Everglades National Park
The Everglades National Park covers the southern tip of Florida. Miami and Lauderdale share its eastern border. Naples and the Gulf of Mexico sit on its western border. Big Cypress National Preserve is north of the Everglades park. The Florida Keys are to the south.
The Everglades National Park is 1,542,526 acres, reaching that size when over 200 hectares were added to it in 1989. Only the Yellowstone National Park and Death Valley National Park are bigger.
The modern national park covers a hundred mile long wilderness that covers a fraction (about a fifth) of the original Everglades ecosystem. It is still the largest subtropical wilderness reserve in North America.
Everglades ecosystem is a land of mangroves and saw grass, a land shaped by the slow moving fresh water river that defines it. It is the largest mangrove ecosystem in either North or South America. It is the largest sawgrass prairie in North America.
It is home to wading birds like egrets and ibis. There are over 700 plants and 300 birds there; the Everglades are a major breeding ground for North American wading birds. It is also home to the endangered West Indian manatee and Florida panther. More than 60 reptiles and 275 species of fish live in the park.
The Everglades is a unique mix of tropical and temperate species. The wet season results in a river inches wide and miles wide. During the dry season, the biological activity drops.
The slow moving river of water is punctuated by hammocks or free islands. These include mangroves, taxa and cypress.
The Everglades was submerged sea bed when the last ice age ended and sea levels were higher than today. Today, the relatively flat Everglades are a short distance above sea level.
The original saw grass swamp ran from Lake Okeechobee all the way to Florida Bay. That flow was interrupted by a series of canals, levees and dikes that allowed Florida’s orange groves and cities to grow.
The Everglades became a refuge for the Seminole people during the Seminole wars. However, Native American archeological sites dot the park.
Everglades National Park was established December 6, 1947. It was the first national park to be set up for its biological diversity and ecological importance, not the beauty of the region as sites like the Grand Canyon were.
The park was made a biosphere reserve in 1976. It was added to the World Heritage List in 1979.
The Everglades National Park is well known for its airboat tours. There are four trails through the Everglades: the Pine Island trails, Flamingo trails, Gulf Coast trails and Shark Valley trails.
Crocodiles and alligators are a popular tourist attraction and major predators in the park. The park is the only place in the world where both crocodiles and alligators live together in the wild.
The Everglades National Park sits on top of a massive limestone formation. The fresh water from the slow moving river seeps into and recharges the Biscayne Aquifer, the primary source of fresh water for Miami.
When water levels are high, the mixing of fresh and salt water creates a productive area that incubates many crustaceans. This makes the Everglades a key source of the shrimp that are the source of the livelihood for many Gulf of Mexico fishermen.