Everglades National Park is the largest remaining sub-tropical wilderness in the continental United States. Everglades National Park is fairly a large park at 1,506,539 acres but it only encompasses one-fifth of the Florida Everglades. This national park is the most famous wetland preserve in the United States and is the only subtropical preserve in North America. The Everglades is a flooded grassland that is home to many tropical and subtropical trees and plants, more than 300 bird species, 150 fish species and 60 federally listed threatened or endangered species including the Florida panther and the American crocodile. Much of the park is a region of mangrove waterways and sawgrass marsh dotted with hammocks and salt prairies.
The Everglades has three international designations: International Biosphere Reserve, World Heritage Site and Wetland of International Significance. But this park is in trouble. The numbers of wading birds nesting in colonies have declined 93% since the 1930’s. The rains still fall in south Florida today, but the extensive canal and levee systems have shut off the life-giving rainwater before it can reach the national park and the remainder of the Everglades “River of Grass.” Sometimes the water control structures are shut preventing the much-needed water from reaching the park and at other times they are opened and floodwaters enter the Everglades damaging nests and/or eggs of birds. Along with this pollutants from agriculture and other human activities are damaging the ecosystem.
The Everglades Coalition, an alliance of more that 42 local, state and national organizations such as World Wildlife Fund, is working on solutions for the problem. The National Park Service and the State of Florida have agreed to be partners in enforcing existing water quality regulations and will continue to address water quality problems. The park service is working with the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers and other water management jurisdictions to help save the Everglades. Hopefully with the hard work of many interested organizations and individuals a solution can be found to save this wonderful land for future generations.
Nature & Science
The landscape seen today in Everglades National Park and elsewhere in South Florida are a direct result of our geologic events past. There is no place better to see this than in the Everglades. The rocks beneath the Big Cypress Swamp are among the oldest in South Florida. A shallow sea covered this area around six million years ago and sediments of silt and sand and calcium deposited on the bottom of this sea gradually cemented into limestone. Today, this rock is called the Tamiami Formation. The Tamiami Formation is found in the northwest corner of Everglades National Park. Fresh water flowing out of Big Cypress mixes with salt water from the Gulf of Mexico in a highly productive mangrove estuary. The resulting nutrient-rich soup supports a marine nursery for pink shrimp, snook, and snapper. Other rocks beneath the Everglades were formed during the time of the Great Ice Age. Although there were no glaciers in Florida, their effects were felt here. As glaciers expanded, much of the earth’s water supply was locked in the ice and sea levels in South Florida lowered as much as 300 feet below present levels.
As in most areas of South Florida, subtle changes in elevation result in dramatic changes in vegetation communities. Pine forests are found on the high ground of the Atlantic Coastal Ridge. Where fire has been excluded, pines give way to hardwood hammocks. In wetter areas near the end of the ridge, dwarf pond cypress grow. South of the ridge sawgrass prairies take over again. A narrow band of mangroves fringe the southeast coast, and the shallow waters of Florida Bay today provide an abundant food supply for great numbers of wading birds.
Threatened, endangered and extinct are words that are used far too often in our vocabulary. The natural process of species evolution, taking hundreds and thousands of years, has accelerated rapidly since the turn of the 20th century. Today, because of man’s desire for land and raw materials, the continued pollution and indiscriminate hunting hundreds of thousands of plant and wildlife species are on the brink of extinction.
The drainage of wetlands, alteration of overland water flow and hunting have all contributed to species decline. The Everglades, once known for its abundant bird life, has seen its wading bird population decline drastically since the turn of the century. The Florida Panther once common throughout the state, today is on the verge of extinction. Within the four National Park areas of Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve and Fort Jefferson National Monument there are 16 endangered and 6 threatened wildlife species. The mere physical boundaries of a National Park do not guarantee a species survival.
Ernest F. Coe
Includes state-of-the-art visitor center, campground, abundance of birds and wildlife.
Boat tours, canoe rentals, marina, hiking trails, Wilderness Waterway.
The gateway to exploring the Ten Thousand Islands, a maze of mangrove islands and waterways that extends south to Flamingo and Florida Bay.
The Anhinga and Gumbo Limbo trails begin here.
Shark Valley lies in the heart of the “river of grass” that stretches 100 miles from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico.
Campgrounds are located at 3 places in the park, with tent and RV sites, restrooms and water. There are no hookups in the park. All three campgrounds are open year round. Reservations may be made for late November through the end of April at the Long Pine Key and Flamingo campgrounds through the National Park Reservation Service at 1-800-365-2267
From Miami and the North
Take the FL Turnpike (Rte 821) south until it ends and merges with U. S. 1 at Florida City. Right at first traffic light onto Palm Drive. (State Road. 9336/SW 344th Street). Follow signs.
To Shark Valley
Take the FL Turnpike to the exit for SW 8th Street. (also known as U. S. 41 and Tamiami Trail). Travel 25 miles W on U. S. 41.
To the Gulf Coast Visitor Center
Take U. S. 41 west from Miami to U. S. 29 S. 3 miles into Everglades City. Follow signs.
Take Krome Ave. (State Road. 9336/SW 177th Ave.)
North from Homestead or South from U. S. 41
Go west on SW 168th Street. Follow signs.
Everglades National Park
40001 State Road 9336
Homestead, FL 33034-6733
Operating Hours & Seasons
Main entrance open year-round. Chekika, Shark Valley gates lock at 5 or 6 pm.
Permits required for backcountry camping. Reservations for designated campsites may be made in person up to 24 hrs. before entering the backcountry.
The Everglades weather is mild and pleasant from December through April, though rare cold fronts may create near-freezing conditions. Summers are hot and humid, with temperatures around 90 degrees and humidity over 90%. afternoon thunderstorms are common and mosquitoes are abundant.
Wear comfortable sportswear in winter; loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and pants and insect repellent, are recommended in the summer.