No other national park in North America preserves such a singular -- and threatened -- ecosystem as Everglades National Park. Wildlife in Everglades is abundant. Birders are treated to approximately 350 species, some of which are rarely found elsewhere in the United States, including Smooth-billed Anis, Roseate Spoonbills, Snail Kites, and Mangrove Cuckoos. The park is home to the endangered Florida Panther and American Crocodile
Though most of the Tamiami Trail passes through Big Cypress National Preserve, it provides an excellent introduction to subtropical Florida and the Everglades ecosystem, as well as access to some of the park’s most beautiful and delightful areas, such as TEN THOUSAND ISLANDS. This area, named for the numerous small mangrove islands that line the coast , is used primarily by canoeists and sea kayakers. The 99-mile mangrove-lined Wilderness Waterway begins at Everglades City and terminates at Flamingo, at about the southern tip of the peninsula. Several days are required to make this trip, and only seasoned paddlers should attempt it.
On the Tamiami Trail in the northeastern corner of the park, Shark Valley Visitor Center provides access to a shallow, slow-moving, 50-mile-wide body of water known as the Shark River Slough, a critical link to the preservation of the fragile Everglades ecosystem. The currents that creep through its channel supply much of the water that keeps the park healthy. The area offers hikes, nature and bike trails, and an observation tower (a good place to see wading birds).
ROYAL PALM, the first stop along the main park road to Flamingo, features a boardwalk through a forested wetland of Button Bushes, willows, and Pond Apples. The boardwalk is part of the Anhinga Trail, which runs along Taylor Slough. Alligators are abundant and easily seen.
LONG PINE KEY, an excellent recreation area and campground on a large pine island surrounded by wetlands, is on the main park road less than 4 miles from the entrance. Between Long Pine Key and Flamingo are many miles of hiking trails that pass through Everglades habitats such as rimrock pines and tropical hammocks and provide outstanding botanizing and wildlife observation. These include the Pinelands Trail, Pa-hay-okee Overlook Trail, Mahogany Hammock Trail, West Lake Trail, and Snake Bight Trail, known mostly for its views of birds.
The last stop southward is FLAMINGO RECREATION AREA, situated on the edge of Florida Bay, offering a campground (open from late fall to early spring), marina, lodge, museum, boat tours, canoe rentals, visitor center, and plenty of opportunities for wildlife watching. Several canoe trails begin here or nearby, and sea kayakers will enjoy paddling portions of Florida Bay and visiting the closest of the mangrove islands that dot the horizon.
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