Everglades National Park is the third largest NP in the country exceeded only Death Valley and Yellowstone (we visited both this year). Most of it is only accessible via water and most of the water is not navigable. This unique landscape is created from lake Okeechobee overflowing its banks and slowly flowing to the Florida bay. The fresh water of the lake and salt water of the bay create a unique ecosystem, the only place in the world where alligators and crocodile comingle.
We were fortunate enough to see a crocodile, but did not see any alligators which are more prevalent.
The “sea of grass” as they call the “rivers” that flow thru the everglades is very slow moving at approximately two feet per minute. I believe I have seen ants that move faster than that!!! The picture shows the main flow area, but everywhere is covered in shallow water.
The park and river rest on a layer of limestone which is very porous but in many places low in nutrients. Many of these places are covered in dwarf cypress forests. These trees are mature, but not great in stature.
The fauna in the park is quite varied apparently it is not all low in nutrients. Not only cypress which would be expected in a swampish area, but three different kinds of mangrove thrive. The most prevalent are the red mangroves, the red is from the red “roots” or branches that grow downwards and eventually connect with the underlaying soil to create spider like root system.
Note the scummy stuff covering the water surface is periphyton a necessary algae like substance. It protects small marine life feeds larger life and is a general necessity. Although it gets really gross in some more shallow less traveled areas. it is about an inch thick and pretty spongy, no smell. Around the mangroves as above it was not as weird as in the grass lands where it became cigar shaped, see below.
The black mangroves have an interesting feature. They have snorkels. These roots grow up from the surrounding soil to allow the plants to breath.
Another beautiful fauna in the park are the air plants and bromeliads. These plants attach themselves to hosts trees/plants and are fed from the rain and humidity in the park. They hold water in their cup shaped bases and can go a long time without rain during the dry winter season. Insects and sometimes small reptiles (snakes/lizards) also live in their watery cups. These plants do not harm their host plant they simply find a home in the branches. A lot are much smaller than these.
There was not as much wildlife as I was expecting. I was hoping for more birds visiting for the winter. Big Cypress National Wildlife Preserve we passed thru on the way from the west coast was teaming with birds and we may go back that way this week? But as mentioned before we did spot a crocodile, had lunch next to an osprey net, saw a swimming turtle and a softshell sea turtle crossing the road. Luckily a vehicle behind us stopped and helped the turtle off the road cause it was gone when we turned around and they were stopped near where we saw it.
We used the kayaks again, twice in two weeks, (more than in several months out west…) on nine-mile lake. The trip was approximately 3.5 miles and wound thru both mangrove forests and grassy lands. The water was so clear and really showed off the underwater fauna life of the park. Luckily the path was well marked by the park service or we would still be trying to find our way back. It was a beautiful paddle but a little long on my tush!!! Practice makes perfect and we anticipate practicing a lot in the keys.
Other random thoughts, you know the land is flat if they mark a pass at 3 feet, you know the land is flat if a change in elevation of inches creates a “hammock” or wooded island, you know the land is flat if the river flows at two feet per minute.
I would be amiss to not mention the recent hurricanes and damage the area incurred. There was a lot of downed trees, sea grass washed up into areas where it did not belong, trees just beginning to regain their leaves and most obviously this dock. Not sure if a mini tornado hit or just massive winds.
Either way our visit shortly after the storms reminds me that no matter how devastating an event (natural or manmade) is in the life of a tree, ecosystem, planet, person etc. we can overcome and carry on. This sentiment applies to random events, terrorism events, life struggles, life failures, hurricanes, ice storms, life and death.
Peace and love…