One of the greatest South Florida must-see destinations is the Florida Everglades.
The Florida Everglades is a unique ecosystem that can be pretty darn scary, and on this day in 1947, it became one of the nation’s National Parks.
The U.S. Government designated the Everglades a National Park and with the designation, the swamplands and marshes that sit between the southern points of Florida and the Florida Keys became a marine and land sanctuary that would remain untouched.
Visiting the Everglades can be a lot of fun and can be a bit scary at the same time. The Everglades is home to the American alligator as well as the only location to find the American crocodile. Getting lost isn’t a problem but you may want to watch where you decide to get out and walk.
The Everglades is really a two-part sanctuary. The northern part of the glades is home to the alligators. The fresher water makes for a great environment. Not too far from the visitors center, you will find a parking area with a maze of wooden bridges that allow you to look down on alligators and the marsh below. The sidewalk leading to the bridges can often have alligators sunbathing on the grass immediately next to the walkway.
The alligators are used to people but obviously, you don’t want to get close. I can honestly attest that keeping time in mind is important. The sun sets quickly in the Everglades and I have personally found myself in near lightless conditions using a phone for a flashlight and seeing a lot of glowing eyes next to the pathway out of that area.
The southern part of the Everglades takes a couple of hours to get to, not because of the miles but the speed limits in place don’t allow you to fly down the two-lane road. At the end, you will find a parking lot with another guest services building and a lot of water. The mosquitos are absolutely horrible here almost all year long so take the spray with you or you will regret it. The swarms can be so thick sometimes that they appear as small black clouds.
Here you will find some boat docks as well. In the waters off the docks look for bubbles from below as manatees swim and play in this area which is also home to the rare American crocodile. The water here is much warmer than in the northern part and the water mixes with the saltwater of the ocean which is ideal for crocodiles.
From experience, I can say that it isn’t smart to wander into the marshy crags in the hopes of seeing a crocodile. There are plenty of chances to find them but stepping around the marshy edges may bring you a lot closer to one than you had hoped. Needless to say, I learned I can still run really fast when I need to.
If the gators and crocs were not enough, decades ago, someone introduced the python in the region. The invasive species has taken over the Everglades and is now hunted in an effort to eliminate the species but they thrive in the humid environment.
The Everglades is home to a wide variety of snakes both venomous and non but mostly venomous. It is home to the protected and endangered black panther and hundreds of birds. Viewing areas are available at different locations between the North and South lots and if you have the time, spending an entire day in the Everglades can be an incredible experience that you can’t find anywhere else in the United States.