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Everglades National Park (6)


Introduction

History

Everglades Landforms

Gators

Birds

Royal Palm

Shark Valley

Pa-Hay-Okee

Vegetation

Florida Bay

Lakes & Waterways

Visitor Areas

Big Cypress

References


Visitor Areas

The largest portion of Everglades National Park is wilderness, but there are a number of areas which are popular with tourists because of convenient access to the attractions of the glades. The Flamingo area is located at the end of the main park road directly on Florida Bay. A view of the bay from the Flamingo Visitor Center is shown below.






The Flamingo area contains a number of visitor facilities, including the main building which features visitor and information centers, museum, ranger station, a restaurant, and gift shop/bookstore.



The site of the present visitor complex was an early settlement, once the only settlement in the southern part of the Everglades in the Cape Sable area. The post office there was established in 1893. The town was named after the famous bird, although these animals have been rarely seen in the area since 1902. A hotel, the Roberts Hotel, was opened in 1915. Those who came to settle engaged in hunting, farming, commercial fishing, growing of sugar cane, charcoal making, and milling. Later, the illegal distillation of whiskey took place near Flamingo and elsewhere in the Everglades and Big Cypress area.

However, the climate and insect populations, lack of a deep water channel, difficulty in reaching the area, the threat and reality of storm damage, and limited living area prevented the town of Flamingo from growing very large and many who settled remained only a short while. By 1920, only a few houses remained at the settlement, and although a road linking Homestead with Flamingo was completed in 1922 it had no effect on growth of the town. The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 did extensive damage to the few facilities which did remain in the town.

The grassy mall in front of the visitor center (below) contains the "mast" flag pole.



The Flamingo area also includes a marina from which tours of Florida Bay as well as the interior of the mangrove swamps depart.



West of the Visitor Center the Everglades major hotel, the Flamingo Lodge, is located (below).



A large grass meadow separates the rear of the lodge and Florida Bay.



During the entire year, but especially in the wet season, the mosquitoes in the Flamingo area and throughout the park--43 different species, 12 of which bite--can be annoying and sometimes unbearable. As mentioned above, these insects were among the greatest challenges to the establishment of the town of Flamingo early in the century. Residents would often create smudge pots burning black mangrove to drive away the insects within their buildings and hung palmetto leaves on the door to knock off the mosquitoes on the clothes of the person entering the building. As unpleasant as they might be, the mosquitoes are a key part of the ecology of the glades, providing nourishment to other organisms such as frogs, fish, dragonflies, and birds.

The Flamingo area provides some of the best views of Florida Bay in the park as well as sunsets across the waters..



Another popular stop for visitor is the park's Main Visitor Center is located just inside the east entrance near Homestead, 38 miles before Flamingo. A brand new building has recently been added to this complex.



A closer view of the new visitor center is shown below. The building provides information services, interactive displays, and a bookshop for park visitors.




Big Cypress National Preserve

To the west of the Everglades lies a 2400 square mile basin part of the Big Cypress National Preserve. This preserve was created in 1974 to save about 1/3 of the cypress swamp. Unlike the land within Everglades National Park, the preserve permits oil exploration and extraction, cattle grazing, hunting, and the use of swamp buggies. The area contains deep ponds, cypress swamps, and a long slough.



A small visitor center may also be found there.



The Everglades National Park contains mainly dwarf Cypress, but the preserve has some stands of the larger variety. Actually, the "big" in the preserve's name refers more to the number of these trees rather than to their size, as most of the larger specimens were logged.



The cypress, a deciduous conifer, comes from the same family as the redwoods in Redwood National Park. The great cypress trees grew to heights of 100-120 feet and lived for 600-700 years. Although a few of these large trees remain most of the giant plants were logged between 1930 and 1950. The Cypress is capable of surviving long periods in water; its characteristic "knees" at the base of the trunk are an adaptation to these waterlogged soils.



The cypress trees host a variety of life, including the epiphytes which are plants that live on other plants without harming them. One common variety, known as bromeliads or "air plants." These plants store water which are used by a number of insects and small animals during the dry season.



The Big Cypress area also contains a number of ponds and sloughs. A swamp is usually defined as a wetlands area which is predominantly covered by trees, while the vegetation in a slough is usually not of the woody type.



The deep woods and swamps of the preserve have always been a popular location for those who wished to not be found. The picture below shows the remains of a still found in a forested area.



The environment of the Big Cypress is less dependent on the water surface flow than the Everglades. It supports a number of animals, including wild turkey, bobcat, deer, and Florida panther.



The Big Cypress area receives about 50 inches of precipitation annually, and supports lush vegetation such as palmetto and other plants, seen below.



Wildflowers can also be found throughout the preserve during both dry and wet seasons.



The Big Cypress National Preserve, like the national park, is full of wildlife, including the wading birds of south Florida.



The vulture (below) takes advantage of food wherever he can find it.


 


References

Information about Everglades National Park has been drawn from personal experience, maps, interpretive material, brochures, and other data available in the park itself, and a number of other sources, including:



- First Page for Everglades National Park -

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

  • Commercial use of the images contained in this document without express written consent is strictly prohibited.

  • Comments and other remarks can be sent via e-mail to parkvision@shannontech.com