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.

Learn About Science and Research in the Everglades

scienceThe Everglades is a scientist’s dream. There is so much to explore, research, track, and investigate in the River of Grass. Research is occurring in the Everglades year-round. From climate change to animals, researchers are learning more about this special Park.

What type of research is occurring in the Park? The South Florida Natural Resources Center (SFNRC) conducts science, which informs the management of the south Florida national park units. Such programs include: wildlife, hydrology, water quality, restoration, invasive plants, and animals. This organization gives out research permits to those who are interested in conducting research from universities, and non-governmental organizations and agencies. The Park gives out permits to support and encourage natural and social science studies with the hope that these studies will help with our understanding of the park’s resources, and how its usage affects/impacts the ecosystem.

Some programs include: Ride and Slough Ecology Program, Ecological Modeling Program, Hydrologic Modeling Program, Wildlife Monitoring Program, Aquatics Program, Invasive Plant Program, Invasive Animal Program, Marine and Estuarine Resources Management, Modified Water Deliveries Project, Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan Project, and the Tamiami Trail Next Steps Project.

The Critical Ecosystem Studies Initiative (CESI) funds research projects that are focused on ecosystem restoration in the Everglades and South Florida. This initiative has been in place for the last 15 years, and has helped created a better understanding of the research. With these projects, researchers have learned what should be monitored, the status of certain species in ecosystems, trends in the ecosystem, and how to streamline assessment of restoration efforts.

To learn more about everglades research, click here. 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 dynamic 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.

 

Burmese Pythons Causing More Problems in the Everglades

pythonsAt this point, pythons are notoriously known to be bad news for the Everglades. They are an invasive species as they deplete mammal populations. Each year, pythons hunts are held to reduce the number of this species in the Everglades to try and help bring balance back to the ecosystem of the Everglades. Now, researchers are saying the Burmese pythons are eating/killing so many animals in the Everglades that mosquitos are starting to bite the hispid cotton rat that carries a virus that is dangerous to humans.

This rat carries the Everglades virus, which is an encephalitis-causing pathogen.

The hispid cotton rat’s virus can give a person a fever, headache, and encephalitis, which is inflammation of the brain (in rare cases). A University of Florida research Nathan Burkett-Cadena said mosquitos are now biting this rat more than any other mammal living in the Everglades. The hispid cotton rats multiply fast, and since the Burmese python is depleting other mammals, the rat has become a main source of blood for the mosquitos to feast on.

In the past, mosquitos could frequently bite deer, rabbits, racoons, and other mammals, but their numbers are shrinking in the Everglades. There is a specific mosquito that is biting the rats; it’s called the Culex cedecei. Thankfully, this mosquito doesn’t go into urban areas, so it’s rare that humans will contract this virus. However, the Culex panocosa mosquito does go into cities, but has yet to bite the cotton rats. The University of Florida research team is keeping an eye on the mosquitos to see what is happening with these mosquitos and rats.

When visiting the Everglades, it’s always extremely important to cover up (long pants, long sleeves) or wear insect repellant. Even if there is no virus present, the Everglades is a living ecosystem where thousands of insects thrive, so it makes sense to protect oneself to keep bugs from biting.

The answer to restoring the wildlife and mosquito-biting balance in the Everglades lies in the reduction/eradication of the pythons. To get a permit to hunt for pythons, click here.

To explore the beautiful Everglades, click here or call 800-368-0065. Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours show you the Everglades like you will never see it in any other way!

New Everglades Corridor Markers, Signage

signageThe Everglades is a living, breathing ecosystem, and as you may remember from previous blog posts or news stories, there is restoration work and improvements always happening in this wetland to make the park a better place while returning it back to its natural state.

The Everglades is also a popular place for anglers to catch fish. Just like anywhere else in Florida, there are special fishing regulations; however, with so many endangered species in the Everglades, it’s essential that people pay attention to the boating and fishing rules, regulations, and signage.

For this article, we wanted to share that there will be new access corridor markers and signs at Florida Bay. All corridors have been marked, with just a few minor adjustments pending. Here are the details of the signage:

  • On-plane: Dave Foy, Dump Keys (south of existing channel), Madeira Bay, Terrapin Bay, Roscoe Key, North Jimmy, Bob Allen Pass, Coon Key Pass, Crab Lake, Peterson Keys, Buchanan Keys
  • Idle-speed: Snake Bight East (off Snake Bight Channel), Porpoise Point, Garfield Bight, Rankin Bight, Santini Bight West, Santini Bight East, Terrapin Bay West (off Terrapin Bay corridor), Samphire Key, Brush Key, Twisty Mile, Little Blackwater, Little Buttonwood, Cluett Key, Topsy Key, Sid Key, Tarpon Basin/Marker 42 Creek
  • Slow-speed: Nine-mile Bank North, Nine-mile Bank South
  • On-plane and idle-speed: Frank Key (north segment on-plane, south segment idle-speed), Palm Key (from west end of Tin Can Channel on-plane, near island and to center of Tin Can Channel idle-speed)

Funding for this new signage was through the National Park Service and donations to the South Florida National Parks Trust from Yamaha and the American Sportsfishing Association. The signage was put up with the help from a contractor. These new signs were put in place to help protect the park’s marine areas, while still allowing people to enjoy their time in the park fishing.

For boaters and those interested, you can view the Florida Bay map book.

Looking to get around the Everglades on a different kind of boat? How about an airboat? Zip through the waters of this majestic place on a ride with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours. To book an airboat tour, click here or call 800-368-0065.

 

All About the Roseate Spoonbill

roseate spoonbillDuring the winter season, Florida can look like a scene out of Jurassic Park. The sheer scale and variety of birds flocking down here is a sight to be seen. Hundreds of birds of varying species stand side by side bodies of water and make the area their home for the winter/nesting season. One bird that can be spotted in southern Florida is the roseate spoonbill, and it happens to be a threatened species.

The roseate spoonbill is the only spoonbill native to the Western Hemisphere. They are white and brightly pink colored (like a flamingo) do to the carotenoid pigment canthaxanthin in their diets. Depending on their age, roseate spoonbills can be a pale pink or a deep, bright magenta in color. They have a gray spoon-shaped bill, white neck, back, and breast. They are 28-34 inches in size with a wingspan up to 52 inches.

To catch its prey, the spoonbill swinging its spoon-shaped bill back and forth in shallow waters.  They eat crayfish, shrimp, crabs, frogs, newts, and small fish. They often travel and feed in groups. Its bill allows it to sift through mud to find food sources, as well.

They are considered to be a social bird who lives in a large colony with other birds like herons, storks, and egrets. They fly in flocks in a long, diagonal line.

When breeding, they will next in mangrove or trees, but they usually stay by the coast. Female spoonbills build the nest while the male provides the materials for the females to build. They can lay up to 3 eggs at a time.

In the mid-1800s, the roseate spoonbill was hunted for its feathers; they were used to make women’s hats and fans, but this practice is now illegal; the population has begun to grow since this regulation was put in place. In the early 20th century, there was only a few dozen pairs left. They were made a protected species in the 1940s. This bird is also threatened by habitat loss, pesticides, illegal shootings, and lower food sources. To protect this bird, it was named under the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act to be protected and it is recognized as a state-designed threatened species.

In 2006, a tagged roseate spoonbill was seen; it was 16 years old, which made it the oldest wildest known spoonbill of its kind.

Want to catch a glimpse of the roseate spoonbill in the Everglades, along with many other birds? To get a great views of the skies and bodies of water (where birds will be) in the Everglades, you should opt for an airboat tour. An airboat ride can bring you to places in the Everglades not accessible by foot. To book a trip, contact Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours at 800-368-0065 or click here

The Everglades’ Seagrass is Disappearing

seagrassYou might know that there’s a lot of seagrass around Florida and throughout the Everglades.; there’s 7 kinds of seagrass in Florida to be exact. But, did you know that this seagrass is dying? Much of the beautiful green, flowering seagrasses in the waters of the Everglades are turning brown and dying off. Last year, National Park Service researchers discovered a 40,000-acre section of seagrass in Florida Bay that is dying. Seagrass provides food and shelter for many different species for marine life, while also maintaining water quality. If this grass dies off, animals, fish, and even humans will be impacted negatively.

Why is the seagrass dying? There are a few reasons that attribute to the decline in this grass. Human development over the past 100 years has disrupted the natural flow of water in the Everglades. Between roads and homes, the ecosystem has been altered, which has resulted in declines in plant and animal life. Another cause of the seagrass’s decline is climate change. Climate change is causing the sea level to rise, which has increased the salinity of the water. Many droughts throughout the years have also caused stress on the seagrass.

In Florida Bay, sport fishing is popular and is a billion-dollar business, which will be disturbed if the seagrass continues to disappear.

The only way to combat this die off is through the work of restoration efforts in the Everglades to restore the natural flow of fresh water. Florida Bay, like most of the Everglades, needs fresh water to flow north to south from Lake Okeechobee to thrive and survive.

If the seagrass dies, not only will it take away a food and shelter source for many creatures, it will begin to release nutrients that will feed into algae blooms, which will take over the water and basically suffocate any remaining seagrass in the water as they have become blocked from the sunlight.

And it isn’t just the Everglades, seagrass decline is a world-wide problem. Since the late 1800s, seagrass has declined by 29 percent.

Right now, restoration efforts are being done to lift up 2.5 miles of the Tamiami Trail that is blocking the natural water flow southward. It is believed if this road is lifted, the water flow will return to its original state. This is set to be completed by 2020.

The Everglades is a delegate ecosystem; the seagrass produces oxygen and is a food and shelter source for so many livening organisms. It helps keep the water clean by trapping sediments, as well. If you’re interested in seeing this vital plant and the rest of the majestic Everglades, a great way to explore is on an airboat. Join Captain Mitch on an airboat tour! He’s been bringing people around the Everglades for decades. It’s an experience you’re sure to never forget. To book an airboat trip, click here or call 800-368-0065.