Where Should You Enter the Park?

parkThe Everglades is vast! There are so many different areas to explore… 1.5 million acres of land to be exact. The Park has three entrances that are hours apart from each other, so before you head down, you should decide which entrance you’d like to enter.  Your decision should be based on where you want to go and see and do. Here are the Park’s entrances:

Shark Valley in Miami: This area is considered the heartland of the Everglades. You can walk, bike, or ride a tram along a 15-mile loop from this entrance. There is a 65-foot observation tower that gives you an amazing view of the Everglades. You will definitely get to see birds, fish, turtles, alligators and more while in Shark Valley.

Gulf Coast in Everglades City: This center allows you to take a boat tour (on your own or scheduled) to see different sights. You can explore the Gulf Coast and mangrove estuaries of the Ten Thousand Islands from this area.

Royal Palm in Homestead: At this entrance you can go on the Anhinga Trail or the Gumbo Limbo Trail. Lots of wildlife can be spotted on the Anhinga Trail, which borders the Taylor Slough. The Gumbo Limbo Trail goes through a hardwood hammock. This is the Park’s main entrance.

If you follow the Everglades road, you can take the Pineland trail, which is a half mile around a pine forest. Or, you can go down the Pahavokee Overlook, which is a boardwalk trail with an observation platform looking over the Park. Lastly, this road can take you to the Mahogany Hammock Trail which goes through a dense hammock of air plants and gumbo-limbo trees. It is home to the largest mahogany tree in the United States. At the end of the road, you will find Flamingo followed by Florida Bay.

Want to explore the Everglades in another way? Not on foot? An airboat tour is the way to go!  If you go toward Homestead you can get on an air boat with Captain Mitch! An airboat tour with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours give you an up close look of the Everglades. You’ll get to see lots of wildlife and plants on this trip. Captain Mitch has been navigating the Everglades for decades! To book an airboat ride, click Everglades airboat rides page or call 800-368-0065.

Make a Trip to the Everglades Educational

educationalThe Everglades isn’t just a fun place to explore, it can be very educational, as well. From the ecosystem to animals, there’s so much to learn about or in this National Park. Whether you’re an educator or a parent, the Everglades is a great place to bring children and teenagers to educate them on so many different topics.

The National Park Service and Everglades National Park offers a lot of different materials for educators or parents to use with their children in the classroom, at home, or even in the Park itself.

Below, we wanted to share some of these guides:

  • Life of the Everglades ID Sheet – This worksheet has pictures of common plants and animals seen in sloughs and sawgrass prairie areas like the Anhinga Trail. You can easily bring this sheet to the Park to identify a certain plant or animal you spot.
  • K-3: Everglades ABCs – This guide is filled with a lot of classroom activities for young children.
  • 4th Grade: The Journey of Wayne Drop: This guide teacher fourth grader about the Everglades Watershed through an interactive trip through the Park.
  • 4th-6th Activity Guide – This guide provides interactive indoor and outdoor activities about the Park, plants, animals, native peoples, and more.
  • Climate Change Activities – These activities aim to teach 5th and 6th grade students about the greenhouse effect, sea level rising, and carbon budget.
  • 5th-8th Don’t Let it Loose Activity Guide: This guide talks about non-native and invasive species that are not good for the natural ecosystem.
  • K-8: Everglades Mountains & Valleys Lessons Plans: These are curriculum-based plans and activities written by local south Florida teachers and park rangers.

 

Whether you’re a teacher, home school children, run a day care, or are just bringing your kids to the Park, these activities are a great way for them to learn about what’s happening to and in the Park. To request for these guides, call  (305) 242-7753.

To view all the wonderful plant life and wildlife you will read in these guides, go on an airboat tour! Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours give you a glimpse of the Everglades like no other. Captain Mitch has been navigating the Everglades for decades! To book an airboat ride, click Everglades airboat rides page or call 800-368-0065.

Info on the Flamingo Visitor Center

flamingo visitor centerAs you may have heard, the Everglades National Park won a preservation grant that will be used to restore the outside of the Flamingo Visitor Center. This visitor center has been a popular spot and attraction for visitors since the 1960s. The Center was originally built as part of the “Mission 66” program to modernize the parks for visitors.

The Flamingo Visitor Center was built in the style of the Park Service combined with the Miami Modern style. The Miami style was developed post World War II; it reflects an international style by adds glamour, fun, and material excesses that go beyond simple modern architecture. Flamingo has bold colors, a Keystone veneer, jalousie windows and louvered screen walls.

The Park was one of 20 national parks competing for the grant. The $250,000 grant will repair the outside of the building, the landscape, and improve the visitor experience by opening a new visitor center inside.

Inside the Flamingo Visitor Center, there are educational displays, brochures, and backcountry permits. You can easily access campgrounds, a public boat ramp, a marina store, and hiking and canoeing trails near this center.

The Buttonwood Café is open in the winter. However, it is closed currently after damage from Hurricane Irma. Boat ramps are open, but fuel is unavailable and the marina store is closed. It is essential for visitors to the area to bring their own food and water.

Want to explore the Everglades in a fun and exciting way? An airboat tour is the way to go!  An airboat tour with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours give you a glimpse of the Everglades like no other. You’ll get to see lots of animals and plants on this trip. Captain Mitch has been navigating the Everglades for decades! To book an airboat ride, click Everglades airboat rides page or call 800-368-0065.

 

Activities in the Everglades

activities in the evergladesThe Everglades is a really fun and interesting, but if you want to do more than just explore the Park on your own there’s plenty of fun tours and activities happening regularly in the Park. Summer is approaching so the activities in Park have ended for the season, but if you want to venture into the Park during the summer months, there is still plenty for you to do.  Below, we wanted to share with you some activities in the Everglades:

  • Anhinga Amble – This is a 50-minute stroll on the Anhinga Trail where you will get a chance to see alligators, wading birds, and other wildlife. The stroll is every day from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and starts at Royal Palm. It is free with Park entrance.
  • Glades Glimpse – Listen to a ranger talk about many different topics within the Everglades. Topics vary daily. This talk occurs every day from 1:30 to 2 p.m. and starts at Royal Palm. It is free with Park entrance.
  • Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours – Take in all the sights and sounds of the Everglades as you zip through the water. Captain Mitch and his team have been navigating these waters for decades. Your time at Captain Mitch’s will be one of the greatest memories of the Florida Everglades ecosystem and swamplands, whether you are visiting or a year-round resident. It’s a unique way to explore!
  • Camping – Camping during the wet season (June through November) can be difficult and uncomfortable due to heat and rain. Campers must bring their own equipment.
  • Biking, canoeing, and kayaking can be done year-round. Remember to read signs so you know where you’re allowed to take your boat/bike.

If you’re tired of walking and want a chance to see more of the Everglades, an airboat tour is ideal!  A tour with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours give you a glimpse of the Everglades like no other. Captain Mitch has been navigating the Everglades for decades! To book an airboat ride, click Everglades airboat rides page or call 800-368-0065.

 

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The South Florida Caribbean Network  

south florida caribbean networkThe South Florida/Caribbean Network (SFCN) is a monitoring network across the National Park Service; its one of 32, actually. These networks have an inventory and monitoring program. Through this gathering of inventory and monitoring, the SFCN gives park rangers a better way to manage park resources. There are seven parks in the SFCN network including: Big Cypress National Preserve, Biscayne National Park, Buck Island Reef National Monument, Dry Tortugas National Park, Everglades National Park, Salt River Bay National Historical Park and Ecological Preserve, and Virgin Islands National Park 

Each one of these parks comes with its own challenges it has to face whether its water management, declining coral reefs, mercury toxicity, global warming, invasive species, weather concerns, sustainable fisheries, land use, rising sea levels, visitor usage, and more.  

The SFCN staff is a team made up of biologists and ecologists. They monitor air quality, geology, soil, invasive species, landscape dynamics, marine communities, wildlife, terrestrial/freshwater vegetation and wildlife, threatened and rare species, visitor usage, water/hydrology, and water quality.  

The SFCN believes in order to properly manage and care for these parks in the long term, there needs to be a knowledge of the resources in the parks. They do inventory to acquire a baseline of information.  

The SFCN’s website is loaded with quality information sharing all inventories and things monitored. There are detailed lists, documents, and reports of everything happening in the park. If you’re interested in the current status of the Everglades, this site can give you some great insight. To learn more about the Everglades and the SFCN, click here 

Want to explore the Everglades for yourself? Take your own inventory of all the animals, birds, and plants you see on an airboat tour! If you’ve never been to the Everglades, an airboat tour is a great way to explore it. 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 here or call 800-368-0065.   

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness 

marjory stoneman douglas wildernessFor unfortunate reasons, we heard this name mentioned in the news back in February, but the Parkland high school and parts of the Everglades were named after the American journalist, conversationalist and women’s suffrage advocate.  

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness makes up around 1.3 million acres of the Everglades National Park. In 1964, the Wilderness Act was created, and stated ““A wilderness, in contrast with those areas where man and his own works dominate the landscape, is hereby recognized as an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain. An area of wilderness is further defined to mean in this Act an area of undeveloped Federal land retaining its primeval character and influence, without permanent improvements or human habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural conditions.” 

Within this act, 86 percent of the Everglades was designated the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness in 1978. The designated land is the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States and it’s the largest wilderness east of the Rocky Mountains. This area of land has the highest level of protection on it as possible. Within the Everglades, the largest protect stand of sawgrass in North America exists and the largest protect mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere lives. Also, this protected area is home to 21 federally threatened and endangered species.  

In the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness area, people have the chance to explore the Park both during the day and night. One-third of this protected area is submerged, as the seal floor is designated wilderness. Since it’s protected, this area helps keep the South Florida’s water source protected; this area also protects other parts of Florida from incoming storms (like hurricanes).  

Regulation on land and in water are put in place in this area to assure animals safety and promote nesting. Be prepared for rules in the Park! There are rules regarding camping, pets, motor vehicles, generators, and more. To find out these rules, visit www.nps.gov 

Fire Can Be Good for the Everglades 

fireIt’s dry season in Florida and the Everglades, which means fires (unfortunately) pop up across the state. Last year was a particularly bad year for fires. In just the beginning of May alone last year, there was 125 active fires across the state burning 31,000 acres.  Although these fires are harmful to wildlife, plant life and humans, there actually beneficial (in moderation) to the ecosystem.  

For the Pinelands area of the Everglades, fires kill off the hammock species that would end up overpowering pines and many other plants. The hammock species create too much shadow that the other plants receive no sunlight and die off. Pinelands respond well to fires that come through and bounce back quickly.   Hammocks have also adapted to fires and can protect themselves from burning out completely from fires.  

Fires can also help keep grassy prairies in check; too much grass keeps the water from flowing properly in the Everglades, and the fire can burn away some grass. Fires also help mangroves from overpowering other plants in the wetland.  

Park officials monitor all fires in the Everglades, regardless if they are near people or not.   

The River of Grass Prescribed Fire Plan uses fire to help restore and maintain wet prairies and sawgrass marshes and to reduce hazardous fuels in proximity of occupied Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow. These are conducted in the Pay-Hay-Okee, East Everglades, Shark Valley, Stair-Steps and Taylor Slough areas. These fires alone are started because relying on natural fires alone would not slow the shrub encroachment. These prescribed fires work with naturals fires and are not created to replace natural fires.  

Other fires are started to reduce the invasion of exotic plants into natural areas. These invasive exotic plants can kill the Everglades’ natural flora.  

Although fire is unhealthy for humans to be around and can hurt good plants, it can also help keep a balanced ecosystem. Park officals and firefighters work tirelessly throughout the year to keep the fires from spreading into developments.  

If you’ve never been to the Everglades, a great way to experience it is through an airboat tour. You’ll be able to see the ecosystem up-close-and-personal. 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.

Bromeliads in the Everglades  

bromeliadsWhat is a bromeliad? A bromeliad is an air plant that can be found within the Everglades.  Many are native to Florida. All of these bromeliads belong to the pineapple family.  

In the Everglades, the type that can be found are genus Tillandsia. All of this plants within this particular species of bromeliads have silvery-green leaves. The top of this species often resembles the top of a pineapple.  

You can find these plants in abundance all over the parks, in all habitats, including dwarf cypress forests and cypress domes. They also can be found in hardwood hammocks, tree islands, mangrove forests, lone trees in sawgrass marshes, and on the branches of planted trees in parking lots of the park. You can’t escape these bromeliads!  

Some bromeliads, like the giant airplant, hold water; they do this so when dry/drought conditions occur, they will have a water source to survive from. However, the giant airplant isn’t the only life form that benefits from this water. Insects, snakes, and tree frogs can be found in this plant’s leaves to take in the water.  

Other bromeliads don’t old water, but they do have a hollow chamber in their base where acrobat ants make their home. The bromeliad gets its nutrients from the ants’ waste.  

Not all bromeliads are insect/other creature-friendly. Some bromeliads, like the powdery catopsis, are covered with fine scales, which makes it hard for insects to get a grip on the leaves. The insects end up slipping into the water and drown. Some researchers believe these particular bromeliads may be a carnivorous plant for this reason.  

Although bromeliads are abundant in the Everglades, they do have an “enemy.” The invasive Mexican bromeliad weevil feed on the tissue of bromeliads as a larva. This insect can easily decimate bromeliad populations; however, it has not been spotted in the Everglades since the 1990s.  

Come see these bromeliads for yourself on an airboat tour! Captain Mitch’s Everglades airboat tours give you access to the expansive wildlife and plant life the region has to offer. To book your Everglades airboat tour today, click our everglades airboat tour page  or call Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours at 239-695-3377. 

 

Everglades Reptile Spotlight: Sea Turtle

sea turtleWhen you think of Florida, what comes to mind? Sunshine? Beaches? Oranges? You wouldn’t be wrong. However, there’s something else that’s known to be a symbol of this state: the sea turtle. Sea turtles can be found in the Everglades, Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. Five species of the sea turtle are found in the southern Florida waters:  loggerhead (Caretta caretta), green turtle (Chelonia mydas), leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), Kemp’s ridley (Lepidochelys kempi), and hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata). Unfortunately in present day, all five of these species are either threatened or endangered.

Because of the Endangered Species Act of 1973, it is illegal to take, harm, hunt, pursue, shoot, wound, kill, capture, trap, or collect any endangered fish of wildlife species. Sea turtles and their nests can be spotted along many beaches in Florida and it is illegal to disturb the nests.

In the Everglades, Cape Sable has one of the most active turtle nesting areas in the south Florida region. Park biologists monitor these nests and their activity to document the turtles’ presence. People can easily spot turtles’ tracks, which are known as a crawl. If the female sea turtle abandons her attempt at nesting (for whatever reason), the tracks are called a false crawl. A person can tell the direction of travel from the orientation of the comma-shaped flipper marks and superposition of turtle tracks. Each species of turtle leaves behind a specific set of tracks.

A biologist can find a sea turtle nest by looking for certain-shaped mounts of sand on the beach. These biologists mark and record the nests and check for signs of hatching 45 days later. Incubation takes about 60 days. The temperature of the sand determines how fast the baby sea turtles develop and hatch.

Biologists find sea turtle nests by looking for a characteristically shaped mound of sand on the beach. They mark and record each nest and begin checking for signs of hatchlings about 45 days later. Although incubation takes about 60 days, the temperature of the sand determines the speed of embryo development, so the hatching period can cover a broad period of time. The speed of embryo development increases with increasing nest temperature. Cooler nests generally produce more males, and warmer nests generally produce more females. Hatching usually occurs at night.

Unfortunately, predators sometimes get to the eggs before they hatch. The eggs are the size of a ping pong ball. The baby turtles leave the nest and make their way to the ocean. Biologists will keep watch of the nest to see how many eggs hatches and how many survived.

On an airboat tour, you’ll have you chance to see so much wildlife! Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours give you a glimpse of the Everglades like no other. Captain Mitch has been navigating the Everglades for decades! To book an airboat ride, click here or call 800-368-0065.

Everglades Reptile Spotlight: Tokay Gecko

tokay geckoThe Everglades has more than 50 distinct kinds of reptiles in the Park – they happen to be the Park’s most well-known and fascinating inhabitants. Unfortunately, some of these reptiles are invited guests who decided to make the Everglades their home. Many reptilian species are invasive. For this article, we wanted to spotlight one such invasive reptile: the Tokay Gecko.

The Tokay gecko was first spotted in Florida around 1965.  Coming from Southeast Asia, they are not native to the Everglades and they eat arboreal lizards, frogs and can even prey on nesting birds and rodents. They’ve even been seen to eat a young corn snake. How did they end up in the Everglades? This gecko was often sold in pet trade, and it has been released by people to control cockroaches.

Primarily, this gecko is nocturnal, but it can be spotted in the morning. If they are approached and feel threated, they will bite aggressively and hold on.

They have a gray/blue body with orange spots/markings.  It’s known for its beauty and decent price, so it’s quickly become a pet store favorite.  They are an easy-to-care-for pet, but they can be aggressive, so many people return or release them. It’s definitely not a docile species, so for those who like to handle their reptiles, the Tokay gecko isn’t the first recommendation. They are known to be a mean lizard and are very territorial.

This lizard can grow over a foot long in length. They also have the ability to make their skin patterns lighter or darker to blend into the background, and also as a way to communicate. They have no eyelids and lick their eyeballs to clean them.

They have the name “tokay” from the sound they make; it’s a two-part clicking mating call. They usually lay eggs in pairs. A breeding female can lay a pair of eggs every month for 4 to 5 months consecutively. In the wild, these geckos can live around 8 to 10 years.

Florida wildlife officials consider the introduction of Tokays to be a mild threat to native wildlife, and there is no major effort to eradicate them, whereas more resources are focused on more threatening invasive species like pythons.

Overall, they can be found in the Everglades, but they do prefer to stay in an urban area inside people’s houses, which shows they are not (yet) a major threat to Florida’s wildlife.

Come spot some reptiles on an airboat ride with Captain Mitch. Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours give you a glimpse of the Everglades like no other. To book an airboat ride, click here or call 800-368-0065.