Explore America’s Everglades

Begoñe Cazalis, Director of Communications, The Everglades Foundation
Explore America’s Everglades

Less than one hour away from bustling Miami is Everglades National Park – a World Heritage Site, a UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Importance. And there’s more. The greater Everglades ecosystem provides freshwater for 9 million residents of the fast-growing South Florida region and – when healthy – the vast expanse of vegetation sequesters carbon and provides resiliency.

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When exploring the Everglades, you might encounter magnificent, rare orchids and unspoiled cypress hammocks, as well as more than 2,000 species of plants and animals. The region shares the same latitude as the Sahara Desert but receives upwards of 60 inches of rainfall yearly – all compressed into a six-month wet season. In other words, winter is the perfect time to visit.

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Did you know that the Everglades is actually a slow-moving river?

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As agriculture and development took hold in Florida during the 1940s, draining the Everglades became an unfortunate objective. A 2,000-mile spiderweb of canals, levees, spillways, floodgates, and pumps, was constructed to thwart the water's natural southward flow. Instead, this vital water was diverted out of Lake Okeechobee directly to the east and west coasts, harming those coastal estuaries and communities. Man's effort to replumb the Everglades left it in despair. The ecosystem no longer existed as a flourishing river of grass.

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The ecosystem's fate changed in 1993, when two businessmen and fishing buddies were appalled by what was happening to the Florida Bay fishing grounds they loved. Together, they formed The Everglades Foundation to restore and protect America's Everglades which provides the freshwater needed to keep Florida Bay healthy.

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Today, restoration work is moving forward with great momentum. However, increased federal and state investment is still needed. Massive reservoirs, canals, and stormwater treatment areas are being built to store billions of gallons of freshwater so it can be cleaned and sent south along its historic route towards Everglades National Park and Florida Bay.

Where To Visit, What To Do

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With Everglades restoration projects already improving this valuable ecosystem, it’s a better time to visit than ever. Next up, our top tips for visiting the Everglades:

Tip 1
Read up on visiting the Everglades at night, and then book a trip to photograph unique night skies and nocturnal animals – safely!
Tip 2
Get ready for some impressive animal watching. This is the only place in the world where you can see alligators and crocodiles living together, and where birds like the roseate spoonbill, white ibis, and Everglade snail kite feast and raise their young.
Tip 3
Take a sketchbook. The region encompasses various habitats such as tropical hardwood hammocks (island forests), mangrove swamps, cypress and pine forests, and freshwater prairie.
Tip 4
Know your entrances to the Everglades. There are two in Homestead (Flamingo Visitor Center and Royal Palm). The third, the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City, is used primarily for boaters. The fourth – and busiest – entrance is Shark Valley, which has a 15-mile bike trail and lots of gators along the way.
Tip 5
If you are interested in fishing on your own, be sure to get your permits in order. Independent fishers will need two licenses – one for saltwater and another for freshwater fishing. These separate Florida permits can be obtained from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Want to learn more about the Everglades? Visit NPS.gov/ever. For more information about supporting The Everglades Foundation, please visit evergladesfoundation.org/giving.

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