Dangerous Water Levels in the Everglades

First, there was not enough water. Now, there’s too much. This past year, Florida’s weather has certainly been erratic. During the winter, Florida, including the Everglades, was experiencing a significant drought. Come summer, the rain is beating down hard, so hard that certain spots of the Everglades are flooded and waterlogged. Certain species of birds and animals are leaving the area due to the excess water, including deer and wading birds.

Back in July, the water levels in the area were around 2 feet above normal. In some areas of the Everglades, there has been more than 20 inches of rain. According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conversation, the flooding is as bad as its ever bee this early in the summer, rainy season. The animals, who usually seek dry higher areas in the Everglades, are seeking other places, because everything is under water.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service believes that animals are in crisis and some will even die. One bird that could potentially become extinct from this year’s rainfall is the Cape Sable seaside sparrow. Right now, there is around 3,000 sparrows in the Everglades, but if there population drops to below 300, it is believed they will go extinct.

Other threatened and affected species include: wood storks, indigo snakes, deer, racoons, snail kites.

In June, the South Florida Water Management District was allowed to back pump clean water into Lake Okeechobee to reduce the overflow in different conservation areas. This will lower the water one quarter inch per week. Because this is an emergency, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection allowed for this change in the water-management schedule.

These high-water levels don’t just affect the birds and animals, but the plant life and entire environment, as well. It is essential to move the water out of the Everglades for the area to be able to thrive and survive after this year’s rainy season is done.

The Everglades is a very delicate ecosystem, and small shifts in water levels or weather can truly bring damage and catastrophe to the area.

If you would like to explore this majestic place, go for an airboat tour with Captain Mitch. He’s been zipping around the Everglades for decades. You’ll see so much plant and animal life on these airboat adventures. Click here to book a trip or call 800-368-0065.

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.

 

Ribbit, Ribbit: Frogs and Toads of the Everglades

frogsDo you know the lovely creatures that sing their song at night in the Everglades? Frogs and toads! These amphibians are no strangers to Florida, and can be spotted all over the Everglades. The wetland is home to many different species of frogs and toads, including:

 

 

 

Florida cricket frog
Greenhouse frog
Green treefrog
Squirrel treefrog
Cuban treefrog
Florida chorus frog
Little grass frog
Pig frog
Southern leopard frog
Oak toad
Southern toad
Eastern narrow-mouth toad
Eastern spadefoot toad
The Everglades is a perfect environment for frogs and toads to live in. Amphibians like both dry and wet areas; when laying eggs, they remain close to bodies of water, which are abundant in the Everglades. Adult amphibians spend most of their adult life on land, while their babies and young grow and live in bodies of water.

Here is some more information on a couple of the frogs listed above. The pig frog’s croak sounds similar to the sound of a pig’s grunt, hence where the frog got its name. These frogs are brown and gray in color when they are adults. Their bellies are a yellow/brown pattern. Their skin is permeable and actually reflects toxins in the ecosystem.  They are similar looking to both green frogs and bullfrogs. They can grow up to 6 inches in length. In the Everglades, scientists are studying the pig frog, because of their importance in the food chain in the wetland; they believe these frogs can tell them a lot about the overall health of the Everglades. In the Everglades, they can be found by marshes and ponds. Their breeding season is from later spring to August.

The Florida chorus frog can be found in many parts of Florida, including the Everglades. They are smaller in size and grow to be 1.25 inches. Their coloring depends on the weather. When it’s warm, they appear to be a light gray color with dark gray spots and when it’s colder, they are a darker gray in color, and their spots aren’t noticeable. The Florida chorus frog can be found in near the edges of water sources or near grass clumps. They also frequent marshes, ponds, and drainage ditches. This frog’s breeding season is dependent on the rain, so in the Everglades this stretches from late spring to the fall.

Want a glimpse of some of these frogs up close? A great way to see these amphibians and other creatures in the Everglades is on an airboat! Come join Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours for an adventure through a mystical place that you’ll never forget. To book a trip, click here or call 800-368-0065.

 

Frontcountry camping in the Everglades

Love spending time in nature? How about overnight? Camp in the Everglades! This camping trip is surely one you’ll never forget. Camping, both frontcountry and backcountry, is available year-round. Even during this rainy season, people do head out and camp in the Everglades. The National Park Service notes that during the rainy season, camping can be more difficult and uncomfortable.

The Park does not have camping equipment to rent or purchase, so you must bring everything you will need to set up camp.

If you’re looking for a frontcountry camping experience, the Everglades has two places: Long Pine Key Campground and Flamingo Campground. Right now, the Long Pine Key Campground is closed for summer months. The Flamingo Campground is accessible from the Homestead Entrance of the Everglades. It can accommodate both tents and RVs. Since it is the summer season, reservations aren’t necessary, but you are still able to make one if you’d prefer. Flamingo has 234 drive-up sites, which are $20 per night for a campsite with no electric hookup and 41 sites are $30 per night with electric hookups. Many of the sites have a view of Florida Bay, as this site is on the southernmost tip of Florida.

The summer time is a good time to camp in this area if you prefer fewer people around. There is a visitor center at the campground, a store, and canoe and kayak rentals. This campground is a large open field with strong breezes coming off the bay. There are solar-heated showers, dump stations, picnic tables, grills and an amphitheater for winter programs. The Flamingo area also has lots of hiking and canoe trails. To make a reservation at Flamingo Campground, call 1-877-444-6777.

While camping in the Everglades, you can explore even more of the wetland on an airboat tour during your trip. An airboat ride can bring you around areas of the Everglades you are unable to reach by trails. If you’d like to go on an airboat tour, join Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours for an adventure. To book a trip, click here or call 800-368-0065.

 

 

The Consequences of Invasive Species in the Florida Everglades

invasive speciesThe Florida Everglades have long been a popular tourist destination for visitors from around the United States and around the world. It is easy to see why so many people make this a must see place on their “bucket lists” since it is a unique, one of a kind landscape that gives you access to an incredibly diverse and sensitive environment. The Everglades is a wilderness preserve like no other, allowing visitors a chance to experience flora and fauna that can’t be seen many (if any) other place on earth.

However, there has been consequences from urbanization and tourism. As population has grown, the Everglades have been encroached upon more and more. Some of the swamps were drained to make way for residential, commercial, or industrial complexes as the nearby cities demanded more jobs and places to live. Now, thankfully, what remains of the Everglades is protected and kept as safe as possible from further encroachment or pollution.

It isn’t just people that have been trying to worm their way into the Everglades and snuff out the native species that once thrived there. Foreign plants and animals, often referred to as invasive species, pose, perhaps, an even graver threat to the health of the ecosystem than humans do, though they would never have been a problem had it not been for humans.

When we began to trade further and further from our own shores, with those goods we asked for, came things we didn’t. As trade expanded, new plants and animals that hitch rides across the sea via trade cargo boats, landed on the shores and began to take over, as they didn’t face the native predators in this new place that they did at home. Many of these species quickly took advantage of their new environment and spread rapidly and aggressively.

A lot of the native plants and animals are specialists, which means they require a pretty stable and exact ecosystem to thrive or even survive. As invasive species have made their way into sensitive areas like the Everglades, the native plants find their nutrients and food sources dwindling and can often not compete with the foreign invaders. It often doesn’t even take very long for these invaders to almost completely push out the native flora and fauna, leaving behind a very different landscape.

It is for this reason that there are such staunch rules about the importation of plants and animals from abroad. It is helpful to be cognizant of this problem if you plan to visit the Everglades and it is advised that you take steps, especially if you are visiting internationally, to ensure that you do not bring any potentially harmful spores, seeds, or bugs to the sensitive landscape.

Looking to explore the Everglades? Go for a ride in an airboat tour with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours. Here, you’ll be able to see both the native and invasive species up close. To book a tour, click here or call 800-368-0065.

Seasons of the Everglades

seasonsThe rest of us may have four seasons (Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter), but did you know the Everglades only has two seasons? The Everglades seasons don’t go by the temperature, but rather the water levels in the wetland. The two seasons are known as: the Wet Season and the Dry Season.

The Everglades’ wet seasons runs from April to November. During this time, the area experience intense storms and rains. The Everglades gets about 60 inches of rain per year. The Dry Season begins in November and ends in April. There is little rain during the dry season, usually only around a quarter of the yearly rainfall occurs during the dry season.

The Everglades’ water levels aren’t just determined by the rainfall in the Everglades, but in other parts of the state of Florida, as well. Why? Well, there are so many different bodies of water that flow into the Everglades. Rain in Central Florida makes its way down into Lake Okeechobee and Florida Bay, which lead into the Everglades.

Since humans have disrupted the natural flow of water in the Everglades (water has been diverted), animal and plant life populations have changed and declined. Naturally, the water levels in the Everglades change month to month, but the animal life and plant life that are native to the area are accustomed to these water changes. In fact, they expect and depend on the water levels to change.

For example, some birds will only nest if the water level is at a certain height; if it’s not, the birds will be hesitant to settle down to nest. There are many reasons birds fly to the Everglades during the winter.  Since it’s the dry season in Florida, it’s not only warmer than the North, but the dry weather makes it easier for the birds and their offspring to find food. Birds, like the Wood Stork and Anhinga breed, need shallow water to find fish and other food sources faster and easier. When the water levels change, the birds will start to look for other places to nest or won’t breed at all.

The ecosystem of the Everglades is delicate. It requires an ideal balance for the animals and plants to be happy and thrive. Unfortunately, humans, storms, climate change, and invasive species can wreak havoc on this balance. If there is too little or too much water in the Everglades, animals will move elsewhere, plants will die off and slowly more and more negative changes will begin to snowball. This water affects breeding, drinking, growing, and provides homes and shelters.

The water in the Everglades even affects humans’ drinking water. As water flows into the Everglades, it gets soaked into the limestone underground and gets stored into aquifers (caves). Aquifers are fresh water sources. The Biscayne Aquifer provides the clean drinking water for southeast Florida.

A proper balance of water is essential in the Everglades, as well as the water’s timing and quality and where it ends up.

If you’d like to get a chance to fly through some of the Everglades’ waterways, book a trip on an airboat with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours. Click here or call 800-368-0065 to book an airboat tour adventure today.

Research in Everglades National Park

research in the evergladesThe Everglades National Park may be full of plants, animals, birds, insects, fish, and water, but it’s also home to many different research programs. The South Florida Natural Resources Center (SFNRC) conducts research that informs the management of the south Florida parks pertaining to wildlife, restoration, water quality, hydrology, and invasive plants and animals.

Here is a list of some of the research groups, monitoring programs, natural resources management and restoration assessments going on in the Park.

  • Ridge and Slough Ecology Program
  • Ecological Modeling Program
  • Hydrologic Modeling Program
  • Hydrologic Monitoring 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
  • Tamiami Trail Next Steps Project

Below, we wanted to share a little more detail about what a few of these programs do, so you can have a little insight into the science, research, and work happening in the Everglades.

  • Wildlife Monitoring Program – This program has been around for quite some time and has been able to gather information critical to the management of wading birds, sea turtles, alligators, eagles, Florida panthers, and more.
  • Aquatics Program – In this program, freshwater fish and invertebrates are monitored to track for season and long-term changes due to natural weather patterns and water management.
  • Modified Water Deliveries Project – This project began in 1992 and is almost completer; this project will allow an incremental increase in water flow into the Northeast Shark River Slough. With the increased water flow and quality, the habitat is expected to improve, which would bring more species back to the area.
  • Marine and Estuarine Resources Management – In this program, marine habitats and organisms are monitored to track gamefish populations based on what fisherman are catching. They also monitor fish populations (in general) and their habitats.

To learn more about any of the above programs, click here.

 

If you’d like to explore the Everglades, book an airboat tour. Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours will bring you all around the Everglades where you can get once-in-a-lifetime views of animal and plant life. To book an airboat tour, click here or call 800-368-0065.

 

Photo courtesy: www.nps.gov

The Everglades’ Old Ingraham Highway

Old Ingraham HighwayOne of the oldest and most historic roads in the Everglades is Old Ingraham Highway.  Work began on this road in 1916 and it was completed in 1922. The road was named after James E. Ingraham, who was the president of the Model Land Company and vice president of the Florida East Coast Railroad. Since this road goes through Royal State park and Florida East Coast Railroad helped making Royal Palm a State Park, it made sense the road was named after Ingraham.

This road was created to be a way to access the Flamingo area. People would drive their vehicles down to visit areas along Florida Bay. It was built on piles of limestone. The old road still exists from the Anhinga Trail to Snake Night. This road is no longer open to cars or bikes, and is considered a wilderness area.

If you’re looking to hike this road, please note there is little shade and it is around 10 miles, 20 miles round trip. Wear sunglasses, hats, and apply sunscreen. This takes around 5 hours to complete, one way. This is an easy to navigate path. The pavement has disintegrated, and the road is mostly gravel or potholes these days. Since it is a wilderness area, the trail isn’t maintained like some other trails in the Park. Be aware there could be a few plants or branches that you may have dodge.  You will come across mangroves and sawgrass, along with endless other plants.

Along the trail, there is a canal where birds and alligators can be spotted, especially during the dry season. The trail is open year-round.  There are also entrances to old campsites on the trail, but they are no longer in use.

Walking around the Everglades is a truly magical experience; however, it can also be extremely hot, tiring, and buggy. If you’d like a cooler, less exhaustive and equally-as-fun way to get around the Everglades, jump on an airboat tour with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours. Captain Mitch has been people around around the Everglades for decades. To book an airboat tour, click here or call 800-368-0065.

 

photo courtesy: npplan.com

 

Some Basics on Airboat Safety

Everglades city Airboat oursAirboats are one of the most exciting, up-close-and-personal ways to get around the Everglades. They give visitors a chance to see the wetland’s vastness, along with its flora and fauna. Airboats are a safe way to glide through the waterways, but like anything there are risks. Airboat injuries and accidents have occurred, so it is important as a passenger you follow all safety precautions and rules.

Captain Mitch of Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours has more than 30 years of experience exploring the Everglades on an airboat. Safety is a top priority for Captain Mitch.  He is familiar with the area and is trained and experienced in proper navigation techniques. Before going out on a tour, the airboat captain and staff perform a pre-operation check to see if there’s an issues or concerns with the boat. Many accidents and injuries can be avoided by keeping up with regular checks and maintenance.

What kind of things are looked at during these boat inspections? Here are just a few of many items an airboat captain or staff member in the state of Florida will check on:

  • Safety chains
  • Oil level, radiator fuel level
  • Navigation lights
  • Leaks
  • Safety gear
  • Gauges
  • Hull
  • Engine and engine mounts for anything loose
  • Rudders and propellers

While on an airboat, the captain will instruct passengers to not go near the propeller as a precaution. Any loose items and clothing can get caught in the propeller, which can bring harm to both the person and damage the boat. People will be instructed to secure all items they have with or on them.

On the airboat, there is ear and eye protection, a first-aid kit, a cell-phone, drinking water, and a fire extinguisher.

Since nature is unpredictable, airboat captains keep an eye on the weather. Florida is home to some powerful thunderstorms and hurricanes, so it’s extra important captains know the timing of these storms. If lightening, thunderstorms, or high wind is happening, a captain will dock the boat.

Captain Mitch has been touring through the Everglades for decades. Whether it’s a medical or weather emergency, Captain Mitch is trained to handle the situation and get everyone to safety as soon as possible. Captain Mitch’s Everglades Airboat Tours aims to bring people on fun and safe tours for decades. Click the airboat tour page too schedule a trip, or call 239-695-3377.

How Best to Avoid Pests on a Trip to the Everglades

everglades pestsA visit to the Everglades is a once in a lifetime experience. In the Everglades, you get to see a unique ecosystem that is unlike anything else in the United States. It is a diverse and abundant ecosystem that is an excellent place for the avid nature enthusiast and bird watcher alike.

There are tons of different ways to experience the Everglades, whether you take a foot tour of the national park, go on a bird watching tour, or go on an airboat ride around the pristine landscape to see it up close and personal. Whatever your particular interest, there is a way to enjoy it here.

One of the problems, however, is that in these varied and abundant settings there are, well, varied and abundant bugs, some of which can bite and sting, or simply just be a huge nuisance. Anyone visiting the Everglades for the first time should be prepared for the bugs they are likely to encounter and how to protect themselves from excessive irritation.

The most common nuisance is, of course, the mosquito. People who live in Florida have a whole host of different ways they deal with this ever-present pest, but almost all recommend going with a heavy duty bug spray when you visit the Everglades. Watch out for fire ants and cow ants as well. These are very abundant and can painfully bit your feet or legs.

Some claim that rubbing citrus peels on your feet and legs can help repel them, but it is recommended that you just wear appropriate feet coverings to protect yourself from bites.

Though they do not bite, one should also be forewarned about the Palmetto bug of Florida. If you have never been to Florida or never seen one of these, it can be an incredibly frightening experience. These are ugly and alarmingly large bugs that seem to have a knack for flying straight at any person they encounter. They are harmless, but also still rather unsettling. There is no way to really avoid them in Florida, but you can help reduce the likelihood you have multiple visitors of this variety by keeping all food properly sealed or stored in the refrigerator.

Visiting the Everglades is a unique and incredibly beautiful experience. There is tons of flora and fauna that you don’t find anywhere else and the views are stunning and unique. However, with all this beauty does come some cost. Insects are an ever-present reality for those who live in Florida, and if you are planning on visiting, it is advised that you come prepared to manage the pests that are likely to accompany you along your travels.

Want to jet around the Everglades in an airboat? Join Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours today! To book an airboat tour, click here or call 800-368-0065.