Sadly all good things must end, and thus I am back in New Jersey with the seagulls and nationally coveted pork roll. Vacation time has come and gone quickly, but this also means now I get to write up some posts of my trip to Florida. Before I left, I did a decent amount of research for my trip, and I feel that paid off immensely.
This first post will mainly talk about some of the things I suggest pre-trip, as well as some basic info on the park itself. The rest of the post series will go on to describe drive itself, including visitor centers, trails, and more. Hope you enjoy!
Preparing And Researching For Your Trip
First, it is my suggestion to use a cloud-based service such as Google Drive, Dropbox, or Microsoft’s One Drive to create a trip folder to hold important information. This is what I did. Most of them give you at least a little amount of free space which allows you to then go back and view these (or download them) to reference when you are in Florida. I would create one main folder, with sub-folders for maps, destination info sheets, and photos.
These posts which I’m tagging with Driving through Everglades National Park are going to be only about taking the self-guided tour through the main road of the park starting at Homestead, Florida. The park features a main paved road that you can take all the way from Ernest Coe Vistor Center to Flamingo Visitor Center. This is about 38 miles long, and took us from around 3:00 P.M. to 7:00 P.M. You would do best to go as early as possible, and leave plenty of time.
You should save/view these files:
- Everglades Park Map
- Hiking Maps
- Official Trip Planner – Gives info on other parks in Southern Florida as well.
- Plan Your Visit Videos – You are able to see what each main area of the park looks like.
- Audio Car Tour Guide Tracks – The audio tracks follow along with you as you drive through the park, but I listened ahead of time too!
- West Nile Virus and Mosquitoe Info – Helpful info, such as what to wear and do to help protect yourself.
If you are planning on driving through the Everglades, those are absolutely the main files you should download. You will be able to get a physical copy of the park map when you hit the first Visitor Center, but the digital one helps you plan and understand the layout of the park.
I like knowing some things before I go, but some of the things you can read from the official website will be repeated if you take any tours.
What is the Everglades?
The Everglades is often thought of as a disgusting, exotic swamp. Even my boyfriend had a totally different view of what he thought it was before we took this drive. Originally, he wasn’t too interested in driving through and walking around on foot. He kept insisting the only place to see anything was in the water, on an air-boat or similar tour. But this isn’t true!
Instead, you will hear very often how it is a “River of Grass”. This is because it is in fact a river, and not a swamp. A swamp is stagnant, still water. The water in the Everglades is actually moving–very slowly mind you–and it is clean, too.
When people think of the Everglades, they often think of alligators. Even now during my week back at work I had a coworker ask me how I liked the alligators there. There were definitely a lot of them, to be sure. We had the opportunity to take many photos of the very old surviving species. During the tour we took at Shark Valley we learned a lot about these creatures, and also the crocodile. The Everglades is one of the only places on Earth where both species exist in the same habitat.
However, there is something altogether worse than the alligator or crocodile, which I didn’t know until after the tour on my trip: the Python. The Python is an exotic animal that isn’t native to the Everglades, but has been released into the ecosystem by man. It is a dangerous, ever growing predator, which I can honestly say I am almost more afraid of than the alligator. In fact, because of the python many of the native species in the Everglades are being diminished. They can even eat whole, large alligators. To learn more about their threat, see this video on the official website.
If you are interested in downloading some more official facts or more detailed reports about the Everglades, here are a bunch of really nice fact sheets.
In the next post, I will go over my trip to the first visitor center and starting the self-guided tour across the Everglades.