Among the 59 national parks located in the United States, the Florida Everglades is perhaps one of the most well known. Everglades National Park was established to protect the southern 20% of what was considered the original Everglades, and today is the largest tropical wilderness located in the United States. Incredibly popular among tourists to Florida from all over the world, Everglades National Park boasts an average of over a million visitors each year.
Unlike most national parks in the United States, which were generally established in order to preserve unique geographic features, such as mountains and coral reefs, Everglades National Park was the very first to be established in order to preserve a fragile ecosystem. Unfortunately, human activity has caused severe damage throughout the Everglades, and although the park was officially established in 1934 to try and protect the quickly vanishing wilderness, the park’s further restoration and protection remains a hot topic of debate in Florida politics, even today.
Today, Everglades National Park is home to 36 threatened and protected species, as well as more than:
- 350 species of bird
- 300 species of fish
- 50 species of reptile
- 40 species of mammal
Because Everglades National Park contains a mix of freshwater and saltwater, an extremely vast and varied population of both plants and animals have made their home here. With one of the largest mangrove ecosystems in the entire world, the area is also considered one of the largest breeding grounds for tropical wading birds in all of North America. This statistic is especially amazing when considering that the plume hunting craze of the late 1800′s and early 1900′s almost wiped out all the birds in the area completely, with some estimates as high as a 95% shore bird population loss.
Everglades National Park is most popular for visitors between the months of December and March, which is considered the dry season throughout southern Florida. Camping is available year round and there are several walking trails available at varying levels of difficulty, though some are impassable depending on water levels during specific times of year or after heavy rainfall. While the park hosts four conveniently located visitor centers for information, food, and canoe/kayak rentals, the park can also be accessed from numerous trails along nearby state roads. Despite the numerous access points surrounding the park, there are still many areas that are only accessible by boat.
A large portion of the areas located within the park are considered no-wake zones, in order to protect fragile wildlife, and especially manatees, from even low-powered motorboats. Because much of the Everglades is unnavigable by powerboat anyway, airboat tours tend to be one of the more common modes of transportation when traveling through the Everglades. Because the majority of an airboat’s construction sits above the water, airboat rides have proved useful when skimming across the shallows of the Everglades at high speeds, accessing areas that couldn’t possibly be safely accessed any other way. To experience the Everglades on an airboat for yourself this summer, schedule an airboat ride with Captain Mitch and his crew today!