Everglades Restoration Impact on Ducks and Other Waterfowl

duckTwenty to 40 years ago, there were plenty of ducks and other waterfowl swimming around the Everglades, and hunters would go hunting. But these days, not as many ducks show up as they once used to in the past.

Migratory ducks have been coming to the Everglades in lower number in recent years. It is believe that weather trends and the Everglades’ current ecosystem is why their numbers have dropped. Many of these ducks don’t migrate as far as they used to. There is also less habitat for these ducks to settle in due to farming and housing developments.

Lake Okeechobee used to be a big spot for ducks, but the low water levels and the algae blooms have kept the ducks away. The algae blooms kill aquatic vegetation that the ducks eat, which reduces ducks’ food sources. Phosphorous has also ended up in the Everglades from fertilizer from yard and farms which help feed the algae blooms and red tide, which has killed about 367 tons of marine life in the Gulf.

However, current restoration efforts to bring the waterflow back to its original state has seen positive results for bringing ducks back to the Everglades. For example: the Kissimmee River restoration project has allowed the natural river channel to be restored so water overflows the banks. Pre-restoration there was about one bird per four square kilometers and now there is about 40 birds per square kilometer.
The Central Everglades Project, which will restore habitat of 10,000 acres of degraded wetlands south of Lake Okeechobee, is said to help bring ducks back. Part of this project included the Everglades Agricultural Area Reservoir, which is a 240,000-acre-foot holding tank similar to other stormwater treatment areas in the Park. These treatment areas are known to be good places to hunt ducks because they are filled with aquatic vegetation.

With more and more spots restoring to natural flows, the response has been positive for ducks and other waterfowl to return.

If you’re a fan of ducks or other birds, you can catch a glimpse of them on an airboat tour. Jump on an Everglades airboat tour for a chance to see ducks and other beautiful wildlife. An airboat ride is the best way to get around the Everglades.

For a private, guided tour through Everglades, book an airboat tour with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours.

To book an airboat ride, call  800-368-0065  or visit our Private Everglades Airboat Tours page. We are open seven days a week 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. If paying by cash, adults cost $40 (plus tax) and children 12 and under cost $20 (plus tax. If paying by credit card, adults cost $45 (plus tax) and children cost $25 (plus tax).

 

Rising Sea Levels in the Everglades

river of grassAs the Earth warms, sea levels have risen, which has pushed the freshwater-saltwater barrier inland in the Everglades, as well as destroyed marshes and killed off mangroves – both of which are habitats to many creatures and threatened species. This large subtropical wilderness also is a protective barrier against hurricanes but between climate change, development, and draining, the Everglades isn’t functioning properly.

As sea levels rise, the mangroves keep retreating and many drown. According to research done by Florida International University, mangroves will likely all be submerged by water in 30 years as there is nowhere else for them to go. A geologist at FIU believe mangroves will be replaced by open water and the outlook isn’t good.

Mangroves are not just important to the Park, they are important for humans and life itself. They buffer storms and saltwater. They give many marine creatures a home.

The FIU research showed mangroves are migrating west over marshland at about 100 feet a year but they have been halted by a levee (flood barrier) in Miami-Dade county.

With mangroves moving inward, south Florida will become more vulnerable to storms.

The rising sea levels are also causing land loss to occur.

The ecosystem of the Everglades continues to shrink. Although there are restoration efforts in place, sea level rising is still a critical problem as its occurring at a rapid rate. In the south Florida coastline, the sea level is rising three times faster than the world average. Now, saltwater is entering the Everglades.

The Everglades is currently unhealthy, despite restoration efforts. It’s up against a lot of threats. It’s’ essential to do everything we ca to restore the Everglades so it can put up a fight against sea level rising and mangrove collapse.

Want to support the Everglades? Click Everglades National Park support.

At Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours, we love this Park, and we are lucky to show people its beauty and importance on a daily basis.

Come on down to the Everglades and ride with us on an Everglades airboat tour to truly experience this wetland. An airboat ride is the best way to get around the Everglades.

For a private, guided tour through Everglades, book an airboat tour with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours.

To book an airboat ride, call  800-368-0065  or visit our Private Everglades Airboat Tours page. We are open seven days a week 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. If paying by cash, adults cost $40 (plus tax) and children 12 and under cost $20 (plus tax. If paying by credit card, adults cost $45 (plus tax) and children cost $25 (plus tax).

 

Who is Marjory Stoneman Douglas?

park rules

 

Marjory Stoneman Douglas and the Everglades are forever intertwined. In fact, the National Park Service refers to her as the “Defender of the Everglades.”

She nicknamed the Everglades the River of Grass in 1947 to reflect the area’s slow movement of shallow sheet flow through the marshes.

In 1947, she wrote the book, The Everglades: River of Grass, which is the same year the Everglades National Park was established. She fought hard to protect the Everglades. After several reprints, there was a revised edition was published in 1987, to draw attention to the continuing unresolved threats to the Everglades.

She was one of the first people to bring attention to the Everglades and the south Florida ecosystem being in trouble due to construction programs in the 1950s by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. She felt this organization was destroying the wetland, eliminating the sheet flow of water, and disturbing/changing the natural cycles of the ecosystem.

She knew the Everglades depended on the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee into the Park and upon the Kissimmee River that feeds into the lake.

In 1970, she formed the Friends of the Everglades and was actively involved. She was against the Everglades being drained and developed.

Douglas was an American journalist, author, and women’s suffrage advocate.

In her book, she spent five years researching the Park and south Florida. The book sold out in a month.

The Christian Science Monitor wrote of the book, “Today her book is not only a classic of environmental literature, it also reads like a blueprint for what conservationists are hailing as the most extensive environmental restoration project ever undertaken anywhere in the world.”

Come down and explore this beautiful wetland that Douglas loved and fought to protect.

At Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours, we love this Park, and we are lucky to show people its beauty and importance daily.

Come on down to the Everglades and ride with us on an Everglades airboat tour to truly experience this wetland. An airboat ride is a great  way to get around the Everglades.

For a private, guided tour through Everglades, book an airboat tour with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours.

To book an airboat ride, call  800-368-0065  or visit our Private Everglades Airboat Tours page. We are open seven days a week 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. If paying by cash, adults cost $40 (plus tax) and children 12 and under cost $20 (plus tax. If paying by credit card, adults cost $45 (plus tax) and children cost $25 (plus tax).

Want to safely explore the Everglades? There’s so many different ways to explore it, including an airboat tour. A ride on an airboat gives you an up-close-and-personal view of the Everglades; it’s a trip you’ll never forget.

To book an airboat trip, call 800-368-0065  or visit our Everglades Airboat Tours page. We are open seven days a week 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. If paying by cash, adults cost $40 (plus tax) and children 12 and under cost $20 (plus tax. If paying by credit card, adults cost $45 (plus tax) and children cost $25 (plus tax).

 

Follow Everglades Park Rules to Keep the Park Safe

park rulesAs you’ve seen on the news in recent months and years, our precious parks, forests, waters and other natural habitats are in danger. From fires and deforestation to algae buildup and flooding, there’s a lot of destruction (natural and manmade) occurring.

Unfortunately, the Everglades has its share of problems as well including unprescribed fires, flooding, storm damage, too much/too little water, invasive species, and more. The Everglades is a 1.5 million-mile-acre wetland preserve, it has a fragile ecosystem, and it is filled with thousands of creatures and plant life.

With that said, it is essential as humans and visitors to this Park that we treat this area with respect and follow the Park’s rules and regulations when exploring this beautiful place.

The Everglades provides both shelter to many species, and water to southern Florida, so it is important for visitors to respect this environment. If you’re planning a trip to the Everglades, the follow rules and regulations should be kept in mind.

  • It is prohibited to collect or disturb animals, plants, artifacts, seashells or anything else that is naturally occurring in the Park.
  • Pets are not allowed on backcountry campsites, beaches or in the wilderness of the Everglades.
  • Feeding animals is not allowed.
  • All trash must be taken out of the Park with you or placed in Park’s trash cans.
  • You must bring your own drinking water; it is not available everywhere in the Park.
  • Fires are only allowed at designated beach sites.
  • Firearms and fireworks are prohibited.
  • If you are aboard a vessel in the Everglades, you must abide by the U.S. Coast Guard’s regulations.
  • Personal watercraft, like jet skis, are not allowed in the Park’s waters.
  • If you need tide information, it is available at the Flamingo and Gulf Coast visitor centers, or online.
  • Be extra cautious if your boating by any manatee signs.
  • Generators and other portable motors are not allowed in backcountry campsites.
  • If you need to use a bathroom and are not near any facilities, it is asked that you dig a hole in the ground at least 6 inches deep; the hole should be covered when you’re done. If you’re near a coastal ground site or at a beach, you can urinate directly into the water.
  • Wash dishes and your body away from waterways.

These are just some of the Park’s regulations. To view more of the Park’s regulations, visit www.nps.gov.

Want to safely explore the Everglades? There’s so many different ways to explore it, including an airboat tour. A ride on an airboat gives you an up-close-and-personal view of the Everglades; it’s a trip you’ll never forget.

To book an airboat trip, call 800-368-0065  or visit our Everglades Airboat Tours page. We are open seven days a week 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. If paying by cash, adults cost $40 (plus tax) and children 12 and under cost $20 (plus tax. If paying by credit card, adults cost $45 (plus tax) and children cost $25 (plus tax).

 

Reasons to Go on an Airboat Ride

airboat tourThere are many ways to explore a park, but in the Everglades, you can explore a park in a way like no other on an airboat. As most people know, airboats are pretty iconic in the Everglades. Airboats are great way to travel in the Park that allow guests access to areas that are not accessible by foot. On an airboat tour, you will learn facts about the Park, while seeing birds, animals, reptiles, sea life, and plant life.

For this article, we wanted to share with you the many reasons of going on an airboat tour in the Everglades.

  • Airboats are considered safe for riders, wildlife, and plant life.
  • Airboats don’t redirect natural water currents or alter surface hydrology as much as regular boats.
  • Airboats, unlike regular boats, don’t cause soil and organic particles in the water to rise up and affect plants, fish, and other wildlife in the water.
  • An airboat can go anywhere, whether its shallow or deeper waters.
  • Airboats do not have any moving parts under the water, which makes it safer in the water for fish and plants nearby.
  • If there is a collision with plants or animals, an airboat will cause far less damage than an average boat because it does not have a propeller.
  • Airboats are stable, so you can move without risking the vessel tipping over.
  • On an airboat, you get a great view of your surroundings because of the raised seating.
  • Airboats can travel at different speeds to handle different situations. They can easily handle dense vegetation, sandbanks, dam walls, floating grass islands, and rocks in the water.
  • An airboat is easy to launch. In fact, only one person is needed to get the trip started.
  • An airboat doesn’t need a slip or ramp to be launched into the water.

Captain Mitch has been guiding airboat tours through the Everglades since he was a little tike. He followed in his family’s footsteps and began his own airboat touring company more than 30 years ago.

Come explore the Everglades safely in an airboat. It’s a truly unique experience.

It can be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for you. Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours give you a glimpse of the Everglades like no other. To book an airboat ride, call 800-368-0065  or visit our Everglades Private Airboat Tours page. We are open seven days a week 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Click our airboat ride rates to view our prices.

 

 

Spooky Stories from the Everglades

evergladesOctober is the “spooky” month filled with costumes, tv specials, ghost tours, and more. With Halloween right around the corner, we wanted to share some spooky stories of the  Everglades region.

–The Ghost Ship of the Everglades has been haunting Florida’s south coast since the days of pirating marauders — its phantom crew is cursed to sail the seas for all eternity, after giving chase to a merchant ship and getting lost in the twisting channels of the Everglades’ swamplands. The story has been for hundreds of years.

–The story of Edgar Watson. No one knew where he came from, but he built a cabin in the Everglades over 100 years ago and largely kept to himself, until a fisherman found the gutted body of a woman floating in the Chatham River. Authorities eventually found dozens of human bodies buried on Edgar Watson’s farm, and a former farmhand reported seeing him take lives ritualistically. The property is thought to be haunted to this day.

— The Calusa. It’s not clear what happened to the Calusa, an ancient tribe of Native Americans that resisted incursion by the Spanish and fatally injured explorer Juan Ponce de Leon in 1521. The Calusa practiced human sacrifice and believed their leaders had supernatural powers. The mass remains of their civilization were found hundreds of years later in the form of human skulls.

–Missing planes. Numerous planes have disappeared in the Everglades over the years, never to be seen again. In December 1972, Eastern Air Lines Flight 401 was headed to Miami from New York, but due to an electronic failure and pilot error, it crashed in the Everglades, killing 96 of 163 people onboard. Paranormal events were soon experienced on other Eastern Air Lines planes that used parts cannibalized from the wreckage of Flight 401. The odd occurrences were documented in the 1976 book “The Ghost of Flight 401,” and the airline eventually replaced all the parts salvaged from the doomed flight.In May 1996, a fire broke out on ValuJet Flight 592 shortly after takeoff from Miami. The plane plunged into the alligator-infested water and very little of it was ever found; all 105 passengers were killed. Some think it to be one of the most baffling airplane mysteries in modern aviation history.

No one knows the Everglades like Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours in Everglades City, Florida. To book an airboat tour, call 800-368-0065  or visit our Everglades Private Airboat Tours page. We are open seven days a week 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Click our airboat ride rates to view our prices.

The Everglades and Hurricanes

hurricanesIt’s currently hurricane season, so we wanted to discuss how the Everglades hold up in hurricanes. In short, the Everglades is resilient.

Florida, including the Everglades, has experienced its share of devastating hurricanes, including Hurricane Irma, which passed through in September 2017. Although the Everglades is comprised of water in many forms, it can be negatively impacted by the heavy winds and excessive rain. But, how do hurricanes truly affect a place like the Everglades?

First off, wildlife is heavily affected. Whether it’s birds or fish, they all feel the effects of a major storm. During a major hurricane, the rough seas can wash ashore many fish and mammals, including dolphins and manatees. Bird can also be blown extremely far away from their homes and flight paths. Strong winds and storm surges can cause trees to collapse, land to wash away, and habitats to disappear. Even food sources (berries, fruits, nuts) get washed away and ripped off plants.

In the Everglades, there are fresh and saltwater sources, but a hurricane and throw off their balance and mix the two. Many fish, and other marine life, depend on the ideal salinity in the water to survive. When this balance is thrown off, many creatures can die or are forced to thrive in a very different environment. In these storms, the saltwater pushes up into the freshwater inland rivers and lakes of the Everglades, while heavy rains overflow all water sources, so fresh water enters the ocean. The excessive rain and run-off can also pollute the ocean and the streams and other water sources in the Everglades.

The strong forces of the winds of a hurricane can also harm and kill wildlife. For example, 180 million fish were killed in the Everglades during Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

When Hurricane Wilma came through in 2015, it toppled thousands of threes, and wiped out campsites in the Park. Florida Bay was flooded, employee houses were wrecked, and algae was left on roads. Even the surviving trees became bare. However, on the plus side (if there is one), storms can wipe out harmful exotic species and plants, which can help the native species a chance to grow and thrive again.

After a major hurricane, the Park certainly will look different, but it will restore itself. With the help of Park employees and volunteers, the Park can be up and running again despite damages and repairs.

Looking to explore the Everglades? Not in a storm, of course! A great way to get around the everglades is on an airboat ride. Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours will bring you in and out of all the wetland’s beautiful waterways where you can see a variety of plant and animal life. To book an airboat tour, call 800-368-0065  or visit our Everglades Private Airboat Tours page. We are open seven days a week 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Click our airboat ride rates to view our prices.

 

Turtles Who Call the Everglades ‘Home’

turtlesYou hear a lot about alligators in the Everglades, but what about turtles? There’s a lot of them. In fact, there are over a dozen species of turtles living in the Park. Unfortunately, many of these turtles are endangered or threatened and there are special regulations in place to protect them.

For this article, we wanted to share some information with you about the four most common species of turtles found in the Everglades.

Atlantic Loggerhead – This turtle if often referred to as a loggerhead or loggerhead sea turtle. This is a saltwater turtle that can be found throughout the world, though it has a strong preference for warmer waters around the equator. Loggerheads spend most of their time in the open ocean, but they can be found along coastlines and in brackish estuaries, such as those that occur in the Florida Everglades. Adult loggerheads can weigh up to 1,000 pounds and live up to 70 years old.

Atlantic Hawksbill – The hawksbill sea turtle shares many of the same habitats as the loggerhead, but on average weighs around 180 pounds and is a much smaller species of turtle. It has a distinctive hawk-like beak. It also was the first known reptile to show signs of biofluorescence, which has made their shells highly collectable and valuable, sadly leading to their near extinction.

Florida Box Turtle –Florida box turtles are much smaller and more docile than loggerheads and hawksbills. They have sharp beaks and sharp claws, but they are actually omnivores and eat fruits, vegetables, and fungi, in addition to small insects. People are allowed to  box turtles as pets, though no more than two are allowed in a single home without a special reptile permit.

Florida Red-Bellied Cooter – This turtle species is another small species of turtle, rarely weighing in at over 10 pounds and with a distinctive red-tinged belly to give it its name. They can often be seen sharing logs or other basking areas with alligators, and are even known to lay their eggs in the nesting mounds of these fearsome predators. Red-bellied cooters are often kept as pets and are commonly exported all around the world.

Want to see some turtles in the Everglades? Jump on an Everglades airboat tour for a chance to see this reptile and other wildlife. Most of these turtles are protected species and must be enjoyed from a distance, so an airboat ride is the best way to view wildlife while giving them their space.

For a private, guided tour through Everglades, book an airboat tour with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours.

To book an airboat ride, call  800-368-0065  or visit our Private Everglades Airboat Tours page. We are open seven days a week 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. If paying by cash, adults cost $40 (plus tax) and children 12 and under cost $20 (plus tax. If paying by credit card, adults cost $45 (plus tax) and children cost $25 (plus tax).

 

 

Habitats Within the Everglades

habitatsThe Everglades is a federally-protected National Park home to thousands of plants, wildlife, aquatic life, and more. It has a diverse ecosystem and has many species not found anywhere else on the planet. There are nine habitats in the Everglades. We wanted to share with you a little information about each habitat you can find in the Park.

Freshwater slough

Sloughs are mainly responsible for the water circulation throughout the Everglades. Sloughs are flooded, sunken areas of land that distribute freshwater to other areas of the ecosystem. There are two sloughs in Everglades National Park: Taylor Slough and the Shark River Slough, also known as the “River of Grass.” Both sloughs ensure freshwater reaches the Florida Bay. Because of freshwater, sloughs are popular wildlife congregation sites. If you visit the Everglades sloughs in the dry season (November through May), you will have the best chance to spot alligators.

Hardwood hammock

Hardwood hammocks are dry, slightly elevated concentrations of tropical and temperate trees with broad leaves. Hardwood hammock habitats rarely flood. The trees grow close together, creating overhead canopies with shade from the sun. Hardwood hammocks are home to the red-limbed Gumbo Limbo tree, ferns, mahogany, oak, maple and more.

Pinelands

Pineland habitats also grow on higher ground. Also known as the Pine Rocklands, skinny slash pine trees grow tall out of a hard limestone surface. Around the trees’ roots thrive various species of palm, from the adequately named saw palmetto to the edible sable palm. Believe it or not, pinelands rely heavily on fire for survival. Over the years, pineland trees adapted to fires by acquiring thick bark and growing needles only where the fire can’t reach.

Coastal lowlands

This habitat is great for the most resilient flora. Found near the shore of the Gulf Coast, coastal lowlands are used to severe weather, which restricts the growth of mangroves and other tall trees. Desert plants usually survive in coastal lowlands because they can withstand harsh storms without much protection. At the sandy lowlands you’ll see short, salt-tolerant shrubs like succulents.

Mangroves

The Everglades has the most abundant population of mangroves in the entire hemisphere.  Mangroves thrive where freshwater and saltwater meet. These salt-tolerant mangrove trees come in three colors: red, white and black, all of which nurture plant and water life. Mangrove habitats provide essential nutrients to marine animals by depositing fallen leaves into the water.

Cypress

These towering trees can grow in standing water or in breaks in the hard ground. When the limestone surface of a pineland habitat breaks, it gives way to “solution holes.” Often clusters of cypress trees grow inside these weathered pits, with the larger trees concentrated in the center. River otters often lounge on low-lying cypress trunks. Another popular inhabitant of cypress swamps is the American Alligator.

Marine and estuarine

Florida Bay is the Everglades’ largest water body. Freshwater from Everglades estuaries mixes with saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico to create the brackish conditions in Florida Bay. Towards the bottom of the bay you’ll find coral, mollusks and a plethora of gamefish. Closer to the surface, bottlenose dolphins swim in pods, loggerhead turtles coast leisurely, and West Indian Manatees float with their young.

You can see a glimpse of many of these habitats while on an airboat tour. Airboats are a safe way to explore the Park and see areas you may not get to on foot.

For a private, guided tour through Everglades, book an airboat tour with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours.

To book an airboat ride, call  800-368-0065  or visit our Private Everglades Airboat Tours page. We are open seven days a week 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. If paying by cash, adults cost $40 (plus tax) and children 12 and under cost $20 (plus tax. If paying by credit card, adults cost $45 (plus tax) and children cost $25 (plus tax).

 

Spotting Bioluminescence in the Everglades

BioluminescenceHave you heard of bioluminescence? Picture the water at night glowing s neon-blue color looking like a starry night. That’s bioluminescence – and it’s not a man-made light, it’s coming from something that is alive.

Bioluminescence in the Everglades is the product of light-emitting aquatic microorganisms like algae and fungi. The most common light producing aquatic organisms are known as dinoflagellates, which give off a blue-green hue.

How can organisms create light? It occurs due to a chemical reaction between luciferin, the light-emitting property found in fireflies, and a light-bearing enzyme called luciferase. Being touched tends to stimulate bioluminescent organisms, so a boat’s bottom or an oar will trigger the lights to appear all over the water.

There is a purpose of this light. Bioluminescent organisms use the light to attract and deflect prey. Some species can even communicate with one another through those beautiful blue speckles you see at the water’s surface. The light is blue because blue light reaches farther distances in water, and it is also one of the only wavelengths marine organisms can interpret.

As you may know bioluminescence isn’t limited to the water, you’ve probably seen a firefly or two in your day. Also, a foxfire, which is a fungi that lives on tree trunks, emits a green glow.

In the Everglades, you are more likely to see bioluminescence by water at night. It usually occurs in brackish and coastal waters of the Everglades.

Everglades visitors claimed they’ve witnessed bioluminescence in the Everglades Wilderness Waterway, the 10,000 Islands region and in saltwater mangrove swamps. The phenomenon is only visible in the dark of night.

For a day time trip through the beautiful Everglades’ waterways,

For a guided tour through Everglades waterways, book an airboat tour with Captain Mitch’s Airboat Tours. These rides will give you a glimpse of the Everglades like no other on the water.

To book an airboat ride, call  800-368-0065  or visit our Private Everglades Airboat Tours page. We are open seven days a week 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. If paying by cash, adults cost $40 (plus tax) and children 12 and under cost $20 (plus tax. If paying by credit card, adults cost $45 (plus tax) and children cost $25 (plus tax).