|About the Site|
|Everglades National Park (5)|
One of the most beautiful parts of Everglades National Park, and one of the most important to the glades' ecology, is Florida Bay.
This large body of water, which along with the keys it contains constitutes one third of the park, is located south of the park beyond the tip of the Florida peninsula. The supply of fresh water to the bay occurs primarily from flow through Taylor Slough.
Florida Bay itself covers about 800 square miles, a substantial portion of the park. The bay is quite shallow, averaging only about 4-5 feet in depth and reaching a maximum of only about 9 feet. The bottom of the bay is actually composed of mudbanks interspersed with deeper holes or "lakes." Below is a view looking to the southeast from the Flamingo area.
There are a about 100 small islands or keys in the bay, most created and covered by mangroves. They serve as nesting area for many of the park's wading birds, ospreys, and eagles, and because of this important role are closed to park visitors. Some of these islands can be seen below.
The waters of the bay also support more than 50 species of fish.
Like other parts of the Everglades ecosystem, Florida Bay is also under stress. It currently receives less than 1/10 of the fresh water flowing into it from the Everglades as it did before the channelization of much of the water flow.
The bay and the islands which lay within it provide a spectacular setting for a south Florida sunset.
More of a south Florida sunset is seen here.
The southern section of the park around the Flamingo visitor area is one of the best places to watch the sun go down at the end of the day.
In addition to the sawgrass marshes during the wet season, sloughs, and Florida Bay the water can also be found in the Everglades' many lakes and ponds. This lake below is found at Pine Key in the eastern section of the park.
Paurotis Pond, shown on the left below, is found about 10 miles north of Florida Bay. It's named for the paurotis palm trees which are found in the area.
Paurotis Pond is a lovely, peaceful lake upon which only hand propelled crafts are permitted. 9 Mile Pond is just to the south. It's brackish, a site where fresh and salt water intermingle.
A variety of freshwater fish exist in the waters of the park, including largemouth bass, bluegills, sunfish, golden shiners, yellow bullheads, and Florida gar.
Mrazek Pond can be found to the south of 9 Mile Pond. It is a favorite site for observing wildlife during the dry season as many varieties of birds congregate there.
West Lake, a brackish estuary, is one of the largest bodies of water in the interior portion of the park. It's completely enclosed by mangroves. It provides habitat for many species of fish and crustaceans. It's located just north of Florida Bay and features a popular canoe trail which runs along its south bank.
Another view of West Lake is shown below.
A small pond next to Eco Pond is shown here.
For lovers of birds and other aquatic wildlife Eco Pond cannot be beaten. This lake is located in the extreme southern portion of the park near the Flamingo area visitor complex. In the picture below the white spots on the trees in the background are roosting ibises and other birds. Collections of birds nesting in aggregations are called rookeries.
The Eco Pond area features a grassy section which runs completely around the ponds and allows visitors to walk easily and observe the abundant wildlife. This area provides views of small ponds and wet areas which often host wildlife like the small heron on the left below.
There is also a wooden observation platform (shown below) which is a favorite of photographers and other visitors.
Eco Pond is also a favorite location for animals and insects including a variety of butterflies. There are about 100 species of butterflies at the Everglades.
As in many wet places in the park Eco Pond also has its share of alligators.
Here's a view of the west side of the pond with the long grass which surrounds it.
Open water can also be found closer to Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico in channels through the mangrove swamps. One such channel is Buttonwood Canal which runs north from the Flamingo area.
It leads to Coot Bay Pond, a larger body of water. A buttonwood hammock just south of this body of water was a center of charcoal making and farming in earlier days. The waterway itself also provided access to interior areas of the park. The body of water was named for the large number of coot and ducks which have always made their home there.
Another of the mangrove canals, this one also leading to and from Coot Bay Pond, is Tarpon Creek, shown below.
One of the largest bodies of water, located in the southwestern area of the park, is Whitewater Bay.
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- All photographs ©Patrick Holleran, Shannon Digital Imaging, 1994-2013
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