The southern tip of Florida sustains a truly astonishing array of flora and fauna. A unique set of conditions supports both freshwater and marine life in the system of wetlands and forests we know as the Everglades. Everglades National Park protects approximately twenty percent of this system. Nine discrete ecosystems, all of them dependent on each other and all of them in flux, exist within the park.

In the twentieth century and even before, developers looked at the Everglades and saw an opportunity – and not for communion with nature. A great deal of habitat damage and loss was the result. Even today, there is tension surrounding the question of if and how to restore the Everglades.

Perhaps the most striking facet of this national park is the hundreds of species, some of them endangered, that call it home. Alligators and crocodiles inhabit the waters – one of several reasons that swimming in the park is discouraged. A bird-watcher’s paradise, the Everglades supports more than three hundred species of birds. In the marine habitats, manatees and sea turtles swim, and mangrove trees flourish. And these are only the most prominent denizens of the Everglades.

Sustaining such a variety of wildlife requires a system of habitats that is both complex and fragile. There is a certain understated quality to the Everglades; it has no geysers, canyons, mountains, or glaciers. Yet this very lack of spectacle, part of what made the Everglades so vulnerable to development, holds its own fascination.

Worth Checking Out

  • Shark Valley Visitor Center
  • Anhinga Trail
  • Ten Thousand Islands

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