The first time I saw the Everglades was more than 30 years ago, when I was a child dragged by my parents from Chicago. Buggy, hot and flat, which I put my eyes on a sodden meadow, and it did not impress me much. But there is a reason why the Glades remained savage long after the continent had been "conquered", why the Seminoles migrated for so long in their strongholds of the United States Army. Even today, this national park is massive. Its 1.5 million acres, mostly inaccessible, make it the third largest national park in the lower 48 after Death Valley and Yellowstone. Now, after living on its doorstep for 20 years, I have been captivated by its untamed nature.
A general term for many different ecosystems, the Everglades once spanned more than 200 miles, from the Kissimmee River in Orlando, to the south, passing through Lake Okeechobee, to the southern tip of the state and the Gulf of Mexico. Today, the national park conserves only 20 percent of that, and cities, suburbs and agricultural lands lean on its edges. But the preserved Glades are as wild as it gets. Crocodiles and alligators, the Florida panther, the manatees and a great amount of flora, fauna and invasive species of all kinds call the place their home. Fragile and ever-changing, this Unesco World Heritage site is under the threat of a real flood as sea levels rise, as well as the proliferation of red and blue-green algae (possibly caused by agricultural runoff). ), which have been devastating in recent years. The Glades are also an important area of dark sky, a sanctuary for migratory birds and raptors, and a refuge to get completely lost and forget that the modern world exists at all. Here is how to do that.
I need to know
There are two main seasons in the Everglades: wet and dry. From April to October, it is so hot and humid that even the shortest trips can run out, and some park facilities, such as the remote Flamingo Visitor Center, only have intermittent staff. I found myself cleaning masses of mosquitoes from my bloody arms in summer, and non-spectators can be even worse, making crazy hearts go crazy. The result is that there are fewer crowds during these months. The dry season, which runs from November to March, can be idyllic and mild. But whatever the season, pack insect repellent or nets, and get ready for the rain.
Around the park, especially its western parameters, there are small and interesting cities like the City of Everglades, which some of the legendary Gladesmen (non-native people who managed to decipher the mysteries of the swamp and forge life on the borders) still call home. The area of the Everglades city was so lawless in the recent past that purportedly bales of cocaine and marijuana were washed regularly on the coast. In 2017, Hurricane Irma crossed the area and people who live there are still recovering.
Finally, there is no better way to prepare for a trip to the park than to pick up a copy of The Everglades: River of grass, by the late journalist and conservationist Marjory Stoneman Douglas. A seminal work on the unique ecology of South Florida, the book was published in 1947, the same year that the Glades were designated a national park. The ecosystem was not seen as worthy of being saved by the many developers who drained and abandoned this region throughout the 20th century. That a significant part of the remains of the Everglades is due in large part to Douglas's activism.
The Glades are so wide that seven airports serve as access points. Although some require longer disk drives than others, no more than four hours (and much less) are missing. Then, it is best to combine your arrival city with other things you would like to do: Orlando has theme parks; Tampa and Miami, nightlife and museums; Sarasota, Fort Myers and Naples, haute cuisine restaurants, golf and charter fishing; and Key West, Hemingway kitsch, history and endless margaritas.
Once you choose your airport, there are three main entrances and four visitor centers, as well as an information station in the park. The visitor centers of Shark Valley and Ernest F. Cole and the Royal Palm Information and Library Station, which can be easily accessed from Miami, are close to the civilization on the east side of the park and offer programs run by ranger. The 45-foot tall, 360-degree observation tower at Shark Valley is a popular stop. On the west side of the park, in Everglades City, you can easily access the Gulf Coast Visitor Center from Naples and it is the best entry point for the Ten Thousand Islands coastal region, a paradise for bird watching , fishing and kayaking. There is also the Flamingo Visitor Center in Florida Bay, at the southern end of the park, accessible by car from Miami or by boat from the east and west coasts of the state.
Access to the highway is simple. On the west side, US Route 41 UU It is the only road from Tampa, Sarasota, Fort Myers or Naples. From Miami, Route 41 of the United States and State Highway 9336 of Florida, which becomes Main Park Road, are the main entry points. From Orlando, any side is equally convenient. But no matter where you come from, if you want to explore the West Coast, where the river of grass meets the sea, it is easier to bring your own canoe or kayak or rent one in Everglades City at Ivey House. Beware: the waters are shallow and the underwater environment is fragile. If you get stuck in the mud, you will have to get out of your boat and push, which destroys the underwater habitat of seagrass. Deep seekers should be used, and it is also essential to know the tides and nautical maps and to know the vulnerable manatees.
Despite the massive size of the park, traditional camp and RV camping services are limited to only two sites within the park. The Long Pine Key camp, near the Royal Palm information station, only opens from November to April, while the Flamingo camp is open year-round ($ 20 per night, $ 30 for electrical connections at both sites) and offers rental of boats. It is recommended to reserve during the dry season.
There are plenty of places to camp on the beach of the Gulf of Mexico on the west coast of the park, and most of the park is only accessible by canoe, kayak or boat, so campers in rural areas will be rewarded with loneliness like few other places left in the United States. Plan your trip seriously and pack your canoe or kayak with enough food and water for the duration of your trip. You should also know how to navigate with GPS and nautical maps; It is easy to get lost in this panorama of repetitive reference points. Permits to camp in rural areas are only granted in order of arrival in person at the Flamingo and Gulf Coast visitor centers. ($ 15 fee, plus $ 2 per day during the dry season, free during the wet season).
If you like the bed and the shower, Everglades City is an excellent base camp. The city has a museum, restaurants and an eclectic variety of robust inhabitants. The places to stay include Ivey House B & B (from $ 109) and the cabins at the turn of the century Rod and gun (from $ 99). Self-service options for extended stays include the recently reopened Captain & # 39; s Table Resort (from $ 99), ideal for large groups, and the one- and two-bedroom oceanfront condos at River Wilderness. You can also rent kayaks and equipment at Ivey House, make trips in gigs in the swamp and hire excursions and fishing guides approved by the park that will take you to the Glades.
Most of the park's one million annual visitors do not penetrate far beyond a walking tour of the visitor center, but the Glades offer countless activities for those wishing to challenge the labyrinth-like waters, the tall grasses and the islands. of mangroves. Regardless of the activities you choose, they will all have at least one thing in common: they will probably get wet.
If you're a bird watcher, there's no better place in the country to mark your life list than the Everglades, which has more than 360 winged species. Just choose a bird on your list, for me it's always the pink spatula sauteed and pinkish, and in the Glades you know you're going to see it. White herons and wood storks are everywhere, osprey and bald eagles that steal their fish circling above, and if you find a place of luck in the mangroves, flock after crowd of curved beak ibis will slide on your head when they return home To rest at night. Watch for black skimmers, a shorebird that is bouncing; you will know them as birds with the shape of seagulls with an incredible bite that seems to have no eyes due to its black and white coloration. Reserve tickets online for the Shark Valley tram to see waders, such as limpkins. Kayakers can turn a corner in the islands and mangroves and encounter a colony full of hundreds of birds: ibis, herons, egrets, storks, anhingas and cormorants in abundance, and the migration periods of spring and autumn. We offer you dozens of species a day without any struggle. Even if you never leave your car, you will see birds. That is the charm of the Glades.
Launch your canoe or kayak at the Flamingo or Gulf Coast Visitor Centers for a one-day or two-week expedition. Between the two points there are 100 miles of interconnected, watery wilderness areas, off-piste camps and some marked canoe trails to keep from getting lost. The 5.2-mile circuit that traverses the grass marshes and mangrove islands around Nine Mile Pond is a favorite for hikers. Even so, those who get lost in their way keep the park rangers with regular rescues. If you want an expert to guide you, Tour The Glades, based in Everglades City, offers excellent private ecotourism.
The water is cloudy and full of creatures that dot near your ship. Do not worry, the usual cause of concussion is not the alligators but the red mullet, a fish that is found here and is an important part of the food chain. For some reason that scientists still do not understand, the fish of a thick body of a foot loves to jump out of the water, and this happens all day. You will see crocodiles, but they will leave you alone. That said, I keep my distance from any reptile longer than it is tall. If you camp on the beach, do not step on the nests of sea turtles, and if you sail or sail along the coast, at some point you will be accompanied by dolphins.
There are more than 70 types of fish you can catch here, and the first step to landing them is to obtain an online license on the Florida Wildlife and Fish Conservation Commission's website (the park itself has some special regulations that they are described here). The light tackle is fine for freshwater areas. I use crawlers and I land a lot of panfish, catfish and bass. Unfortunately, it is also likely that you will encounter the invasive catfish of Southeast Asia, a creature that can "walk" on its front flippers on land to infest more and more bodies of water. If you catch one, you can let go. But if you decide to stay with one, by law you have to kill him.
In the brackish water of the mangroves, anything can happen, and you never know what you're going to hook, from the delicious and beautiful black striped ox to the equally delicious sheep and snapper. I use live shrimp as bait both here and in salt water. If you want to land a tarpon, one of the best saltwater fish in the region, the heavier tackle and wire leaders are mandatory, and it's better to go out with a guide. They have local knowledge and all the expensive equipment that will improve your chance of narrow lines.
One of the great joys of my life was learning how to launch a ten foot net with lead skirt for the red mullet. It is not easy, but all the local guides can offer lessons for those who are determined and interested. These fish will not take a hook, but if you have the shoulder and the central force to launch the net, it is a true experience in South Florida, and you can get a biblical reward for these delicious silver beauties.
Everglades City remains a fishing paradise, as it was not hit by the red tide that devastated the state in 2018. Among the featured fishing guides are Jimmy Wheeler and Jesse Hill, although as Kathy Brock, editor of the Everglades City newspaper , The Mullet RapperHe says, "All our guides here are good, they can not survive if they are not."
Short, interpretive trails are offered at all the park's visitor centers, but while they are wonderful and easy, they do not satisfy those who are looking for a demanding all-day hike. For that, go to the Old Ingraham Highway, which is accessed from Royal Palm, for a round trip of 20 miles in absolute solitude on what was once a paved road, but has long fallen into a wild decadence. The Coastal Prairie Trail, which is accessed from Flamingo, is a 15-mile round trip that offers a campground at Clubhouse Beach. The campsite requires a permit obtained at the Flamingo Visitor Center.
If you are pressed for time or if you want a better understanding of the Glades ecosystem, sign up for a guided aerial boat tour. At the north end of the park, right next to the USA. US, Three approved hovercraft companies in the park, Coopertown, Everglades Safari Park and Gator Park, will take you to areas adjacent to the park (no air boats are allowed in the park itself due to the risk of damaging the fragile submerged flora) , teaching you the unique environments of the region as you go.
Eat and drink
Compare in Everglades City and find a menu that offers smoked mullet. Taste a damp, uneven delicacy. The restaurants include City Seafood, Island Café and Camellia Street Grill throughout the year, as well as the Triad Seafood Market and Havana Café in season. Also look for any menu that offers wild pig. The first Spanish explorers in Florida brought domesticated Iberian pigs as street vendors. Some escaped, and now more than half a million Spanish pigs consider Florida their home. In Spain, these animals were bred with acorns and to this day they are considered the highest quality meat in that country. Here on this peninsula, they roam freely through the Everglades, destroying the environment with their snouts shaped like an excavator, which means that their meat is delicious and good for the environment.
Season of stone crab extends from October to May. After taking only one claw of these thick-shell crustaceans, the fishermen throw the live crabs back into the water, where they will regenerate the missing claw for three years. All local restaurants have them.
Speaking of crab, I prefer the blue variety, which you can catch in the mangroves. Do not bother with a trap (although you can set up to five if you insist). Just toss any piece of meat on a hook, and as soon as your line becomes tight, wind it very slowly: the crabs are so greedy that they will not let it go. All you need is an immersion network. Sexuate them in the capture, and free any female. The males have a thin and thin "apron" at the bottom, while the aprons of the females are wide and triangular. No special permit is required and there is no better food in the field. They are delicious boiled alive in a pot.
If you can, plan your trip for early February, when Everglades City holds its annual Everglades Seafood Festival. Their post-Irma recovery capacity was fully exhibited in 2018 when more than 60,000 people descended to show their support and eat local seafood of all varieties while enjoying local live music.
If you fly to Orlando, stop by Eatonville, a city founded by African Americans in the late nineteenth century and now consumed by the expansion of Orlando. It is the site of the acclaimed novel by the writer Zora Neale Hurston. His eyes looked to God, which has many scenes set in the Everglades and is a chronicle of the 1928 hurricane, during which the shores of Lake Okeechobee overflowed into the Glades and killed 2,500 Floridians, including many poor African-Americans. Like Stoneman's. The everglades, Hurston's novel must be read before any visit to Glades. Popular attractions include the Zora Neale Hurston National Museum of Fine Arts and, in late January, the popular Zora Festival, which is in its 30th year.
Those in the Keys should make sure to walk the trails of the Dagny Johnson Key Largo Botanical Hammock State Park. In ecological terms, a hammock is a type of habitat found in the driest and highest elevations in the region, and this park is home to one of the largest hardwood hammocks in the West Indies in the world. In Key West, get on the Yankee Freedom III for a walk to Garden Key and Dry Tortugas National Park. Explore the imposing Fort Jefferson before paddling a rental kayak to Loggerhead Key to camp on the island or snorkel Windjammer, a shipwreck of the 19th century. And off the coast of Summerland Key is Looe Key Reef, my favorite place to dive in the Keys. Part of the National Marine Sanctuary of the Florida Keys, this is a special area for the preservation of the sanctuary. Corals are under threat throughout the region due to climate change and ocean acidification, but Looe Key is full of corals and fish and reminds us of how things went.
The Tamiami Trail, a 60-mile stretch of the US UU 41 that traverses Florida from east to west along the northern edge of the Everglades, offers campgrounds and RV parks. You will also find many Miccosukee indigenous villages recognized at the federal level, recognizable by their thatched houses and security doors. At Miccosukee Indian Village and Airboats, you can see demonstrations of woodcarving, beadwork, basketry and making dolls, as well as sample unique dishes such as frog and pumpkin breads and frog legs or demonstrations of caiman crowds. During the last week of December, the Miccosukee also hosts the Festival of Indian Arts and Arts.
The trail is also home to the Big Cypress Gallery of Clyde Butcher. Known as the Ansel Adams of the Everglades, the famous photographer, friend of mine and many other environmentalists of South Florida, struggled to support his family and make a living for most of his life. But after the death of his 17-year-old son in 1986, Butcher entered the Everglades to heal himself and produced his now iconic black-and-white photographs of the wild places of the region. Today even Queen Isabel has one of her prints. His gallery, located almost halfway between Naples and Miami, offers stays and tours on foot. If you are lucky, Butcher will be there during your visit. With health problems, it is still a library of information on the history of conservation work that made possible the conservation of the Everglades.
Source:https://www.outsideonline.com/2393766/everglades-national-park-travel-guideAdditional Tags for this post:
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