Everglades National Park

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Lluis Enric Mayans

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  • A few historical notes on Everglades National Park
  • Flora and fauna that populate the park
  • What to see in Everglades National Park
  • Tours and excursions to do
  • Where to go camping
  • When to visit Everglades National Park
  • Where is the park and how to get there
  • Entrance times and tickets

If you are animated by an adventurous spirit and you are not afraid of heat, humidity and mosquitoes, then theEverglades National Park it is just the perfect place for you!

This is a magnificent nature reserve at the southern tip of Florida, not far from the Florida Keys and Miami. It is the largest subtropical region in the United States and is also UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Extending over an area of ​​6.250 square kilometers, the park is home to inside a variegated mosaic of ecosystems composed of swamps, pine forests, reeds, palm groves, intricate mangroves and willow forests.

At the same time, it can be observed abundant wildlife which includes alligators, panthers, birds, turtles and many other animal species.

You can explore Everglades National Park on foot, by car or by airboat. In addition, to immerse yourself completely in nature, there is the possibility to do camping.

So let's find out everything there is to know about the park, how to get there, what to see and what is the best time to visit it.

A few historical notes on Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park is the largest subtropical protected area in the United States, and the current territorial extension covers only 20% of the original area.

The only access via the motorway is the Florida State Road 9336 running from Florida City to the coast. Excluding the park's visitor centers, there are no forms of development within the park.

The reserve was declared a national park in May 1934, but the title did not become official until December 1947. In 1976 it was instead declared a 'biosphere reserve' and in 1979 it became a World Heritage Site. Only in 1993 the Everglades was included among the endangered heritage by UNESCO.

In 2005 the park was hit hard by the effects ofHurricane Wilma. Its passage has produced very serious damage. Restaurants, shops and the Flamingo Visitor Center were closed until 2006, but within a few years, every sector reopened.

Flora and fauna that populate the park

Those who have been lucky enough to visit any of the great American national parks will be pleasantly surprised by the spectacle that awaits them at Everglades National Park.

In fact, the scenario that will unfold before your eyes is absolutely different from all this you have already seen. Forget canyons, mountains, sea cliffs, redwoods and desert areas.

In the park there are immense expanses of falaschi, swamps, water channels, marshes, mangrove islets, pine forests, willow forests, dwarf cypresses, palm groves, oaks and climbing ferns.

The vegetation also includes wild orange trees, wild lemons, custard-apple, pawpaw and rubber trees. Among the wild flowers can be seen above all beautiful specimens of orchids.

If the flora is so particularly diverse, the fauna is no exception. The main animal of the reserve is undoubtedly the alligator.

Beyond American crocodiles and Mississippi alligators, however, there are many fish, snakes, turtles, iguanas, panthers, otters, manatees, bobcats. The Everglades is also famous for the birdwatching.

It is no coincidence that there are many species of birds, including ibises, storks, herons, pelicans, aningas, flamingos, pink spoonbills, ardeidae and sternidae. Raptors include short-tailed buzzards, Everglades kites, ospreys, red-necked vultures, bald eagles, and many more.

Everglades: Airboat Ride and Wildlife Show

What to see in Everglades National Park

Although in Everglades National Park there are habitats with uniform characteristics, you can have different experiences and excursions depending on the visitor center from which you decide to access.

Here are the areas into which the nature reserve is divided.

Southern Zone: Flamingo and Pine Islands

This part of the Everglades is ideal for those who want get to know the park on foot and it is the best choice for a one day visit.

The first thing you will encounter is the Visitor Center Ernest F. Coe which houses a museum, a room with an orientation video, a library and access to the hiking trails available in the surrounding area. In addition, there is a useful info-point for advice on guided tours.

The first thing you can admire is Pine Islands. As soon as you pass the Coe Visitor Center, you should take a detour from State Highway 9336 to get to the neighbor Royal Palm Visitor Center.

From here, two splendid Everglades trails branch off, suitable for those who love trekking:

  • To the left of the visitor center is theAnhinga Trail, a path whose name derives from the bird that you will often see in the trees of the park. You will walk a suspended wooden walkway for 1,2 kilometers and see a thick carpet of sawgrass, sedge in Spanish, the main marsh plant in the Everglades.
  • On the right there is the Gumbo Limbo Trail which has a shorter length (600 meters) and gives you a different landscape as you walk on a path that crosses a forest of royal palms, ferns, gumbo silt trees and other plants.

If you prefer to follow paths on elevated walkways we also suggest you reach the Mahogany Hammock Trail.

You will still cross a dense subtropical forest and move 800 meters along a suspended wooden platform. To reach it you will have to return to Highway 9336 and go towards Flamingo for 30 kilometers.

The other major attraction of the southern region is the Flamingo Visitor Center which you will find at the end of Highway 9336. The area is more exposed to the ocean and hurricane damage occurs more frequently.

Therefore, before organizing excursions or tours, find out about the open and safe paths to follow. If you are particularly fond of birds you can take advantage of theEco Pond Trail, a loop suitable for those who are passionate about birdwatching.

Among the falasks and bushes of this swamp there are specimens that fly on the water such as aninghe, American storks, flamingos, ibises, cormorants, cranes and birds of prey.

Zona centrale: Shark Valley

The Shark Valley is cut from a road of 24 kilometers which can be done on foot, by bicycle or by tram. On foot, the undertaking is very difficult due to its length and the suffocating heat.

About halfway along the route there is a suggestive path that will take you to the top of an observation tower that rises above a small canal populated by alligators. From the structure you can enjoy a fascinating view of the so-called ‘river of grass’ of the park.

There are a couple of short routes to be covered quite easily on foot. The first is the Bobcat Boardwalk Trail, a wooden walkway that climbs between the cliffs for 800 meters. The entrance is just 50 meters from the Shark Valley Visitor Center.

The second path is theOtter Cave Hammock Trail. It is about 400 meters long and allows you to take a small detour from the main road to enter the forest. There is no boardwalk, but you will walk on beaten ground.

In case you don't want to walk, there is the possibility to move around by bicycle or tram. For rent bikes just go to the visitor center. Bikes can be rented from 8:30 to 16:00 and must be returned by 17:00.

The cost for each bicycle is dollars 22. On average it takes at least 2-3 hours to explore the Shark Valley area well. However, it is important to pay attention to the environmental conditions, especially in summer. Equip yourself with mosquito spray and sunscreen.

The alternative to cycling is the tram. There is a tour offered by Shark Valley Tram Tour. The visit lasts 2 hours and the ticket is not included in the park entrance ticket.

The tour will cost you $ 28 for people aged 13 to 61, $ 22 for over 62s and $ 15 for children aged 3 to 12. The excursion starts from the visitor center.

To know in detail timetables and other information we advise you to consult the Official site.

Zona occidentale: Everglades City e Smallwood Store

The western part of Everglades National Park encompasses Everglades City and Gulf Coast Visitor Center and is best known for its boat tours at Ten Thousand Island, an intricate tangle of mangrove islets extending towards Flamingo.

The area can only be visited with boats, canoes and kayaks. The suggestive is also very interesting Smallwood Store, a local history museum located in a wooden building erected on stilts.

Inside you will learn about the history of the Calusa natives who seem to have built artificial islands made with shells.

The museum is located on Chokoloskee Island, a small island that is easily reached from Everglades City by means of an overpass.

Tours and excursions to do

One of the most fun activities to do in Everglades park is undoubtedly the tour in airboat. For the uninitiated, this is a particular boat equipped with a powerful combustion engine with propeller.

This type of vessel moves fast on the water of the canals and gives you the opportunity to admire flora and fauna from an unprecedented perspective. The guides slow down at the most interesting points for tourists and tell you about the life of the local ecosystem in detail.

Airboats are usually quite noisy and you will be given earplugs. In the park there are only three authorized tour operators to organize airboat tours (Coopertown, Gator Park Everglades Safari Park) and are all located just before the Shark Valley Visitor Center.

In addition to bicycles, the most dynamic way to tour Everglades National Park is aboard canoe and kayak. Nine Mile Pond and Hells Bay are two very simple trails designed for children.

For beginner adults there is the Nine Mile Pond Loop which guides the paddlers to an area rich in mangroves where you can spot pink spoonbills, waders and alligators. On the other hand, the path is more demanding and for real experts Hells Bay, 11 miles long.

If you don't have a canoe or kayak there are no problems as you can rent one at the Flamingo visitor center.

Everglades National Park: Kayaking Tour

Where to go camping

Do you want to live one or more nights under the stars, immersed in the wildest and most unspoiled nature? At Everglades National Park this is possible.

In the park you can safely do it campground or do glamping staying in elegant ecological tents. Or again, there is the opportunity to sleep in fully equipped houseboats.

As for pure and simple camping, there is the Long Pine Key Campground. It stands in a rocky clearing and is 5 miles from the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center. Tourists have at their disposal 108 different pitches that can accommodate tents and campers of various sizes.

Equally well served is the Flamingo Campground which is located further south and is equipped with 3 camping areas with 274 pitches for tents, caravans and campers. Both campsites are equipped with the main toilets and showers.

For more information on prices and access rules, please connect to section of the official portal.

When to visit Everglades National Park

Before planning a visit to Everglades National Park, it's important to choose the best time carefully.

Generally the most favorable time of the year is during the dry season which starts from the end of October and lasts until April. In this phase the waters brought by the summer floods drain towards the sea and it is easier to observe the beauties of the place.

In the dry season it is still quite hot, but there are less humidity and mosquitoes, always very annoying.

If you want, you can still visit the park in the summer. However, it is useful to specify that in this period there is a strong humid heat and it often rains (hurricanes are sometimes a problem).

Where is the park and how to get there

Everglades National Park is located in the extreme southern tip of Florida. More precisely, it is 79 kilometers from Miami, 340 kilometers from Tampa and 440 kilometers from Orlando.

Given its vastness, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the southern outskirts of the city of Naples.

For those who have a car and come from Miami, the most convenient access is from Shark Valley and it should take you about 50 minutes. Otherwise it is better to rely on one of the many organized tours that depart from Miami.

In summary, to enter the park there are 5 visitor center, scattered in various parts of the reserve:

  • THEErnest Coe Visitor Center, Flamingo Visitor Center and Royal Palm Visitor Center they are located south of Everglades National Park, near Florida City and Homestead.
  • Lo Shark Valley Visitor Center is at 36000 Southwest 8th Street. To get there, you must take US 41, the road that divides the park in half from east to west. The Tamiami Trail runs along this same artery, starting from the Little Havana neighborhood in Miami.
  • Il Gulf Coast Visitor Center is located near Everglades City. It is not one of the most crowded or popular, but it is ideal for people who come from Naples or who want to admire the wildest canals and swamps.

Entrance times and tickets

Everglades National Park is open 24 hours a day all year round. Instead the various visitor centers have specific hours.

  • Ernest Coe Visitor Center: from 9:00 to 17:00 (April-mid-December) and from 8:00 to 17:00 (mid-December-March);
  • Flamingo Visitor Center: from 8:00 to 17:00 (November-April) and from 8:00 to 17:00 from Wednesday to Sunday (May-October);
  • Shark Valley Visitor Center: from 9:00 to 17:00 all year round;
  • Gulf Coast Visitor Center: from 8:00 to 17:00 all year round.

As for the tickets, the prices are as follows:

  • Entrance by car: $ 35
  • Entrance with motorbike: $ 30
  • Entrance on foot or by bicycle: $ 20
  • Annual Pass: $ 70

All passes are valid for 7 days and can be purchased at Shark Valley Entrance or Homestead Entrance at Ernest Coe Visitor Center.

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