Everglades Safety Info to Remember

The Everglades is a National Park, so it is open for all of us to enjoy it, but it’s also home to wild plants and animals. Nature is unpredictable, from the weather to the terrain, so it’s important when we explore a natural environment that we proceed with caution and we follow guidelines given by the Park. We want to be respectful of the Park and plant and animal species that live within it.

By following Park rules, you are keeping animals, plants, the environment, and yourself safe. Whether you’re taking an airboat tour, walking trails, camping, or kayaking, you should keep safety in mind while in the Park.

Below, we wanted to share some of the Everglades National Park’s safety rules no matter that need to be followed and respected throughout the year.

  • Dress appropriately for the weather. Depending on the time of year, it can get exceedingly hot or rainy.
  • Bring water.
  • Wear bug repellant and longer-sleeved clothing to keep bugs from biting you on the trails. Wear lighter color clothing.
  • Keep to the trails and pavement to avoid bugs or running into wildlife.
  • Watch children carefully.
  • Pets are not allowed on the trails.
  • Feeding wildlife is illegal.
  • Don’t park near vultures and notify a Park ranger if one is near your car. Vultures can be aggressive.
  • Do not harm or touch any wildlife.
  • If you have a bonfire (camping), don’t leave it alone.
  • Do not tie/attach anything to trees or shrubs.
  • Take garbage with you or dispose of it properly.

Stay Safe in the Everglades

The Park has a lot more rules than the above, but these are just some basics to keep you safe during a trip to explore the Park. If you wanted more specific rules about camping, fishing, trails and more, visit the Everglades Park website.

By following these safety rules, you will have a more fun and safe trip. Looking for something to do in the Everglades? Take an airboat tour! Riding on an airboat is a safe way to explore the Everglades. Captain Mitch has decades of experience navigating through the wetland. To book an airboat trip in the Everglades, call Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours at 239-695-3377 or click Everglades airboat tour page.

 

 

Ecosystems in the Everglades

The Everglades isn’t just an ecosystem. It has many different ecosystems within it. For this article, we wanted to share with you some details of the many ecosystems within the Everglades.

Coastal lowlands/prairies – Coastal lowlands and prairies are found on the west coast of the Everglades inland from Florida Bay. These inlands are formed from inland movement of mud that occurs during major storms and hurricanes. Salt-tolerant plants and desert-type plants grow in this area.

Freshwater sloughs – Freshwater sloughs are deep, marshy rivers that deliver major water flow of the Everflades that move 100 feet per day. The Park’s two major sloughs are the Shark River Slough and the Taylor Slough and they both empty into Florida Bay.

Freshwater marl prairies –  These prairies are on both the east and west sides of the Everglades bordering the deep sloughs. A marl is a thin, chalky soil made of calcium carbonate on top of limestone bedrock. The water here is shallow. There is a lot of low vegetation in these prairies.

Marine – Marine ecosystems in the Everglades include mangroves, reefs, seagrass beds, estuaries, and bays. The water drains into the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Bay.

Mangroves – Mangroves are salt-tolerant trees and thrive in rivers and other bodies of water. The Everglades is home to the largest protected mangrove forest in the northern hemisphere. The Everglades is home to red, black, and white mangroves. Birds nest in the mangroves. The mangroves are also great at protecting the land/shore from hurricanes.

Pine forests – Pine forests are found often in limestone. The Park schedules regular burns to keep these pines healthy.

Cypress trees – These trees live in standing water and are often found in “solution holes,” which is pitted terrain formed in broken, porous rock.

Hardwood hammock – A hardwood hammock is an older hardwood forest found on elevated ground of “tree islands.” They don’t flood usually because of the elevation.

Explore the Everglades Ecosystem by Airboat

On an airboat tour, you get a chance to go by many of these ecosystems and see them up close!  To schedule an airboat trip when you’re visiting the Everglades, call Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours at 239-695-3377 or click Everglades airboat tour page.

 

 

Native and Invasive Species in the Everglades

The Everglades is packed with animal species, good and “bad.” Unfortunately, there are a lot of invasive species roaming the Everglades who are harming the native species and disrupting that natural order of things.

There are seemingly endless species of birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, and mammals in the Everglades with so much information to share on them. But for this article, we wanted to share just a few basic facts about the native and invasive species in the Park.

  • There are around 360 species of birds in the Park.
  • The Park is home to the Florida panther, which is endangered.
  • The Park is home to 27 species of snakes.
  • Some birds that live in the Park include: the wood stork, egrets, herons, the glossy ibis and the roseate spoonbill.
  • Manatees and bottlenose dolphins can be spotted in the Park’s waters.
  • Dolphins can range from 8 to 12 feet in length.
  • Manatees can reach 1,000 pounds and grow to 8 to 13 feet in length.
  • Invasive plants have taken over 1.7 million acres in the Everglades including the Brazilian peppertree, the Chinese privet, the broad-leaved paperbark tree and the Old World climbing fernording.
  • The most notorious invasive species is the Burmese pythons, who are eating small mammals, alligators. People are allowed to hunt for these snakes in the Everglades, but they are hard to find.
  • Cuban tree frogs and the Nile monitor are other invasive species that prey on native species and their eggs.
  • Alligators can be up to 10 feet long. They are a threatened species, especially with the Burmese python around.
  • The Everglades is the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles co-exist. Crocodiles also grow up to 13 feet.
  • Over a dozen species of turtle live in the Everglades. . The Atlantic loggerhead turtle is a threatened species.

See Native and Invasive Species of the Everglades by Airboat

On an airboat tour, you will get the opportunity to see many of the Park’s wildlife species. Remember, always leave the wildlife alone! If you notice a creature is hurt, notify a Park official. To schedule an airboat trip when you’re visiting the Everglades, call Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours at 239-695-3377 or click Everglades airboat tour page.

 

Venomous Snakes of the Everglades

The Burmese Python gets a lot of attention being in the Everglades. However, there’s a lot of other snakes in the Park. In fact, there’s 23 snake species that live in the Everglades and four of these are venomous. Although the Burmese Python is a big problem in the Park, these other native snakes help keep the ecosystem in check by preying on other snakes, rodents, and invertebrates, while also being a food source for certain birds and alligators.

The four venomous snakes the Everglades are: The Eastern coral snake, the Florida cottonmouth, the dusky pigmy rattlesnake, and the eastern diamondback rattlesnake.

Eastern Coral Snake – This snake is made up of beautiful colors red, yellow, and black bands running down its body. It can be found in a wooded habitat. It spends most its time underground or under foliage. It is an elusive creature. They are not confrontational and hardly bite. Less than 1 percent of bites in North America come from this snake every year. Good thing. Why? Their bite is the most venomous of all the snakes in North America. The bite really isn’t painful, but it can cause death within a few hours.

Florida Cottonmouth – This snake is known as the “water moccasin.” It is a type of pit viper and is the only semiaquatic viper species in the world. You can spot this snake around shallow waters like streams and marshes. They are black, brown, tan or olive. The cottonmouths have thick bodies and can grow up to six feet long. Their bite is painful and can lead to death.

Dusky Pigmy Rattlesnake— This snake only grows up to 2 to 3 feet in length with a gray body and black/brown spots on its back and white flecks on its stomach. You can find this snake in wet and dry areas. They are aggressive and quick to bite. With small fangs, they only release a small amount of venom, so the bite is rarely fatal; however, their bite can be more dangerous to a child or pet.

Eastern Diamondback Rattlesnake – This snake can grow up to 8 feet and is often found in the water and underground. It has dark diamonds on its body separated by a whitish color. This snake isn’t aggressive and warns threats by rattling its tail.

Can you tell the difference between a poisonous and non-poisonous snake? There’s a couple ways. Most snakes with a triangular head are venomous. Snakes with length-wise stripes are non-venomous. It’s best to just avoid interacting with these snakes or any snake. If you want snakes to stay away from you, it’s a good idea to make a lot of noise while walking on a trail or wooded area, so the snakes are aware you’re around. Keep your hands out of common snake hiding spots like logs, brush, leaves and rock piles.

Although snakes may be interesting to look at, they are not fun to run into, especially the aggressive or venomous species. To avoid running into a snake, tour the Everglades on an airboat! On an airboat tour, you’ll get to see the snakes’ habitats from a safe distance.

To check out the Park, book an Everglades airboat tour with Captain Mitch through the Everglades today!

The Everglades’ Mangrove Forests

Mangrove forests are something of out a fairytale. The beautiful roots intermingling with each other as they reach down into the water and line the waterways. Florida is lucky enough to be home to 469,000 aces of mangrove forests, and the Everglades has the largest mangrove forest in North America. These mangrove forests can only survive in subtropical and tropical climates.

Mangroves drop their seeds, which get carried by water/winds and the seeds can grow easily in other areas.

Florida houses three species of mangroves: the red mangrove, the black mangrove, and the white mangrove.

The red mangrove is the most popular and most seen mangrove. It can tolerate salt water and grows in areas with low-oxygen soil. It can remove and use freshwater from saltwater to life. Their roots are known as prop roots, so the plant looks like it’s standing on the water. These tall roots help the mangroves handle rising tides. These roots are reddish.

Black mangroves can be found at a higher elevation than the red mangrove. This mangrove has finger-like growths that protrude from the soil around the trunk of the tree.

White mangroves can be found at the highest elevations of these three species. This mangrove’s roots do not show, and it has light, yellow-green leaves.

Mangroves help protect the Everglades and Florida coastline. How? They help reduce erosion with their roots. They block winds, waves, floods, tides, and storm surges from damaging the land. The bigger, winder, denser, and thicker the forest, the more it can protect the environment.

Mangroves also help the ecosystem by filtering water and dropping leaves. The fallen leaves break down into organic compounds, carbon dioxide, and nitrogenous wastes, which benefits the entire ecosystem.

These forests also provide a home and protection for different species of birds and marine life.

Mangroves are disappearing. In fact, almost half of the world’s mangrove forests have disappeared in the past 50+ years, according to the national conservation organization American Forests. This organization said the world continues to lose 578 square miles of mangroves per year due to shrimp farming, climate change, and coastal development. The state of Florida has protected areas have mangrove forests.

Sailing by these mangroves is unreal. They’re a truly magical sight. If you want to see some mangroves, get on an airboat! To schedule an airboat tour, click our Everglades airboat ride page or contact Captain Mitch’s Everglades Airboat Tours at 800-368-0065.

 

Safety on an Airboat

You can’t go to the Everglades without a ride on an airboat! It’s iconic! It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Think of an airboat ride as an adventure through a mysterious wetland. Airboats are fun to ride, but throughout the years, there have been airboat accidents, just like there are car accidents. Accidents happen, but if you equip yourself with the proper safety knowledge and ride with a reputable company, like Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours, you will have a safe trip.

Captain Mitch has been in the airboat tour business since he was little. He has more than 30 years of experience chartering through the Everglades and prides himself on taking people on fun and safe airboat tours.

On an airboat tour, airboat captains will instruct passengers on safety precautions before departing. Here are the safety measures and guidelines that airboats must meet, according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, to help insure an airboat trip will be a safe experience:

  1. Propeller Safety – No person is allowed near the propeller. All items and equipment must be secured, so they do not get caught in the propeller.
  2. Safety Equipment – Airboats must be equipped with ear protection, eye protection, first-aid kid, cell phone in a water-proof buoyant case, drinking water and a B-1 type approved fire extinguisher.
  3. Pre-Operation Checklist – Before leaving, the captain will check the boat to make sure everything is working properly to avoid accidents, injuries, and mechanical breakdowns.
  4. Weather – Weather is unpredictable, so the airboat captains make themselves aware of the weather forecast and keep an eye on it throughout the day. For lightning, high wind, and thunderstorms, airboats will be docked. Airboats can operate during fog, but will go slower and turn on strobe lights.
  5. Navigation – Airboat captains are trained in proper maneuvering and navigation techniques to get through tight areas and blind spots. They also know the airboat routes like the back of their hand and can report their location in case of an emergency.  Airboat captains are also looking out for obstacles in the way whether wildlife, other boats, plant life or other obstructions.
  6. Preventative maintenance – Each week, captains will work on keeping the airboat clean and working efficiently, by checking and maintaining the propeller, exhaust system, oil, engines and more.

If you’re looking for a fun and safe airboat trip, come out with Captain Mitch’s Everglades Airboat Tours. To schedule an airboat tour, click our Everglades airboat ride page or contact Captain Mitch’s Everglades Airboat Tours at 800-368-0065.

 

Explore by Foot on the Everglades’ Trails

The Everglades is vast! So, where do you begin? Although zipping through the wetland on an airboat tour is an amazing way to explore the area, there are several hiking and biking trails in the Everglades National Park that are worth the walk!

When exploring the Everglades by foot, the Park asks visitors to pay attention to the weather, wear proper attire, bring water, and leave pets at home.

We wanted to share with you a few trails that allow you to explore the flora and fauna of the Park.

Non-Maintained Trails (Due to nearby endangered species)

Coastal Prairie Trail – This trail is 11.2 miles long. It isn’t a recommended trail due to its open exposure to the sun and abundance of mosquitos. It also can get very muddy. Being 11.2 miles, this trail can be a very tiring walk. It’s a critical habitat for the Cape Sable thoroughwort.

Snake Bight – Snake Bite trail is a 7.6-mile loop. It’s level of difficulty is moderate leading visitors from the forest to the shoreline of the Florida Bay. You may spot crocodiles, flamingos, mosquitos, pythons and anacondas on this trail. Snake Bight can be walked or bight. Unfortunately, it is also very buggy and is a critical habitat for the Cable Sable thoroughwort.

Christian Point Trail – This trail is challenging as it leads people deep into a mangrove forest along the Florida Bay. After the forest, the trail opens up to a small prairie and then into a large mark prairie. Like the other two trails, this trail is also a critical habitat for Cape Sable thoroughwort and buggy, since the area is heavily vegetated. It is 4.2 miles round trip.

Other Non-Maintained Trails:
Rowdy Bend
Bear Lake
LPK Bike Trail

Maintained Trails:

Anhinga Trail – A popular trail and an easy one at .8 miles. It’s close to the Park entrance. You can easily spot wildlife on this trail, including alligators and birds.  There are several observation decks throughout the trail.

Bayshore Loop – Bayshore Loop is an easy to moderate level trail that is 1.3 miles long. This trail is extremely buggy. This loop brings visitors along the edge of the Florida Bay through the coastal prairie habitat and passes through the original fishing village of Flamingo. If you enjoy bird watching, this is the trail for you.

Pa-Hay-Okee Boardwalk – The Boardwalk is an easy .2 mile loop that leads visitors through the “River of Grass” (Pa-Hay-Okee). This boardwalk leads people to an observation tower.

Other Maintained Trails:
Bear Lake Trail
Bobcat Boardwalk
Gumbo Limbo Trail
Guy Bradley Trail
Mahogany Hammock Trail
Old Ingraham Highway
Otter Cave Hammock Trail
Pinelands Ecotone
West Lake Mangrove Trail

Explore The Everglades by Airboat

On foot, you get an up-and-close experience with this beautiful national park and might even get the chance to see some birds and animals! If you’re tired of walking, jump on an airboat tour!  To schedule an airboat trip when you’re visiting the Everglades, call Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours at 239-695-3377 or click Everglades airboat tour page.

 

The River of Grass: The Everglades’ Grass

river of grassDid you know the Everglades is nicknamed the River of Grass? The Everglades received this nickname in 1947 by Marjory Stoneman Douglas; she used this name to reflect the area’s slow movement of shallow sheet flow through the marshes. The Everglades is home to many species of grass, including muhly grass, blackrush, arrowfeather, Florida bluestem, and Elliot’s lovegrass. Across the Everglades, these species of grass grow no talker than 4 feet.

More than 100 species of native grass in the Poaceae family grow inside the Park, as well as dozens of other species in different grass families. Grasses in the Everglades can live in both the wet and dry season. These grasses have also adapted to fires. In fact, after a fire, these grasses regrow once heavy rains commence in the region during the wet season of May to October.

To talk a little more about muhly grass, it is native to the southeastern United States. It grows in clumps at about 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. It’s an upright and stiff grass. In the fall, it blooms purple flowers. You can find muhly grass in the pine flatwoods and coastal prairies. The Native Americans used to use this type of grass for basket weaving.

Sawgrass dominates all other grass in the Everglades. It actually covers thousands of acres of marsh. It’s consider a sedge that can grow up to 6 feet or more. Wiregrass grows densely and grows up to 3 feet tall. Gopher tortoises and quail feed on this grass. Cutthroat grass grows up to 4 feet in height and it helps control erosion. Toothache grass is a perennial bunch grass that grows more than 3 feet tall; it’s stem contains a substance that can numb feeling in the tongue and gums.

If you’ve never been to the Everglades or seen miles of grass, a great way to explore it is through an airboat tour. Captain Mitch’s Everglades Airboat Tours has been giving tours to people in this wetland for more than 30 years. To book a tour. Click our Everglades airboat tour page  or call 800-368-0065.

 

 

 

Interesting Facts About the Everglades

everglades airboat tourHow much do you know about the Everglades? At Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours, we spend a lot of time zipping through the waters of the Everglades, so we thought we’d share some quick and fun facts about this beautiful Park with you.

  • The Park is home to 13 endangered species.
  • The Park is home to 10 threatened species.
  • The Everglades has the largest continuous sawgrass prairie in North America.
  • The Everglades has the largest mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere.
  • It is home to the most significant breeding ground for wading birds in North America.
  • It is a water recharge area for all of South Florida through the Biscayne aquifer.
  • It provides water for more than 8 million Florida residents.
  • It is a World Heritage site.
  • The Park is a Biosphere Reserve.
  • It is a Wetland of International Significance.
  • The Everglades is home to 9 different/distinct habitats.
  • The Everglades is actually a river that is constantly moving.
  • It is the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles coexist.
  • The Everglades used to be more than 8 million acres in size.
  • Now, the Everglades is around 1.5 million acres in size.
  • The Park is home to more than 350 species of birds and 300 species of fish.
  • The Everglades is North America’s largest subtropical wetland ecosystem.
  • The Everglades has two seasons: wet and dry.
  • Its nickname is “River of Grass.”
  • Local Native Americans called the Everglades “Pahayokee,” which means “grassy waters.”
  • On average, 75 inches of rain falls into the Park.
  • Most of the water in the Everglades is fresh water not salt water.
  • Calusa Indians are the tribe who lived in the Everglades and southern Florida as far back as 1000 B.C.
  • Airboats are iconic in this Park.

Come jump on an airboat an experience a once-in-a-lifetime trip. If you’ve never been to the Everglades, a great way to explore it is through an airboat tour. Captain Mitch’s Everglades Airboat Tours has been giving tours to people in the “River of Grass” for more than 30 years. To book a tour. Click our Everglades airboat tour page  or call 800-368-0065.

 

Everglades Animal Profile: Bobcat

bobcatThe bobcat may be cute, but it not a feline you can cuddle and pet. Bobcats can easily be spotted in the Everglades and are not endangered. They are mainly nocturnal creatures but can be seen during daylight. In the Everglades, bobcats have been seen walking around Bear Lake Trail, Snake Bight Trail, and the main Park road.

Bobcats can live in various types of habitats. In one day, an adult bobcat can travel anywhere from 5 to 50 miles looking for food. Its prey includes: small mammals (squirrels, opossums, rodents), birds, and fish.

Bobcats are much smaller than the Florida panther, who can also be found in the Everglades. They two coexist in the Park.

Bobcats have short tails and have fringed fur on the sides of their head. Their weight can range from 13 to 35 pounds, and they can grow up to 50 inches in length.  Their fur is spotted with white, black, red, brown, and gray markings. Bobcats can live up to 14 years in the wild.

Bobcats can be spotted in forests, trails, swamps, and even backyards. They don’t just live in Florida. In fact, they have been known to live from Canada all the way down to Central America.

The bobcat will “live” in a den it creates in a tree, cave, or open shelter. Often, bobcats has more than one den spread across different areas, incase they need shelter.  A female bobcat will have 1-2 kittens in a litter. Bobcat mating season is August to March.

For the most part, a bobcat will not approach a human. For your safety, it’s best to leave a bobcat, and all wildlife alone while in the wild or the Everglades.

Come on an airboat tour and see if you can spot a bobcat walking around during daylight! Captain Mitch’s Everglades Airboat Tours has been giving tours to in the Everglades for more than 30 years. To book a tour. Click our Everglades airboat tour page or call 800-368-0065.