Go for a Ride on Shark Valley Bike Trail

Biking is a great way to get exercise, but it’s also a great way to get out and explore – biking in the Everglades is an experience to remember. The Everglades is a vast, beautiful ecosystem with so many different plants and wildlife for you to admire as you glide on past.

If you’re interested in biking in the Everglaes, check out the Shark Valley Bike Trail. The Shark Valley Bike Trail is a 15-mile trip good for all types of bicycles. It’s a flat terrain. People take about 3 hours to complete this trip, but they usually aren’t biking the whole time, because many people stop often to sightsee around!

While biking this trail, you will also share the road with trams from Shark Valley Tram Tours. The trail starts at the Shark Valley visitor center. Whenever a tram comes near you, you are asked to stop biking until the tram passes. The speed limit for everyone is 25 mph.

You can bring your own bike or rent one from Shark Valley Tram Tours. However, bikes are available to rent on a first-come, first-serve basis, so be aware there may be none left during a busy time of day or season. There are bikes for children available, as well as helmets and bike baskets. Bikes can be rented and used on this trail from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

If you are unable to bike the full 15 miles, you are advised to turn around to return to the beginning. There are restrooms and a water fountain at an observation tower on the trail.

The parking lot closes at 6 p.m. to access this trail.

If you want to ride with a group larger than 20 people, you need to obtain a special-use permit from a park ranger. If you want to bike before 8:30 a.m. or after 4 p.m., you will also have to obtain a permit.

The trail gives riders a closer look at the bayhead and hammock ecosystems in Bobcat Boardwalk and Otter Cave Hammock trail, which are unpaved walking trails people can explore.

Animal sightings are possible, but it is advised that you do not approach the animals. Keep your distance from all wildlife and never feed them.

Explore the Everglades in an Airboat

Biking the Everglades is great way to experience the park up-close-and-personal while getting exercise. If biking isn’t your thing or if you want to see the Everglades in a different way a trip on an airboat is a great way to do it. Airboats can bring visitors to places beyond where a walking or biking trail can reach. To book an airboat tour, call Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours at 800-368-0065 or click our Private Everglades Airboat Tours page.

 

Explore the Everglades by Slough Slogging

If you have a sense of adventure and a love of the outdoors, slough slogging is for you! Ever heard of it? Slough slogging is a wet hike in the Everglades, also known as off-trail hiking, with a park ranger.

Slough slogging is a great way to experience the Everglades – it’s an experience and viewpoint most people will never do or have. Park rangers take people through the Shark River Slough. You must bring water, sturdy close-toed lace-up shoes, long pants sunscreen, a long sleeve shirt, insect repellent, binoculars, and snacks.

Since you will be surrounded by water and plant life, be prepared for lots of insects.

These trips are for 15-people groups, so it’s essential that you make a reservation. To go out on a slough slogging trip, participants must be 12 years or older. These trips are free.

On a slough slogging trip, the group will move slowly through muck and uneven terrains into the cypress dome. Groups will get the chance to see lots of different plant life, fish, and birds during the trip.

Reservations are required for these slough slogs. The trips are also weather dependent; they run several times a week from December through April, but also occur throughout the rest of the year, just less frequently. For more information, click slough slogging in the Everglades or call 305-242-7700.

Explore the Everglades on a Private Airboat Tour

Slough slogging is fun, but it can also be tiring and messy! If you want to explore the Everglades in a more relaxing and less messy fashion, jump on an airboat! An airboat tour will bring you through the Everglades’ waterways and give you a glimpse of the Park you’ve never seen before. To book an airboat tour, call Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours at 800-368-0065 or click our Everglades airboat tour page to schedule a tour today.

 

Photo courtesy: NPS.GOV

Explore the Everglades by Canoe and Kayak

The Everglades is wet. In fact, it gets around 60 inches of rainfall each year. Whether a lake, pond, or river, you will always be surrounded by water in the Everglades. Since the Everglades is made up of water, why not travel through it that way? An airboat tour is one of the best ways to hit the Everglades by water, but another great option is canoeing. If you love being active in the outdoors, canoeing and kayaking are the perfect activities in the Everglades…and the views are breathtaking!

On a canoe or kayak, you can explore the Everglades’ freshwater marshes, mangrove forests and Florida Bay. You can take a vessel out on your own or go on a canoe or kayak trip – these trips vary in length and difficulty.

You can bring your own canoe or kayak and launch them from several locations around the park. If you need to rent a canoe or kayak, you can rent them from the Flamingo Marina or Gulf Coast Visitor Center in the park.

Ready to paddle through the park?  Here’s some info on a few canoe/kayak trails in the Park:

Flamingo Canoe Trails – These trails are for beginners and advanced levels. They are located 38 miles south of the Homestead park entrance. You can access these trails from the Flamingo Marine or the main park road. The trails are 1.6 to 7.7 miles in length. You will sail by grassy marsh, mangrove islands, narrow passageways, mangrove creeks, and more.

Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail – This trail is a Park favorite. It’s off the main road before the Flamingo area of the park. On this trail, you can see alligators, wading birds, turtles, and fish. This trail is a 5-mile loop, and it takes 4 to 5 hours.

Hell’s Bay – Want to experience something magical? Go on the Hell’s Bay trail and sail right through mangroves. It’s popular but also difficult. Hell’s Bay is accessible from the man park road south of the Homestead entrance.

Gulf Coast – Gulf Coast Trails include: Sandfly Island Loop, Turner River Canoe Trail, and Halfway Creek and Loop Trails. These trails are accessible through Florida City, and can take anywhere from 4 to 9 hours to complete.

Book a Private Everglades Airboat Tour

Canoeing and kayaking can get exhausting. If being active isn’t your thing or if you want an additional way to explore the everglades on the water, jump on an airboat tour. On an airboat tour, you can sit back and zip through the water and see all sorts of plant and animal life. Contact Captain Mitch of Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours today to go on the ride of your life. To book a reservation, call 800-368-0065 or click our private airboat tour in the Everglades page.

 

Be A Park Employee for a Day Through Geocaching

Want to be an Everglades National Park Employee for a day? You can! You can try out managing the Park through the “Park Employee for a Day Geocache Trail.” This trail is comprised of 5 caches from the Main Park Road to Flamingo. The caches each have their own real-world case study for you to figure out how you would deal with a certain issue. Then, you log what you find and your thoughts. This is an ideal chance for you to share your thoughts on the Park.

What is geocaching? It’s a real-world outdoor treasure hunt.  Geocaching is a game where players must locate hidden containers (called geocaches) using a GPS-enabled device while sharing their experience online. For the park ranger geocaching trails, your treasures are the case studies.

When geocaching, you will navigate through a certain set of GPS coordinates in order to find the geocache hidden at that particular location.

For Park Employee Geocache #1, the coordinates are: N 25º 23.723′ W 080º 35.021′. This is the starting point for the Park Employee for a Day geocache trail. In the cache container you will find a Everglades geocaching  brochure about the other caches, as well as coordinates for each.

For Park Employee Geocache #2, the coordinates are:  N 25º 22.921′ W 080º 36.561′. This is in a popular area of the park and you will have to figure out how to ensure public safety in the Park with all the wildlife around. Click the Everglades geocaching #2.

 

For Park Employee Geocache #3, the coordinates are: N 25º 22.933′ W 080º 37.331′. This will take you on an historic road and the problem you will face is something that has been plaguing the Park for decades. Click the Everglades geocaching #3.

 

For Park Employee Geocache #4, the coordinates are: N 25º 23.458′ W 080º 48.147′. This is a deceptive landscape with surprise. Click the Everglades geocaching #4.

 

For Park Employee Geocache #5, the coordinates are: N N 25º 08.274′ W 080º 55.935′. This will take you on a scenic route of the shoreline. You will face the problem of the costs of beach-front access. Click the Everglades geocaching #5.

 

To play in the Everglades and for more information, you can register at geocaching.com to seek caches and log entries, but it is not required. Here is the direct geocaching in the Everglades link.

 

Book An Airboat Tour in the Everglades

If Everglades’ serious issues or playing games interests you, geocaching is a fun activity to do. If you’re looking to explore the Everglades in a different way, jump on an airboat tour before or after geocaching. To make a reservation, call Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours at 800-368-0065 or click our Everglades airboat tours page.

 

Invasive Species Profile: Old World Climbing Fern

You know the expression, “Don’t judge a book by its cover?” Well, this is true for many of the plant and animal species in the Everglades. It may be beautiful on the outside, but it’s causing the ecosystem it lives in great harm. Invasive species, both animals and plants, can wipe out native species in the Everglades. Researchers and Park officials work to tame and eliminate such species from the Park.

For this article we wanted to focus on the invasive plant species: Old World climbing fern also known as lygodium microphyllum. The Old World climbing fern is native to Africa, Southeast Asia, the South Pacific Islands, and Australia.

This plant has wiry twinning fronds, fern-like, triangular-shape leaflets. The fronds can grow to 90 feet long. Their stems are dark brown. The plant has two types of leaves and one of them has spores that spread in the wind.

This plant grows aggressively and spreads; it dominates native vegetation by forming a dense canopy. It can grow up and over trees, and smother shrubs and trees below it. It keeps other plants from thriving and growing by blocking out nutrients and sunlight. Currently, it has taken over more than 200,000 acres in south Florida. In many places, you can’t even see another plant because of how densely the fern has covered everything around it. The fern’s roots can even change the water flow in the area.

In south Florida and the Everglades, the fern can grow in bald cypress stands, pine flatwoods, wet prairies, saw grass marshes, mangroves, and tree islands.

Fires and this fern don’t go well together. Whether a wildlife or planned burn, these ferns act like a fire and can carry the fire places you don’t want it to go, which means it can kill native trees.

If left alone, this plant could be infesting more than 2 million acres in the years to come.

This plant is federally regulated to keep it from completely overtaking the native plant life. The USDA approved the use of insects to keep the fern contained.

Explore the Everglades by Airboat

The Old World Climbing Fern may look pretty, but it can be lethal for native plants of the Everglades, which we want to keep alive.

If you’re interested in seeing the native and invasive plants covering the Everglades, an airboat tour is a great way to see a vast glimpse of it all. Captain Mitch and his team have years of experience navigating through the wetland, and can point out lots of plant life to you.  To book an airboat trip in the Everglades, call Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours at 239-695-3377 or click Everglades airboat tour page.

 

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.