EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK

Today we took a ride to the Everglades National park, about a 35 mile journey from where we are in Key Largo. We drove through Florida City to the visitor center which is in the south-east part of the park. After paying our $25.00 tariff fee(can’t wait till I am 62 1/2 so I can get the National park pass and get in for free) we drove to our first stop. As I mentioned before this is the only road down here and it is 38 miles long and ends at Flamingo, where there is a visitor center and large campground. This is where the Everglades stop and the water empties into Florida bay. The road, which had to be constructed over the glades, is one way each way and is dated. It is about 2 feet above sea level or so. In total we went to four stops and went about 25 miles on the road. Before I get to all that a little history.

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All the water that goes into the glades comes from Lake Okeechobee, about 150 miles to the north .Over millenia and still today, it overflows every summer, and created what we know today as the Everglades. It moves very slowly and has over time created what they call a Slough , which means a slow-moving body of water in a shallow channel. This channel about 40 or 50 miles wide  at one time would let the water flow in the summer and dry out in the winter time. Before 1880 this area was deemed pretty much useless and  uninhabitable. But that all changes after 1880, man stepped in and started to make drainage ways ,dam up and dike the areas, and provide water for the many of thousands of people who were coming down here. This altered the glades and now the slough is only about 20 miles wide. Trivia, Most of Miami used to be under water before 1900. Anyway the glades have survived, back to our visit.

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Map of the road we took.

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Our first stop was Royal Palm, just inside the park, in the early 1900’s it was a county park. If you remember I said Miami was created after draining the glades, So was Florida City, which is the southern most city before you go to the keys. anyway as a park this area sits on what is called a Hammock. A Hammock is a raised area made of limestone and created when the glaciers moved on. They are not to be confused with Keys. Keys are formed out of living coral over many thousands of years. I.E. ,Key Largo, Key West etc. A hammock can be large or very small, but all have the same thing in common, they have trees on them ,mostly hardwoods and pines. There roots are very shallow and these areas are mostly dry. Around a Hammock are formed motes, areas of deeper water where the mangroves and other small rooted trees are. They bring in an abundance of sea life to them and help keep the water clean. Out in the slough we have the seagrass and all the other plants that like water

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A walkway out to a Hammock

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The interior of a hammock

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This area is full of slash pine trees. Notice the area has been burned to get ride of all the lower vegetation, they do this all over the park so large fires don’t start.

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The expanse of the slough area now mostly dry as it is winter here.

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Small Hammocks

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These are bald cypress, they look dead, but are dormant in the winter months here.

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Back to Royal palm, which is a large Hammock. It used to be a park. At the time it was full of old growth palm trees, but in 1917 a large fire consumed most of the trees. The people of Florida city along with other important men, started campaigning to the federal government that this area along with a large portion of the Everglades should be protected and In 1947 it was. Royal palm is a very good place to see the slough in action ,as the water moves south toward Florida bay. Trivia, in 1960 they put a Niki base close to hear, which had a number of missiles aimed at Cuba. Shortly afetr it was operational they had a 10 day rain and it flooded the bays underground where the missles were. It was then shut down. Also it put Florida city on the may with all the workers, before that it was a hick town.

We took two walks here one out into the slough and one on the Hammock.IMG_2638

Some of the walkway on the Slough

IMG_2631An alligator?? I thought he was fake, Nope real about 10 feet long.

IMG_2635Another one sunning himself by the walkway, about 10 feet long

IMG_2636This one in the slough itself.

IMG_2634A big bird, don’t know what it was.IMG_2639A White Abis, these are all over the park.

IMG_2654Not sure??

IMG_2637Purple gallinue

We also took 3 other trails in the park, which all had different types of ecosystems to see.

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