I have always had the idea that Florida’s a flat state full of alligators, swamps, birds and that it’s susceptible to hurricanes and flash floods. Since we’ve been to Florida 3 different times to visit Kate & Paul, I’ve become familiar with the beautiful white beaches all along the Gulf of Mexico. I’ve also had a vague idea that there were islands that came down close to Cuba called the Florida Keys…but that’s pretty much the extent of my nutshell version.
What I’ve learned by visiting the Everglades is that the whole state used to be completely covered by water which has pretty much receded into what is now Lake Okeechobee, which happens to be 14ft above sea level. Every summer the rains from the summer storms overfill this lake and the water then flows through the whole south central part of the state to the ocean in a 50 mile wide river of grass.
During the population and development boom the wet-lands were being drained by developers with the construction of ditches and canals so that there could be more room for housing. This caused the habitat for wildlife to be dramatically decreased…people noticed and there was a move to save the wildlife habitat. It is now preserved as Big Cyprus Wildlife Preserve and the Everglades National Park.
Needless to say, this extremely wide, slow-moving river was not what I expected to see when I came to visit the Everglades! I expected this area to be full of mangrove trees and swamps boats. (The mangroves do grow in patches called “Hammocks” everywhere there are a few more inches of soil…it seems that even a few inches of elevation creates a change in the plants that grow there.)
There were several boardwalks built out over this grass river and it gave us access to walk out and look down into it. It was full of little minnows and all along the road we could see lots of bigger fish sort of basking in the sunlight. There were also 5 or 6 alligators enjoying their afternoon naps and some interesting birds trying to dry off after their fishing excursion…they were called ‘Anhinga’ and they swam completely submerged with their sharp beaks out in front ready to stab a fish…once in awhile they would stick the tip of it up out of the water to catch a breath and then keep going…it was quite interesting to watch. There were so many different species of birds, all extremely large compared to the ones we see in North Idaho, and all fun to watch!
I sort of wish they would have had the air-boats to ride on because they have always looked like a lot of fun, but all in all I enjoyed my visit and think it is worth the time to make a trip down here…especially in December!