Everglades National Park, FL…
One of the places that we visited, while in southern Florida, was Everglades National Park. Everglades is one of the most well known National Parks, and encompasses over 1.5 million acres. It is a subtropical region that is one of a king in both the habitats that it provides, and the residents that call it home.
It is a natural habitat for some of the most unique creatures, like the American Crocodile, the Wood Stork, and the Roseate Spoonbill. During the couple of days that we spent exploring the Everglades, we got to see crocodile and alligators, manatee and dolphins, and more wading birds than I could keep track of. We saw beautiful cypress woods and extensive, connected plains that have been given the name ‘River of Grass’ because they are fed by a massive, constantly moving, shallow sea of water. We visited the park’s visitor’s centers, and met and talked with several friendly park rangers and volunteers.
Our children did the Jr. Ranger program for this park – Everglades actually ‘shares’ a J.R. book with Big Cypress and Biscayne. Each park has certain pages that the child needs to do, all in one book. If your student completes the program for all 3 parks, they can show their completed books, with signatures from park rangers at each of the other parks, and recieve a special patch!
Everglades National Park is a great place to take a leisurely drive through to see wildlife, but it’s also a great location to get out and explore! The park offers all sorts of walking trails, where you can ‘get off the beaten path’ and experience the beauty of the ‘wilds’. The main part of the park has one road down to the ocean, that takes about an hour to drive (one way). Other than this one road, the park is only accessible by canoe/kayak, or foot. There are lots of pull-offs where you can get out to explore, and a lot of hiking trails.
We took our time in the Everglades to do quite a few things: we attended a Nike Missile Tour, we explored all 3 visitor’s centers, we saw American Crocodiles in the river behind the Flamingo Visitor Center, we explored some of the walking trails, and drove through both of the big-rig-friendly campgrounds to decide where to stay next time we come to visit!
We really enjoyed the Nike Missile walk – level, and on paved surfaces, this short walk was both lesson and tour. At the meeting spot, our ranger had everyone get out of their vehicle for a short lesson on the Cold War – which was great for my middle boys since they had not studied it yet. After about 15 minutes, we all got back in our vehicles and followed the ranger down the road to the missile site. We parked and went on a walking tour (couldn’t have been more than a mile in and back), that included the different buildings and explanations of how the site functioned. Our last stop on the tour was at a missile hangar where there was a missile that had been restored. We were also given time to explore the hanger and check out the displays that had been set up in it. We thought it was such a neat and unique ranger program – definitely not the kind of experience we had expected to have in the Everglades! If you are interested in reading more about the tour
, we blogged about it a little more in-depth on our personal blog.
We really enjoyed our visit to the Everglades. We didn’t end up taking our RV down to camp in Flamingo like we had initially planned since there was about 10 miles of construction (on the eastern end of highway 41 in Big Cypress) between our camping site in Big Cypress and taking it down to the Everglades – down there, their rumble strips really rumble, and it was hard enough on our van that we had no desire to haul our 42′ toy hauler over them also!
Everglades National Park is such a wildly beautiful place to visit! We hope to go back next ‘winter’ and spend time exploring it in our kayaks and on foot. I don’t know about yours, but my kids are like flowers – they flourish in wild places. I aim to get them there as much as I can, and Everglades is one park we all really want to explore further!