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Everglades National Park (3)  


Introduction

History

Everglades Landforms

Gators

Birds

Royal Palm

Shark Valley

Pa-Hay-Okee

Vegetation

Florida Bay

Lakes & Waterways

Visitor Areas

Big Cypress

References


Royal Palm

One of the most popular visitor stops in the park is the Royal Palm area. This area features a couple trails, spectacular views of wildlife and vegetation, and a visitor center, shown below.





Royal Palm takes its name from the towering palm trees which can be found in the area. The royal palm is the tallest of the palm trees. Many of these magnificent trees were removed in earlier days to decorate populated areas. The tall trees are also vulnerable to high winds; Hurricane Andrew knocked over 20-25% of the royal palms.



The Royal Palm area is situated on Pardise Key, a hammock above the sawgrass marsh. The biological treasures of Paradise Key were discovered in 1893 in visits by H.P. Rolfs of the University of Florida and Dr. N.L. Button, Director of the New York Botanical Gardens. The visit generated ideas for preserving the area as a national park.



Paradise Key and the Royal Palm area was the first part of the Everglades to be preserved, with 120 acres dedicated as a state park on November 22, 1916. The area was later donated to the National Park Service to be incorporated into the boundaries of the Everglades National Park. The first road in the Everglades was built to Paradise Key in 1915, and later extended to Flamingo in 1922. These roads opened the park to exploration and exploitation. A lodge was built at Royal Palm in 1919, and the Civilian Conservation Corps did work in the area in 1934.

Paradise Key is surrounded by the extensive sawgrass marshes. Another view of the sawgrass includes a lone egret.



The Royal Palm area also lays next to Taylor Slough, one of the two major "rivers" which carry fresh water through the park toward Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. There is a man-made canal in the Royal Palm area next to the slough which is full of water even during the dry season.



The wetlands are surrounded by lots of vegetation, including sawgrass and lily pads.



The Royal Palm area features two popular trails. The .3 mile Anhinga Trail (below) leads through a man-made canal along the edge of Taylor Slough, including sections on a boardwalk, and provides spectacular access to wildlife, particularly during the dry season. At this time wildlife congregates in the area because of the abundance of water in this particular area. This boardwalk was largely destroyed by 1992's Hurricane Andrew.



The Gumbo-Limbo Trail (below) runs through Paradise Key (right). Also .3 mile, it provides access to the thicket of vegetation found in a hardwood hammock. This trail was substantially altered by the destructive effects of Hurricane Andrew also.



In the dry season wildlife Taylor Slough and the canal at Royal Palm are favorite gathering places for the park's wading birds. Below, a heron stands motionless in the water stalking prey.



Another shot of the great blue heron in the evening light, waiting the feed, is shown below.



The trees along the water also provide perches for many of the area's birds. An ibis and an anhinga can be seen perched on branches above the water near the Anhinga Trail.



Birds are not the only wildlife found at Royal Palm. Turtles, such as the one below, can also be sighted. These animals like to lounge in the sun, warming themselves and providing relief from leeches and algae which grows on their backs. There are 16 species of turtles in the Everglades.



Because of its access to plentiful wildlife as well as views of various Eveglades landforms the Royal Palm area is one of the most popular places for visitors in the entire park.



Shark Valley

Another popular site to see the Everglades is Shark Valley. This area is located at the northern border of the park near the Big Cypress Preserve.



This visitor area provides access to the Shark River Slough, one of the major routes of fresh water through the glades. The Shark River Slough is about 20 miles wide in the north, narrowing to about 6 miles across through the park on its march to the Gulf of Mexico.


The water attracts a variety of wildlife during the dry season.



The plant stems and soil surface of the sawgrass marsh areas are covered by periphyton, an algae composite which serves at the base of the food chain. Periphyton servers as an important food source for snails, fish, and other organisms.

The Shark Valley Slough features sawgrass marsh.


It also features hardwood hammocks.



Shark Valley has a paved 15 mile loop road which is used by visitors on foot and bicycle to gain access deeper into the glades. The west part of this road was built many years ago for the purposes of oil exploration. There is also a popular tram which follows the full loop over about a two hour trip. At the turnaround point on the loop, 7 miles from the Shark Valley parking lot, is the observation tower, seen below.


This tower provides panoramic views of the surrounding glades, such as the one to the south on the right.



Pa-Hay-Okee

An area which provides some of the best views of the heart of the Everglades is Pa-Hay-Okee, named for the Indian term meaning "grassy water." This spots provides panoramic views of the seeminly endlesssawgrass marshes in the center of the park, as shown in the picture below.



Pa-Hay-Okee features a short boardwalk



The boardwalk leads to an observation tower (below).



To the north and west of the overlook panoramic views of the Shark River Slough are available. These views give an idea of just how extensive the slough and sawgrass marshes are, reaching all the way to the horizon in many places.




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  • All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013

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