Everglades National Park

Immense Swamp Full of Alligators, Birds, Black Bears and Cougars

The Everglades in Florida is actually nothing more than a hundred-kilometre-wide river. That is only a few centimetres deep and flows extremely slowly. These are the world-famous Glades, as the Americans lovingly call this subtropical area. Where you can encounter countless wild animals. These are my tips for the best sights and excursions in the Everglades.

The nature reserve is often featured in movies and TV series such as CSI Miami, where it is consistently depicted as a wild and inhospitable area. And it still is, as the Everglades have survived the large-scale colonization of America because the (white) man cannot live there due to the hordes of mosquitoes. Various Native American tribes have lived in harmony with nature for centuries.

Today, this part of Florida has become a natural icon. And the Everglades represent endless grassy plains in the water, treacherous swamps, and remarkably abundant wildlife. This even makes it unique in the world. Various nature parks have been created in this area, including the famous Everglades National Park. With an animal that everyone wants to see; the American alligator.

Bike through Shark Valley

Cycling in Shark Valley in the Everglades National Park in Florida.

It sounds bizarre, but Shark Valley in the northwest of the Everglades can be traversed by bike (and on foot). While alligators lie sunbathing on the side of the road. And they don't move aside. Will you? You can simply rent a bike and set off.

Airboat Ride through the Everglades

Cruise the Everglades by air boat.

This is an unprecedented experience. Speeding over the water in a boat. You will be given earplugs to protect you from the noise of the engine. The captain will drive at an incredible speed, while also showing you alligators. A remarkable excursion.

Swamp Walk in the Everglades

Swamp walk with a guide in the Everglades National Park. ©Corno van den Berg

This excursion is the ideal way to see the area in a different way. This is done under the guidance of a guide. You will go with a small group. A wonderful hike, which is quite exciting.

Hike the Anhinga Trail

The Anhinga Trail in the Everglades.

The Anhinga Trail is world-famous. There are few places in the world where you can encounter so many different species of animals. A hiking route has been created in the swamp of the Everglades, complete with wooden boardwalks, allowing you to get up close to the animals, who are used to humans. 

This hiking trail is perfect for alligators, birds like the Anhinga, turtles, and much more. It can get busy, so go early in the morning. Bring some food and drinks with you and see the world awaken.

Pa-Hay-Okee Outlook

The Pa-Hay-Okee Outlook is the best place to see the vastness of the Everglades. It is a short walking trail to an observation platform. You often see alligators and many birds. 

It is a popular spot for watching the sunset, where you can see the sun sinking into the marshes. Bring some snacks and enjoy.

Big Cypress National Preserve

A lynx at the Big Cypress National Preserve.

Big Cypress National Preserve borders the Everglades. It is an immense nature reserve with a remarkable amount of wildlife. This reserve was supposed to become part of the adjacent Everglades National Park in 1947, but a significant portion of the area was already owned by the Miccosukee and Seminole Indians. Furthermore, large tracts of land had already been sold to white settlers. As a result, it was given a separate status. The Indians are still allowed to use this area, including for hunting, for example. 

While local residents are allowed to drive around in their special off-road vehicles (including "swampbuggies"). This has caused a lot of commotion in recent years, especially among nature conservationists who fear for the survival of this reserve. In 2001, numerous dirt roads were therefore closed for these vehicles.

Flora of the Everglades

In the park, more than fifty species of orchids have been found. The blooming season is in spring and early summer. Bald cypresses are the most common trees in the park. The length depends on the conditions; there are dwarf trees that are considered as a subspecies. Even though it is a conifer, like the larch, it loses its needles in winter. 

Marsh grasses (or saw grasses) grow abundantly in the water. They give the area the nickname river of grass. On the higher (dryer) spots, royal palms, gumbo-limbo trees, and mahogany trees grow. Red, white, and black mangroves live on the transition to the sea. This diversity makes the Everglades even more special.

History of Everglades National Park

The history of the formation of this immense marsh is exceptional. Underneath the area lies an immense limestone plateau. As a result, the water cannot easily flow away and this 'river' only flows a few centimetres per hour towards the south. The Everglades has a unique flora because of this. The source of all this lies in the watershed of the Kissimmee River, south of Orlando.

The water passes through various types of landscapes on its way to the south. Such as vast grasslands, which in some places transition into 'hammocks', areas where mahogany trees and palms grow on dead material. It ends in a collision with the Gulf of Mexico, called Whitewater Bay. Here, open water in the form of rivers, creeks, and shallow lakes can be found. And almost everything is covered with an immense mangrove forest.

As water becomes increasingly scarce in the world, the Everglades is also one of the problem children. The 6,000 km2 park is at risk of succumbing to the growing water demand. Everyone (farmers, residents of the east coast, and the numerous animals) is fighting for the precious water. This has led to the construction of countless canals and locks. In total, over 2,000 kilometers of waterworks like these have been built. And there is much more to come.

Best Time to Visit the Everglades

The park has roughly two seasons.

The Dry 'Tourist Season' (November to May)

The water level slowly drops, causing life to concentrate around the remaining ponds. This makes it easier to spot the animals.

The Season of the 'Mosquitoes and Sand Fleas' (June to October)

It's simple, you really shouldn't be here after June. The wet season starts in May, causing a large part of the Everglades to be completely flooded.

For more information: www.nps.gov/ever

My Tips

Show all Bucket List Tips on United States of America

Read My Tips

all 44 articles on United States of America

Show all articles