Everglades National Park was established in 1947 and is the largest subtropical wetland in the United States. It is located 30 miles west of Miami, Florida and covers an area of 1.5 million acres. Most of the park is protected for wildlife preservation and is accessible to the public but an area near Miami is open for airboat tours.
The everglades is known as the “River of Grass” because it’s slow moving water that filters water as it moves south. It contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere, the largest continuous stand of sawgrass prairie and the most significant breeding ground for wading birds in North America.
The majority of the park that I saw during my visit were areas of mangrove forests. They thrive in salty environments because they can get freshwater from the saltwater. Mangrove forest provide habitat and refuge to wildlife such as birds, fish, shellfish and mammals. Photos of the mangrove forest are shown below.
Some places the mangrove trees are far enough apart that they aren’t entwined together at the roots but close enough that the tops of the trees touch. This creates a tunnel that small boats can pass under the tree limbs. The photos below are a mangrove tunnel as we were approaching, going through and exiting the tunnel.
Growing alongside the mangroves are areas of cattails.
Trees and prairie
There are place in the park with small islands where trees and prairie grass grows. These places provide a habitat for birds and animals that need dry land to survive.
The water in the park is not at a constant level. Sometimes the water level changes from the tides and other times the dry and wet season causes the water level to rise or fall. The water depth in some place may only be an inch or two which prevents most boats from being able to maneuver without becoming stuck. Even airboats need the right amount of water depending on the weight of the people in the boat.
The everglades is full of wildlife but the majority of the wildlife that you can expect to see are birds. Most people tour the everglades on an airboat and the noise from the airboat causes the birds to fly to quitter location. A good example of this is seen in the following photos.
Great Egret flying from the treetops
Green Heron in flight
Little Blue Heron in flight
Three White Ibis in flight
Some birds don’t seem to be bothered by the noise of the airboat. Maybe they aren’t threatened by the presents of boats or they may have another reason to stay in the area.
Three Tri-colored Heron are content to stay in the treetop and watch the action.
A Red-shouldered Hawk is not intimidated by people.
Three Mottled Ducks and a Common Gallinule don’t pay any attention to the passing boat.
This Black-necked Stilt may be concerned by the but she doesn’t want to leave her nest unattended.
This Turkey Vulture has no worries about people coming close.
Some animals are a little hard to spot but it is best to keep an eye out for some of the dangerous animals that might be in the area.
This large alligator is tucked between the cattails and at the base of the mangroves.
Everglades National Park might not be the place for everyone but it really is not a park for people, it is a park for preserving the environment and a habitat for wildlife. The everglades is a vast place and one of the world’s most varied ecosystems. It is home to hundreds of species of plants and wildlife that live in a range of ecosystem from mangroves to prairies to pinelands.
There are several options for experiencing the variety of nature and wildlife which include hiking trail and kayaking but taking a trip through the park in an airboat is a unique way to see the park and it is a fun activity. An airboat may not be a quiet day in nature but it is a way to see more of the environment quickly and it is a great way to get an up close view of a gator.
Anyone who loves the great outdoors will love experiencing the variety of ecosystem and wildlife that Everglades National Park had to offer!