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Travel info for visiting Everglades National Park (in 2022)

a crocodile and alligator reserve

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Everglades National Park, Florida, États-Unis

GPS: 25.762464687868, -80.625467428657

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Visiting Everglades National Park, where the fresh water of Lake Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River meet the salt water of Florida Bay lies, occurs within the largest subtropical area in the United States. Established in 1947, it covers over 6,000 km² of wetlands and grasslands on the southern tip of the Florida panhandle. The second largest natural lake in the United States after Lake Michigan, Okeechobee plays a vital role in the ecological balance of the Everglades. Due to its shallow depth (2.7 metres on average), the lake’s surplus water regularly overflows its basin into the Everglades through an extensive network of streams, canals, and coastal rivers.

Everglades National Park has a marine and estuarine environment that supports a variety of biological life. Its rainforests, vast cypress swamps, wetland areas and swathes of mangroves are refuges and breeding grounds for a wide variety of wildlife. The area, both on land and water, is home to a wide variety of birds and aquatic fauna from temperate and tropical environments. Long occupied by man, this region is the ancestral land of two tribes of Indians (the Tequestas fishing people and the Calusas gathering people), before the arrival of the first Spanish conquistadors at the beginning of the 16th century. By the end of the 19th century, the first large-scale canal systems were ordered to drain the swamps for agricultural use. Combined with logging, these developments helped change the hydrology of the Everglades by interrupting the natural flow of water.

The Everglades has always struggled to survive in the face of continued human pressure and the increasing effects of climate change. Despite its rich ecosystems, Everglades National Park has long been threatened by logging, increasing urbanisation, water diversion, oil drilling, levee, bridge, and road construction, hunting of crocodiles for their skins and poaching of birds for their plumage. Protection and conservation efforts have been underway for many years to ensure that the Everglades continues to provide a natural habitat for a complex and fragile biodiversity. This natural wetland area lends itself to canoeing. Canoes allow you to navigate the maze of marshes and waterways from which you can observe a multitude of animal species and explore the park’s aquatic vegetation.

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  • The largest area of tropical swamps and marshes in the world; large expanses of water filled with grasses; the wild character of the park
  • The variety of fauna (crocodiles, alligators, dolphins, molluscs, crayfish, sea turtles, otters, snakes, insects); the 50 different species of reptiles and 500 varieties of fish; the presence of several rare species including the Florida panther, the Caribbean manatee, the Florida black bear and the Andalusian cow (imported by the Spanish conquistadors)
  • The lush flora (mangroves, mangrove trees, centuries-old cypress trees, pine forests and several hundred species of plants and vegetation scattered throughout the park’s tropical hammocks)
  • The marl grasslands (rich in limestone) and swamp areas of Big Cypress National Preserve; Sawgrass, Shark River, and Taylor Marshes; the meandering canals and islands; Picayune Strand State Forest
  • Bird watching, waders (herons, pelicans, ibises, Great Egrets) and shorebirds (small waders)
  • Boat and hydrofoil excursions (airboat or fan boat); kayaking and canoeing in authorised areas
  • Hiking and biking (Gumbo Limbo, Anhinga, Pa-hay-okee, Mahogany Hammock, Shark River Slough, etc.); canoeing in the Wilderness Waterway wetland (100-mile route); Shark Valley Tram Tours (2-hour guided land tour); traditional “chickee” (Seminole tribe) cabin accommodations; visit Miccosukee Indian Village
  • Scenic drives (including the Tamiami Trail); Shark Valley scenery from the Shark Valley observation tower
  • Exhibits, activities, and tours at the various information centres (Ernest F. Coe, Royal Palm, Flamingo, Shark Valley, and Gulf Coast); Long Pine Key and Flamingo camping areas
  • This area of Florida has been occupied by humans for 15,000 years. It was only 6,000 years ago that the Everglades were exposed to moisture (the swamps were once dry savannahs inhabited by giant sloths).
  • In 1821, the Everglades became the property of the United States at the expense of the Spanish. The Seminole Miccosukee group, chased by the cavalry of settlers in Georgia, were forced to migrate to the Everglades in the 18th century. They were joined by other oppressed populations of former black slaves, Civil War deserters, Native Americans, and fugitives. Trappers who called themselves “Gladesmen” also found refuge in this difficult-to-access region. These men set up makeshift camps on isolated wilderness islands. They built small boats (skiffs) adapted to the area and steered by a pole to live by hunting or fishing. The culture and way of life of the Gladesmen were probably inspired by the Indians and are still mostly unknown to the inhabitants of Florida.
  • The Everglades National Park covers only 20% of the Everglades Natural Area. It is the only place on Earth where freshwater alligators and saltwater crocodiles live together. This site is home to a rare ecosystem that is prized by birdwatchers and is one of the most important air corridors for migratory birds.
  • The park is home to the largest mangrove area in the Americas. After Death Valley National Park (13,600 km²) and Yellowstone National Park (9,000 km²), the Everglades is the third largest national park in the United States (excluding protected areas in Alaska).
  • In the 1970s, alligators were considered endangered. Thanks to the implementation of conservation measures, their population has been steadily increasing since the 1980s. The number of alligators in Florida is estimated at more than one million compared to several tens of thousands of crocodiles. Masters of the mangroves, they can measure up to 7 metres in length and are armed with the most powerful jaws of all the planet’s large predators. The state of Florida has specially trained fire and police departments to respond to threats or endangerment to humans.
  • Unlike humans, the crocodile has both a right and a left aorta. This allows the animal to remain underwater for longer periods, as its blood circulation and heartbeat are reduced.
  • Thousands of Burmese pythons, one of the largest snake species in the world (some specimens can exceed 5 metres in length), have colonised Everglades Park. This invasive species poses an imminent danger to the native flora and fauna of Everglades National Park. It is believed to be responsible for the disappearance of swamp rabbits, raccoons, and other small mammals. The authorities have embarked on a culling and removal program.
  • Rising sea levels threaten to dramatically alter the region’s coastline and turn the Everglades swamps into coral reefs. Eventually, all of South Florida, including Miami and the Everglades, could be submerged. The soil supporting the ecosystem, which is composed of a thick carpet of peat, is collapsing as increased seawater in the marshes prevents plant growth.
  • Big Cypress National Preserve provides 40% of the freshwater for Everglades National Park. It is home to many species of wildlife, such as Florida panthers and ancient dwarf cypress trees, and the area is under severe threat from oil exploration and development by Burnett Oil.
  • The dry season, from December to April, offers the best conditions for exploring Everglades National Park (bring effective insect repellent if you are visiting during the wet season). Walking shoes and a hat are recommended for protection from the sun. Bring a mackintosh and earplugs before going on a hydrofoil ride.
  • If you plan to drive to the park, the Shark Valley area to the north of the park, accessible via the Tamiami Trail, is popular (an hour’s drive from Miami). An adjacent trail (Loop Road) along a wilderness canal is a good choice to view reptiles and aquatic wildlife.
  • Guided tours are available from Miami, Orlando, Fort Lauderdale, and Fort Myers as part of a tour package.
  • On-site guided tours with Everglades National Park rangers are regularly offered at information centres (cost included in park entrance fee). Park-accredited guides can organise one or more day trips for you to canoe, kayak, bird watch, fish or photograph.
  • Swimming is not recommended due to the presence of alligators, crocodiles, water snakes, sharks, barracudas and snapping turtles. On land, beware of spiders and caterpillars which can be poisonous.
  • When walking through the park, keep a safe distance of several metres from the large Everglades reptiles as these predatory amphibians are not afraid to attack humans. Avoid feeding them and don’t hang out in the swamp areas where they make their homes. An emergency number is available 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week (+1-800 788-0511).
  • If you plan to fish, be aware that significant levels of mercury have been detected in several species of fish (ask locally).

Where to eat

  • Havana Café
    (generous Cuban cuisine)
  • White Lion Cafe
    (well run cafe)
  • Triad Seafood
    (creamy seafood)

Where to go

  • Biscayne National Park
    (coastal and underwater reserve)
  • Cape Romano
    (shell beaches)
  • Big Cypress National Reserve
    (wildlife-rich marshes)

Where to stay

  • Long Pine Key Campground
    (good campground)
  • Parkway Motel & Marina
    (motel with an exotic setting)
  • The Ivey House B&B
    (convenient and comfortable)

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