Tag Archives: Everglades

The Everglades

3600 miles traveled.

Today we explored a little bit of the Everglades.  We drove some of it, we walked lots of it, and we took a 15 mile tram tour.  What surprised me most is the fact that the Everglades is NOT a swamp.  It’s actually a 50 mile wide, slow-moving, shallow river.  It’s so shallow that grasses grow in it and it looks like a sea of grass.  The water is slowly moving down the peninsula at the rate of ¼ mile a day.  As a result, it is all fresh water, there is nothing stale or stagnant about it.  In fact, the water is so fresh, it is used for drinking water in many Florida cities.

Like most rivers, it has cycles.  In the winter (now), it’s the dry season so much of the water is dried up and the animals congregate around watering holes.  It reminded me a lot of what happens in African savannas.  In the wet season (summer) the entire place fills with water, usually 3-4 feet deep.  In the past, much of the water has been controlled with dams, culverts, irrigation ditches, things like that.  But in 2000, Congress passed a law to reverse much of the man-made intervention.  They hope to restore 85% of the Everglades to its natural state, including the seasonal flooding.

There is an incredible abundance of life here.  There are alligators, of course, but there are also snakes, billions of birds, many mammals (including panthers), tons of fish, and even crocodiles.  One species that’s only been around since the 1990s is the Burmese python.  From a hundred pet snakes released by people who could no longer care for them (they start out tiny and cute, but they grow alarmingly fast, up to 23 feet—EEEK!) there are now about 5000 Burmese pythons in the Everglades.  As a result, the deer population in the park has dropped by 94% and the panther population has dropped 90%.  The rangers hold yearly hunts for the pythons and they capture all the ones they come across, but the snakes reproduce so quickly, it’s an uphill battle.

My favorite spot is where Exxon drilled for oil way back when (I can’t remember when, the 1930s? 40s?) Anyway, they found oil, but it was contaminated with sulphur and not usable.  So, Exxon (then Humble Oil Company) donated the land to the National Park Service. That’s how we got the Everglades National Park.  The oil rig was converted into a fire lookout and today its just an interesting tourist spot.  I have pictures of everything here.  As with the Dry Tortugas, most of the details of what we saw are in the captions of the photos.  Enjoy!

Everglades Photos


Bunches of gators! They were all just laying there. None of them moved, they just soaked up the sun. It was hard to count them since they were in such a pile.


They seem to just flop in mid-walk. It’s like they just couldn’t make it one more inch.


In this area, Bob and I counted 22 alligators, all lazing around and soaking up the sun. Don’t try to count them yourself, I couldn’t get them all in one shot.



There are two alligators in this picture. See them? They’re just swimming along.


Many of the bird species were quite large. Here, these birds are probably a foot tall, maybe a little more.




It was very pretty. This is not a natural area for the Everglades. There are no natural deep water spots. However, they were created in the past when humans dug holes to get materials to build roads with. Now, these deeper spots are natural refuges for the animals during the dry months because there’s always water here.


More huge birds.





See the alligator?


How about now?


This leatherback turtle was laying eggs and the vultures (yes, vultures, both figuratively and literally) were horrible to her. They were pecking her shell and taking bites out of her feet, which were bleeding. As soon as she was done, they devoured all the eggs. I couldn’t stay to watch, it was awful.



These birds dive for fish, etc., so they get saturated with water. It helps them sink. But, when they want to fly, they have to dry out first. This guy was just holding his wings open, waiting patiently until he was dry.



We wondered why peope choose to cover their cars with tarps. Keep the sun out? Kinda weird. Then we saw the box of tarps and it all became clear. Apparently, the vultures like plastic car parts and the weather stripping that runs around all car windows. They’ll tear your car apart, if they’re in the mood.  Luckily, they weren’t the day we visited.


This guy was at least 3 ½ feet tall.


Look! A real, live stork!


Grassland or river? Here, it’s a shallow river with grass growing in it. The trees grow on literal islands in the river that are a foot or two higher in elevation than the land around it.


Mama Gator with two babies. You can only see one hitching a ride in this picture. The baby is probably about a year old. Mamas attend to their young for 2-3 years.


Pretty cool what you can do with an old oil rig, isn’t it? Humble Oil drilled for oil in the Everglades, found it, but determined it wasn’t usable because of the sulphur content. Today there’s talk about driling for oil in the Everglades again.



It was hot and humid, but here we are on top of the observation tower (aka, old oil rig). Did I mention that the wind was blowing pretty hard?


View from on top of the oberservation platform



This “borrow pit” (aka a place where humans dug out fill material and made a deep pond) is filled with alligators. They’re hard to see among the lily pads, but they’re there.


This guy was hot, so he opened his wings to cool down. He also opened his mouth and was panting, kind of like a dog.


A family of some kind of bird I can’t remenber the name of now. Sorry!


Really, there are black panthers in the Everglades. No, we didn’t see one.


Another stamp for my passport. 🙂


Someone has a sense of humor.


Bob in his new Dry Tortugas hat.


We found rainbows in the sprinklers.