It may not be known to everyone, but Everglades National Park remains one of the most endangered national parks in the country. The buildup of southern Florida has intensified diverting the water of levees and canals. And this creates a problem as watery habitats in the park are shrinking because not enough water is getting into the Everglades.
Those who visit are encouraged to write to Congress and tell them to save the Everglades - especially those who witness the changes in the making. Flights of white ibis used to flock in numbers as high as 90. Today, visitors can view flocks of 10. Yet, this subtropical wilderness, full of mangrove swamps and prairies, remains one of the most amazing parks to visit.
Unlike other parks, Everglades National Park was created the preserve a portion of the ecosystem as a wildlife habitat. With such a unique mixture of tropical and temperate plants and animals, Everglades contains over 700 plant and 300 bird species. It also gives as home to endangered species such as the manatee, crocodile, and Florida panther.
Designated a World Heritage site as well as an international biosphere, Everglades is on a constant crusade to protect the area. Environmentalists urge the purchase of privately owned wetlands to increase the water Everglades shares with its neighboring areas.
The park is at the southern tip of the Everglades and remains in danger. Fifty percent of south Florida’s original wetland areas no longer exist. Entire populations of animals are at risk of disappearing and exotic pest plants are choking out native plants and altering habitats. These remain the warnings of a national park in jeopardy of collapse.
When to Visit
Everglades basically has two seasons to choose from: dry and wet. From mid-December through mid-April, weather is dry and is the most popular time to visit. Humid weather and mosquitoes typically keep tourists away during the wet season – the rest of the year.
For those outside Florida, fly into Miami (Get Rates) or Naples. From south Miami, take US-1 Florida Turnpike to Florida City, then head west on Fla. 9336 (Palm Dr.). The Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center is about 50 miles from Miami.
If you are coming from west Miami, you can take US 41 to Shark Valley Visitor Center.
From Naples, head east on US 41 to Fla. 29, then south to Everglade City.
An entrance fee of $10 per car per week is charged to visitors. Those walking or biking into the park will be charged $5.
Tropical trees are a must-see in this swampland and Mahogany Hammock is the habitat to place to see them all. The Everglades are home to hardwood trees that align in a tear-drop shape. Sitting on slightly elevated patches of ground, they are developed through the action of flood waters rising and falling throughout the year. Check out Mahogany Hammock Trail to view the world’s largest living mahogany tree in the US.
One great way to see the park is through Shark Valley Tram Tours. Guided two-hour tours run along a 15-mile loop into the River of Grass offering an exciting opportunity to see wildlife and learn about the Freshwater ecosystem. Reservations are strongly recommended during the dry season and can be made by calling 305-221-8455.
Boat tours are also available in the Gulf Coast (call 239-695-2591) and the Flamingo area (call 239-695-3101). The Ten Thousand Island trip explores mangrove islands in the Gulf of Mexico. Tourists will spot bottlenose dolphins, manatees, ospreys, pelicans, and more.
Shark River is also a fun spot where visitors will certainly see alligators and birds. Will you see sharks? No. But, it remains a marvelous spot to view turtles, hawks, and harriers.
Two campgrounds are located inside the park and are available for a 30-day limit. Flamingo and Long Pine Key are open all year round but keep in mind, from November to May campgrounds have a 10-day limit. The fee is $14 per night. Reservations are available from mid-December through April, otherwise sites are first come, first served.
Backcountry camping is available for $10 per night, $2 per person. A permit is required and must be obtained in person.
Outside of the park, there are many hotels, motels, and inns located within Florida City and Homestead. Days Inn and Comfort Inn offer the most affordable rooms while Knights Inn and Coral Roc Motel offer kitchenettes for guests. (Get Rates)
Areas of Interest Outside the Park
Nearby Biscayne National Park offers an underwater world of coral reefs and rare fish. It is a wonderful destination for families and offers countless activities like boating, snorkeling, scuba diving, and camping.
Dispensing freshwater to the Everglades, Big Cypress National Preserve contains marshes, mangrove forests, and prairies popular to visitors. 729,000 acres are homes to the endangered Florida panther, and black bears. This area is connected to the Everglades and offers scenic drives, fishing, camping, hiking, and canoeing.
If you have the time for even another national park, almost 70 miles west of Key West is Dry Tortugas National Park. Seven islands make up this park, full of coral reefs and sand. Bird and marine life attract tourists looking for wildlife interaction.
400001 State Rd. 9446, Homestead, FL 33034