Why The Everglades Owns My Heart
The low horizon spreads as far as I can see. A light taste of salt tinges my lips and a brutal sun heats my back. As I stand at Pa-hay-okee Overlook, the wind ripples across a vast river of yellow-and-green sawgrass. There’s a white ibis standing by a cypress tree, water droplets cascading off its coral-colored beak. When I go south to Florida Bay, a gray manatee swims the shallows. I see the slippery silver of a just-caught trout as it flips back into the turquoise waters. I have returned, once again, to The Everglades.
One of the best places to see the marsh's scope is the Pa-hay-okee Overlook (12 miles from the entrance near Homestead, pictured).
Much of The Everglades is a freshwater prairie. Starting in Lake Okeechobee, it becomes a shallow, 60-mile-wide stream that stretches 100 miles to the sea.
Canoe and kayak rentals at Flamingo Marina, near the Flamingo Visitor Center at the southern point of the 38-mile park road, give you an opportunity to paddle around (there’s also a boat ramp for your own craft).
The National Park Service leads free 2.5-hour canoe trips on Nine Mile Pond (pictured). (Make reservations at the Flamingo Visitor Center.) More adventuresome paddlers can set out through mangrove tunnels on the Hells Bay Canoe Trail for an all-day shady tour. And expedition-level paddlers embrace the 99-mile Wilderness Waterway from Everglades City to Flamingo.
My Favorite Birding Spots
- The Anhinga Trail (1 mile from the Homestead entrance, pictured)
- Paurotis Pond (14 miles from Flamingo)
- Anywhere in the Ten Thousand Islands.
Best Places to See Alligators:
- Anhinga Trail
- The Loop Road
Originally, The Everglades spanned the lower third of the Florida peninsula. Today, most of that land houses cities and agricultural areas, leaving only the national park, the adjacent Big Cypress National Preserve, and other refuges for the wild.