EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK
“There are no other Everglades in the world.”
“They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the earth, remote, never wholly known. Nothing anywhere else is like them: their vast glittering openness, wider than the enormous visible round of the horizon, the racing free saltness and sweetness of their massive winds, under the dazzling blue heights of space. They are unique also in the simplicity, the diversity, the related harmony of the forms of life they enclose. The miracle of the light pours over the green and brown expanse of saw-grass and of water, shining and slow-moving below, the grass and water that is the meaning and the central fact of the Everglades of Florida. It is a river of grass.” Douglas, Marjory Stoneman. The Everglades: River of Grass . Pathfinder Books. Kindle Edition. Douglas, more than anyone else, is responsible for the admiration and conservation of the Everglades.
There are multiple point of entry into Everglades National Park. This webpage will only focus on the two in Miami-Dade County. For detailed information, please visit the official Everglades National Park website.
Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center
40001 State Road 9336
Homestead, FL 33034
Shark Valley Visitor Center
36000 SW 8th Street
Miami, Florida 33194
Visitors to the Everglades are required to pay an entrance fee that can either be purchased at the park entrance or online. The standard fee is $30 per vehicle or $15 for pedestrians, cyclists, and paddle-crafts. Each pass is and is valid to enter the park—through any of its entrances—for seven consecutive days. If you plan on visiting more frequently, consider the annual pass which grants unlimited yearly access for $55.
This information is from April 2020. You can confirm prices and learn more about other types of passes and fees here.
“Everglades National Park protects an unparalleled landscape that provides important habitat for numerous rare and endangered species like the manatee, American crocodile, and the elusive Florida panther. An international treasure as well – a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, a Wetland of International Importance, and a specially protected area under the Cartagena Treaty.” Everglades National Park
“With the support of many early conservationists, scientists, and other advocates, Everglades National Park was established in 1947 to conserve the natural landscape and prevent further degradation of its land, plants, and animals. Although the captivation of the Everglades has mostly stemmed from its unique ecosystem, an alluring human story of the Everglades is deeply interwoven with its endless marshes, dense mangroves, towering palms, alligator holes, and tropical fauna. Various groups and people navigated through and wrestled with the watery landscape to make it home, and even to exploit its natural wonder at times.” Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park is one of only 24 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the United States.
EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK LECTURE NOTES
UNESCO WORLD HERITAGE SITE
The United Nations have classified Everglades National Park as a UNESCO World Heritage Site because of its “Outstanding Universal Value.”
“Everglades National Park is the largest designated sub-tropical wilderness reserve on the North American continent. Its juncture at the interface of temperate and sub-tropical America, fresh and brackish water, shallow bays and deeper coastal waters creates a complex of habitats supporting a high diversity of flora and fauna. It contains the largest mangrove ecosystem in the Western Hemisphere, the largest continuous stand of sawgrass prairie and the most significant breeding ground for wading birds in North America.” UNESCO
ERNEST F. COE VISITOR CENTER
The Coe Center is the perfect place to plan your Everglades adventure. Park Rangers distribute free maps and expert advice. The center also features educational displays and a bookstore with a variety of items. Don’t miss the beautiful deck on the east side. The deck is positioned above an artificial pond that often features loitering alligators.
Excursions with Rangers often use the Coe Center as a meeting point. If you are joining Professor Bailly on a Slough Slog or hike, please review this page to prepare: Everglades Slog Preparation
“Adult anhingas are large, dark waterbirds with a long, thin neck, a long, thin, pointed bill, a long tail, and silver patches on the wings…The anhinga is also known as the snakebird because it swims with its body submerged while stretching its head and neck out above the surface of the water, giving it the appearance of a snake about to strike while it glides through the water. Anhingas are also graceful fliers and can travel long distances without flapping their wings…Anhingas are in the darter family, Anhingidae. Like other darters, anhingas hunt by spearing fishes and other small prey with their sharp, slender beaks.” National Park Service
The Anhinga Trail is the Everglades made easy. The artificial pond and deeper waters attract a mass of wildlife. Visitors are likely to see alligators up close and a wide variety of birds and fish. If you are not an outdoors person, or are limited on time, this is the spot for you. As the Anhinga Trail is the best place to see Everglades fauna, here is a brief description of a selection of species.
“The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) ranges throughout the southeastern United States, and alligators within Everglades National Park exist at the southern extreme of their range. Alligators primarily inhabit freshwater swamps and marshes and can also be found in rivers, lakes, and smaller bodies of water. They can tolerate a reasonable degree of salinity for short periods of time and are occasionally found in brackish water around mangrove swamps even though they lack the salt-secreting glands present in crocodiles. Dens are burrowed out and used for shelter and aestivation when winter temperatures fall or more commonly in the Everglades, when conditions are very dry. Even outside their dens they can tolerate limited periods of freezing conditions. During the winter dry season they modify their habitat by excavating “alligator holes,” which also provide a refuge for other animals during dry periods.” National Park Service
“Bromeliads are one of the iconic resources of the park. They are found in almost all habitats and in some places their numbers can seem overwhelming. Dwarf cypress forests and cypress domes are excellent habitat for airplants, which also are common in the interior of hardwood hammocks and tree islands as well as in mangrove forests. Lone trees in the middle of sawgrass marshes and other wetlands typically support resident bromeliads. Several species of Tillandsia even perch on the branches of planted trees in most of the parking areas throughout the park.” National Park Service
“Bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is one of the few temperate trees in south Florida. Cypress trees lose their leaves in winter, leading many first-time visitors to think they’re dead. A long-lived, deciduous wetland species, bald cypress can live as long as 600 years. Cypress domes and strands are valuable to wildlife for food and cover.” National Park Service
“Common throughout the southeastern United States, the cypress tree (Taxodium spp.) is a deciduous conifer that can survive in standing water. In the Florida Everglades these trees are often found growing in one of three distinct formations. Where the limestone substrate has given way to circular solution holes, it is common to find a cluster of cypress trees growing in the shape of a dome, with larger trees in the middle and smaller trees all around. Cypress strands occur where the cypress trees grow in an elongate, linear shape, parallel with the flow of water. In areas of less-favorable growing conditions, stunted cypress trees, called dwarf cypress, grow thinly distributed in poor soil on drier land.” National Park Service
“The alligator gar (Atractosteus spatula), one of the largest freshwater fishes, is particularly abundant in the Everglades region of southern Florida, where it is caught locally as a food fish. It sometimes grows to a length of nearly 3 metres (10 feet) and may attain a weight of 136 kg (300 pounds).” Encyclopedia Britannica
GREAT BLUE HERON
“Widespread and familiar (though often called “crane”), the largest heron in North America. Often seen standing silently along inland rivers or lakeshores, or flying high overhead, with slow wingbeats, its head hunched back onto its shoulders. Highly adaptable, it thrives around all kinds of waters from subtropical mangrove swamps to desert rivers to the coastline of southern Alaska.” The National Audubon Society
A Slough Slog is just about the most Everglades thing to do in the Everglades. With the guidance and teaching of a US Park Ranger, participants walk through the Everglades river. With walking sticks to gauge the depth of the terrain, participants hike from the main road out to a Cypress Dome. It’s an absolutely unique and magical world.
“Spanish moss was given its name by French explorers. Native Americans told them the plant was called Itla-okla, which meant “tree hair.” The French were reminded of the Spanish conquistadors’ long beards, so they called it Barbe Espagnol, or “Spanish Beard.” The Spaniards got back at them by calling the plant Cabello Francés, or “French Hair.” The French name won out, and as time went by Spanish Beard changed to Spanish moss.” Miss Cellania, mentalfloss
The main geological difference between a Cypress Dome and a Tree Island in the Everglades is that the center of a Cypress Dome is in deeper water while the center of a Tree Island is higher elevation and dry.
“Tree islands are important centers of biodiversity in the Florida Everglades; they have two to three times the plant and animal diversity of the surrounding wetlands. This high diversity is due primarily to their higher elevation relative to the adjacent wetlands. In the natural Everglades system, water levels fluctuated seasonally with rainfall, and tree islands were the only sites that escaped flooding during the wet season. These seasonally dry sites provided refugia and nesting sites for animals and allowed tree and shrub communities to flourish.” U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
“Two species of vulture occur in Florida, the turkey vulture (Cathartes aura) and the black vulture (Coragyps atratus)…Vultures eat carrion in the form of road-kills or dead cattle in pastures. Black vultures are more aggressive and may occasionally kill or injure lambs, calves, cows giving birth, or other incapacitated livestock.” Florida Fish and WildlifeConservation Commission
HISTORIC STRUCTURES WITHIN EVERGLADES NATIONAL PARK
DEER FEEDING STATION
“Hidden in the trees at Royal Palm is the last remaining structure built by the Florida Federation of Women’s Clubs (FFWC).
Established in 1895, the FFWC worked with local and statewide social movements in several areas including education, prohibition, and conservation. Seeing the increasing real estate development in south Florida as a threat to the Everglades, the FFWC convinced the State of Florida to donate 960 acres located in Paradise Key in 1915. Mrs. Henry Flagler donated an additional 960 acres as well. The FFWC’s intention was to protect this unique environment for future generations.
That same year, the FFWC started a “Mile of Dimes” campaign to raise money to fund upkeep at Paradise Key, a condition of their agreement with the State of Florida to act as custodians of the land. They sent foot-long strips with slots for coins to women’s clubs throughout the state with the intention of raising a “Mile of Dimes”. While this campaign was not a successful undertaking, it shows the clever dedication of the members of the FFWC.
A year later in November of 1916, Paradise Key was dedicated as Royal Palm State Park.
The FFWC also developed the Royal Palm Lodge on-site to encourage visitors to come to the area and create connections with the Everglades. At the lodge, there was even a white tail deer feeding station and holding pen. Many park visitors of the 1930’s describe the deer and visit to Royal Palm as a memorable experience.
After years of changes and the establishment of a national park, the deer feeding station is the only remaining structure from the original Royal Palm State Park and is a testament to the work undertaken by women to establish and preserve this special place.” Everglades National Park
The Hole-in-the-Donut is a 9,900-acre tract located in the eastern half of Everglades National Park. Its long history of agricultural use from the early to mid-1900’s justified its exclusion from the original boundaries of the Park. However, when the U.S. Government finally acquired the “Donut” for the national park in 1975, all farming operations were suspended and the tract was abandoned, leaving the area susceptible to intensive invasion by exotic pest plants. In particular, the noxious and highly invasive Brazilian pepper (Schinus terebinthifolius) quickly formed forests of non-native growth in the Hole-in-the-Donut, creating a canopy so thick that native vegetation could not grow in its understory.
Eradication of the exotic plants and restoration of the Hole-in-the-Donut began in the 1990’s, using Miami-Dade County wetland mitigation bank funds. The goal of the protect is to restore the area to a marl prairie wetland vegetative community with its associated wildlife. Total estimated project costs are more than $100 million. To date, more than 4,000 acres have been treated; about 65% of the total of 6,250 acres. Environmental monitoring activities, also supported through cooperative funds, are documenting recovery stages and success rates, as well as wildlife re-uses of the area.
NIKE MISSILE SITE
“The site remains virtually the same as it was when official use of the site ended in 1979. Construction of the site by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was completed in 1965, just after the Cuban Missile Crisis of October 1962. At the time, the nation’s air defenses were positioned to protect against a possible Soviet air attack over the North Pole and thus, this and other anti-aircraft missile sites were established to protect against a possible air attack from the south. The Nike Hercules missile site was listed on the U.S. Department of the Interior Register of Historic Places on July 27, 2004 as a Historic District.
The area includes 3 missile barns, a missile assembly building, a guard dog kennel, barracks, 2 Nike Hercules missiles, and various support elements. HM69 was also significant because of the technology employed. The South Florida Nike Hercules sites were integrated with Hawk missile sites to provide an all altitude defensive capability around South Florida. Approximately 140 soldiers staffed the 3 above-ground missile barns of HM69 to protect against an air attack from Cuba. The personnel of HM69, along with the members of other South Florida unites, received the Army Meritorious Unit Commendation which was one of the few times that it was awarded for deterrence rather than engagement with the enemy.
REFERENCES AND FURTHER READING
Read more about the Nike Missile Site HM-69 here
Everglades National Park official website
UNESCO World Heritage Foundation. whc.unesco.org/
EDITORS AND LAST UPDATE
John William Bailly 27 March 2022
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