Those looking for a unique travel experience in Southwest Florida will be delighted to discover the Everglades. This expansive wetlands ecosystem is home to some of earth’s most exotic and endangered wildlife, making it one of the most fascinating places on the planet. To get the full experience, visitors should learn some Everglades facts and get up close with the natural wonders of this remarkable landscape.
The Everglades is over 1.5 million acres of sawgrass marshes, mangrove forests and hardwood hammocks. It emerged thousands of years ago from the Kissimmee River in North Central Florida to Lake Okeechobee which reaches the low-lying Biscayne Bay at Florida’s east coast and the Ten Thousand Islands in the southwest. During the wet season, a 60-mile wide and 100-mile long shallow river is created.
The establishment of early settlers and developers in the 1800’s changed the natural dynamic of the Everglades by digging canals to drain the wetlands and converting large tracts of land to agriculture. This led to a population boom in the 1920s in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Fort Myers. In order to accommodate the growing demand for housing, more roads and buildings were built, reducing the size of the Everglades to half of its original 4,000 square miles today.
The changes to the environment have had a massive impact on the wildlife of the Everglades. The number of wading birds such as egrets, wood storks, and a variety of herons has dropped significantly, and other species like the Florida panther, Miami black-headed snake, American crocodile, and Cape Sable seaside sparrow are critically endangered.
Thanks to the efforts of individuals like author and activist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, who organized the Friends of the Everglades, and landscape architect Ernest Coe, who battled for the establishment of the Everglades National Park, this precious ecosystem has been granted official protection. Still, invasive species and human activity continue to pose threats to Everglades wildlife.
Visitors to the Everglades have much to behold, offering the opportunity to enjoy outdoor adventures, spot magnificent wildlife, and immerse oneself in the unspoiled beauty of this unique landscape. The Everglades is one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth, making it a must-do for any traveler looking to explore the wonders of Southwest Florida.
Meanwhile, for generations of elementary schoolers, the Everglades has provided a fascinating learning opportunity with its flora, fauna, and history. Through Everglades facts for kids, children can learn about the environment, the importance of conservation, and the beauty of the ecosystem.
Today, the Everglades is both an International Biosphere Reserve and a UNESCO World Heritage Site and Wetland of International Importance. Despite the threats it faces, this important habitat continues to captivate adventurers and nature-lovers alike with its array of things to do and experiences to be had. From kayaking through the wetlands, exploring native plants and animals, and learning about the region’s past, there is something to be discovered in the Everglades for everyone.
For an in-depth look at the Everglades and its history, visitors should consider taking a guided tour from one of the many local experts and outfitters. From airboat rides to eco-tours and nature hikes, there are plenty of ways to get up close and personal with the diverse and dynamic environment of the Everglades.
In the northern part of the Everglades, visitors can visit Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, a 12,000-acre preserve managed by the National Audubon Society. This sanctuary is home to hundreds of species of plants, birds, reptiles, and amphibians, including some of the rarest species in North America such as the American crocodile.
Visitors to Big Cypress National Preserve can explore over 700,000 acres of pinelands, cypress swamps, and hardwood hammocks, making it one of the largest remaining areas of wilderness in the country. Here, visitors can observe wildlife such as black bears, otters, alligators, and more, as well as explore the trails and boardwalks that take you deep into the heart of the swamp.
The Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, which is located along the Gulf Coast of southwest Florida, is another popular destination in the Everglades and the perfect spot for adventurers who love to explore. Here, visitors can kayak and canoe through the shallow waters and mangrove forests, look out for manatees and dolphins, and hike nature trails with views of the colorful coastline.
Another highlight of the Everglades experience is the Dry Tortugas National Park. This park is located off Florida’s west coast and includes seven small islands and numerous coral reefs, making it one of the most spectacular places in the region. Here, visitors can take snorkeling tours, explore Fort Jefferson and the historic lighthouses, and see the abundant sea life just off the coast.
The Everglades also offers a range of cultural attractions and activities, from exploring Seminole villages and learning about their way of life to attending wildlife festival and experiencing the local wildlife up close. Visitors can also explore the historical sites in the area, such as the ruins of Fort Lauderdale or the stunning Spanish-style architecture in Coconut Grove.
The Everglades is also home to some of the best fishing in the world. Species like snook, tarpon, bass, and redfish are plentiful in the national parks and along the coast, making this a great spot for novice and experienced anglers alike.
When visiting the Everglades, visitors should make sure to pay attention to safety guidelines such as wearing insect repellent, avoiding wild animals, staying on designated trails, and not touching the wildlife. It’s also important to be mindful of the delicate environment and leave no trace behind.
At the same time, it’s just as important to be respectful of the people and cultures of the Everglades. This includes being aware of traditional hunting practices, respecting sacred sites, and avoiding activities that might be seen as disrespectful.
Ultimately, the Everglades is a prime destination for those looking to explore the natural wonders of Southwest Florida and experience the incredible diversity of this unique landscape. From wading birds and panthers to manatees and alligators, there is something here for everyone. With a little planning and caution, visitors to the Everglades will find an unforgettable experience that will stay with them forever.