The Glades

Shark Valley 127

The Everglades is not a swamp—it is a freshwater marsh.  It is one of the most unique wetlands in the world, a 50-mile-wide “river of grass” that flows from Lake Okeechobee to the southern tip of Florida.  Everglades National Park was created in 1947 to protect a portion of the Glades, however, continued development, diversion of water for agriculture and human use, and water pollution threaten its existence.   The State of Florida and federal government plan to spend about 10 billion dollars over the next 30 years to restore and maintain the remaining portions of the Everglades, but the future is still uncertain.

Last week we stayed at Midway Campground on the Tamiami Trail, which is located in Big Cypress National Preserve just west of Everglades National Park.  Big Cypress is a swamp—specifically a cypress tree swamp.  So in the future, remember that swamps have trees and marshes have grasses or similar vegetation.

Big Cypress 053_crop

Our campsite at Midway Campground—a nice little campground except there are no showers.  We felt sorry for the campers in tents.

Both the Everglades and Big Cypress are not easy parks to see and to appreciate.  They are huge with limited access but if you make the effort to get out into the parks, visiting them can be very rewarding.

One of the best ways to visit the Big Cypress National Preserve is by kayak.  The Preserve feeds water to several creeks and rivers that flow into the Everglades to the Gulf of Mexico.  We use our own kayaks but the park also gives tours and private kayak outfitters in Everglades City also give very good guided trips.

We kayaked on Halfway Creek which is a well-marked paddling trail located directly behind the Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center.  Here are some photos.

Big Cypress 013

Patty on Halfway Creek

Big Cypress 019

A Quill-leaf growing on a tree along the creek

Big Cypress 025

Heading into the mangroves—the southern borders of Big Cypress and the Everglades are populated with mangrove trees that are able to live on the brackish water near the coast.  (Wetlands + mangrove trees = mangrove swamp.)

Big Cypress 043

Patty in a mangrove tunnel—many of the places we kayak in Big Cypress have tunnels
that are so small that we have to break our paddles in two to maneuver through the mangroves.

Big Cypress 039

Maneuvering in a mangrove tunnel—Ed had Patty go first because she has a rudder so her kayak is more maneuverable.  This worked well until she started running into spider webs and a spider fell into her kayak and climbed up the leg of her shorts.

Big Cypress 046

Heading back—Patty survived the spider attacks.

One of the best places to see the Everglades is at Shark Valley on the Tamiami Trail.  There is a 15-mile paved trail that you can explore by walking, biking, or by riding a tram.  We biked the trail and were amazed at the variety and the numbers of wildlife.  Here are some photos.

Shark Valley 2 007

Patty on the Shark Valley trail

Shark Valley 2 020

Another view of Patty on the trail—we visited Clyde Butcher’s photo gallery, who has been called the Ansel Adams of the southeast.  He is known for his beautiful black-and-white photography of Big Cypress and the Everglades—this is Ed’s attempt. You can see Clyde’s photos on his web site:

Shark Valley 135

Patty and friend on the trail

Gators Collage

As always, alligators were everywhere.  Note the young alligators in the bottom right photo—Mom seems bored.

Birds1 Collage

We saw almost every type of bird we have seen in the Everglades on this one bike ride.  Starting at lower left and going clockwise: a Little Blue Heron, an Anhinga drying its wings, a Snowy Egret, and an Anhinga who is getting ready to eat a fish it just caught. It swallowed it whole in about one second.

Birds2 Collage

More birds—starting at lower left and going clockwise: a Purple Gallinule, a Great Blue Heron, a Wood Stork, a Black-crowned Night Heron

Flowers Collage

Wildflowers and some pollinators

Some people might question why we are spending so much money to save the Everglades.  We hope the photos in this week’s blog provide a little indication of why this irreplaceable natural resource should be preserved.

[Editor’s Note: For those who would like to learn more about the history of the Everglades and recent restoration efforts, Ed highly recommends “The Swamp” by Michael Grunwald.]

9 thoughts on “The Glades

  1. I am amazed at all of your travels. What a great time you are having; doing what you love to do. The Everglades was right by where I was born and grew up, in the Miami area, but I had never been to the Everglades until about 5 years ago. We really didn’t do much, not like you guys, but we did get to their welcome center and looked around. We will have to get back at some point. I am not really an outdoors men but Tom loves it!. Were there any mosquitoes this time of the year? Happy Trails to you both.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s