee drinking waterrefreshed manatee swimming away
Manatees at risk from boats in the Everglades
Manatees at risk from boats in the Everglades
manatee enjoying a cool drink of water
manatee enjoying a cool drink of water
manatee drinking water
manatee drinking water
refreshed manatee swimming away
refreshed manatee swimming away
Click thumbnail to view full-size
map of Everglades National Parkalligator in Evergladessunning alligator alligator close-upShark Valley tram tour
map of Everglades National Park
map of Everglades National Park
alligator in Everglades
alligator in Everglades
sunning alligator
sunning alligator
alligator close-up
alligator close-up
Shark Valley tram tour
Shark Valley tram tour

Gators!

Your opportunities to look an alligator in the eye have never been better. When wandering certain trails you’ll find these creatures almost underfoot! At Shark Valley, they are everywhere. You should know that alligators are opportunistic feeders, they dine on whatever happens to swim toward their mouths (especially soft-shelled turtles) – so the chances of one leaping to gobble you up for lunch are very slim. That being said, it’s still wise to keep small children at a respectful distance.

There are plenty of boardwalks and paved trails where you can get within close proximity to both birds and animals. If you’re more adventurous, you can take a canoe or kayak trip along the 99-mile Wilderness Waterway where you’re sure to experience personal encounters with wading birds and other water-loving animals. The Wilderness Waterway is one of the nation’s legendary paddling routes – true wilderness!

Experiencing the everglades as such is like seeing what Florida was like hundreds of years ago, before the transformation that brought spring break and theme parks.

A few more great pictures:

Click thumbnail to view full-size
giant egret (I think)great blue heron in cypress treeboardwalk trailcanal through mangrovessunset in the mangrovesten thousand islands
giant egret (I think)
giant egret (I think)
great blue heron in cypress tree
great blue heron in cypress tree
boardwalk trail
boardwalk trail
canal through mangroves
canal through mangroves
sunset in the mangroves
sunset in the mangroves
ten thousand islands
ten thousand islands

Protect Yourself from Mosquitoes

Get this – 43, yes 43!, distinct mosquito species call Everglades National Park home. I can tell you, however, that only the females of thirteen species bite, but that probably won’t bring you much relief. There are other biting insects in the park, too, such as sand flies, horseflies and no-see-ums, whose bite can be much more irritating than that of the mosquitoes.

If you visit during the dry season (December through April is the most pleasant and driest time in the Everglades) you won’t be bothered by many biting insects as they are mostly moisture-loving.

If you’re unlucky enough to visit during the wet season, here’s how to cope:

  • Wear insect repellant – put it on before you go outside and keep it on all day.
  • Pretreat you clothes with repellent – you can buy expensive clothing that comes pre-treated, or you can purchase repellant that is safe to use on fabrics and do it yourself.
  • Avoid perfumes, scented lotions and aftershave – mosquitoes also love the scent of hairspray and flower-scented shampoos and conditioners!
  • Keep away from dense vegetation and grassy areas – you can count on any trail with the word “swamp” in the name being loaded with mosquitoes.
  • Stay out of the shade at dawn and dusk – for that matter, stay indoors at this time of day, if you can. If you just can’t, wear long sleeves and long pants and closed toe shoes with socks.
  • Be prepared to accept that during the wet season, no matter what you do, you will get a few bites, so carry a topical anti-itch product with you on trails.

Everglades National Park Visitor Centers

There are four visitor centers located throughout Everglades National Park: Earnest Coe to the east (Homestead - this is where the park headquarters is located), Shark Valley on the north side (Miami), Gulf Coast to the west (Everglades City) and Flamingo to the south (in Flamingo). 

You’ll find 18 miles of hiking trails in and around Flamingo , 55 miles of paved and primitive trails through the Pine Island pinelands (7 miles from Earnest Coe Visitor Center), and 15 miles of walking/biking trail in Shark Valley.

While I have not yet experienced all of Everglades National Park, I have to say that my favorite so far is Shark Valley.  It’s a wildlife haven with 15 miles of flat, paved pathway that you can walk, bike or hop on the park’s tram tour.  The open-air tram takes you down the paved road to a 45-foot observation tower, where you can walk up the ramp to view the sawgrass prairie; it’s a two hour tour.  You can also rent bicycles at the Visitor Center (or you can bring your own) and explore at your own pace.  Birds are abound here, as are alligators and turtles.  I found it amazing to be able to be so close to such terrifying-looking creatures (the alligators, not the turtles!) with no barriers between you and them whatsoever.

Everglades National Park is close to Miami, and a short drive from Naples to the west.  Due to its tropical location the park is accessible 365 days a year, unless it’s temporarily closed due to a hurricane (hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.)

Where to Stay Near Everglades National Park

Florida City is the closest community to the Everglades’ main entrance. You’ll find some great restaurants here. Oh, and if you’re in Florida City, you should venture to the Coral Castle, a massive structure that’s been called Florida’s Stonehenge.

Everglades City, near the Gulf Coast Visitor Center is another option for a place to stay – a great place to see beautiful sunsets.

More by this Author


16 comments

dohn121 profile image

dohn121 6 years ago from Hudson Valley, New York

You certainly did your homework for this one, Lily Rose! What an awesome hub. I've been to Florida twice so far, but have yet to visit the Everglades. I really want to go and hope that I do soon after reading this hub. Thanks!


Nelle Hoxie 6 years ago

Lily Rose this is my dream vacation. Matt and I were just talking about paddling in the Everglades National Park. I am an avid birder. We had a manatee make rare visit to Cape Cod last year and I was tranfixed watching him. Within the next few years, we really want to make this vacation happen. I truly enjoyed this hub!!!!


Jerilee Wei profile image

Jerilee Wei 6 years ago from United States

Great overview of the Everglades Park! I giggle every time I even think of one visit there with friends from up north. It was at the height of mosquito season near evening when the mosquitoes became larger than life and we all ran to the safety of the car as if we were about to lose our lives. Then, it got dark on us. We were traveling in a brand new white luxury car, and started hearing the sound of pop pop like a million little fire crackers. Turned out to be the road was covered with frogs for miles and the popping sounds were the dead frogs whose blood and guts covered the underbelly and sides of the car. Gross and most bizarre and not a thing we could do about it.

Nelle Hoxie -- go to Sebastian Inlet in Florida if you ever get the chance -- it's your best chance to interact and visit with the resident manatees.


Lily Rose profile image

Lily Rose 6 years ago from East Coast Author

Hi, Dohn! Yes, I did quite a bit of homework. Now that the hot season is nearing an end and the "warm" season is upon us here in Florida I decided I want to be a tourist in my own home. I think my girls would love it and I look forward to taking them real soon. It's been a few years since my visit to Shark Valley.

Nelle, when you come let me know - would love to meet face to face! That's pretty unusual to see manatees up your way, huh? They really are awesome creatures. The pictures of us "feeding" the manatee water from the hose is actually not in the Everglades, but in the Keys at my brother-in-law's parent's house. We were fishing with the kids off the dock and the manatee came over for a visit - a common occurrence, and always so awe-inspiring!

Jerilee, I must say that is one of the most bizarre stories I've ever heard - and quite disgusting! I remember one time many many years ago I went on a day trip with a "friend" on his motorcycle across the state to Naples. On the return trip it was dusk and getting dark. We had to stop several times to wipe the hundreds of mosquitoes off our helmet shields - icky! At least we were wearing full helmets!


breakfastpop profile image

breakfastpop 6 years ago

Dear Lily,

What a fantastic hub. I remember visiting the Everglades as a kid, but haven't been back since. Maybe another trip is in order.


Lily Rose profile image

Lily Rose 6 years ago from East Coast Author

Hi BPop! Just make sure it's during the dry season!


50 Caliber profile image

50 Caliber 6 years ago from Arizona

Great Hub! Brings back memories of years back. I ventured there in 1986, it was about this time of year. The air boat ride was worth every cent. Sitting up front belted in and flying through the marsh grass. From my seat I saw grass and up top in the pilots chair I think he could see the way, or he was as crazy as I was. I don't know how fast we were going but it felt like a hundred MPH, it was an exciting adventure that I would recommend to any and every one. I'd love to do it again.

Thanks for stirring the memories. I highly recommend the Gator tail fillets for dinner.


Lily Rose profile image

Lily Rose 6 years ago from East Coast Author

You're very welcome, 50 Caliber. I have yet to take an airboat ride but would love to. My husband took his father and my B-I-L last year when they were visiting and they had a great time.


dusanotes profile image

dusanotes 6 years ago from Windermere, FL

I, too, live in Florida and have seen it while traveling by air and by car but never on boat. You did an outstanding job in this Hub, Lily. I admire the way you organize and lay out your Hubs. Very artistic. And your photos were excellent. Did you take some of these? Good luck in your future Florida trips. Don White


Lily Rose profile image

Lily Rose 6 years ago from East Coast Author

Thanks for stopping by, Don. I too have yet to experience the Everglades by boat, but am looking forward to it perhaps this season. I would also love to explore it via kayak. I did take the manatee photos (except for the underwater shot with the boat). The others were mostly off the web.


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 6 years ago from Chicago

What a joyful journey! Your photos are beautiful. Your writing crisp. The Everglades are marvelous.


Lily Rose profile image

Lily Rose 6 years ago from East Coast Author

Hi James! Thank you for your kind words. I'm looking forward to experiencing more of the Everglades now that the dry months are upon us.

Keep your eyes open for my next "travel" hub on Lion Country Safari - we're going there this weekend for my youngest's 3rd birthday!


MJoyce profile image

MJoyce 5 years ago from Australia

Great photos, I enjoy reading your hubs and thanks for sharing it to us. Good luck


Webscapeseo profile image

Webscapeseo 4 years ago from United Kingdom

Really liked this Hub, great pictures and really interesting and useful content, thanks.


Lily Rose profile image

Lily Rose 4 years ago from East Coast Author

Thank you! The Everglades are truly spectacular!


Peggy W profile image

Peggy W 3 years ago from Houston, Texas

I have yet to visit the Everglades but hope to see them someday. When my parents were down there taking a break from driving, they had their dogs on leashes. Suddenly...and nearby...what they thought was a log turned out to be an alligator. They quickly got their dogs back inside their motor home and drove on.

I just added a link from your hub to my latest...the Water World of the 3 National Parks in Florida. Hopefully more people will be reading this good and informative hub of yours. Up, useful and interesting votes. Really liked the photos. Thanks!

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working