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Paul & Tracey's Travels
9th Mar 2013 - Miami, USA
Gators and big birds in the Everglades

Managed to sleep until gone 7am today. After a quick breakfast, set off in the car for the Everglades national park. This is an area of 1.5 million acres, but there are only a couple of roads across it which run from east to west from Miami to the Gulf of Mexico coast.

I chose route 41 or 8th street as it is also known ! This runs in a dead straight line from Sweetwater in the SW of Miami. It runs along the northern border of the Everglades National Park. Further north is part Big Cypress National Preserve, and the rest is undesignated.

What I did not realise is that the water in the Everglades is not stagnant, but is actually flowing all be it very slowly, from north to south. Apparently the Everglades were formed when water flowing from the north reached Lake Okeechobee further north, and has no more outlets (in the form of rivers etc) so kind of seeped into the massive area of flatlands in the south. The area used to be much bigger but has shrunk because there is less water about and some of the land has been reclaimed.

There is now a programme to divert water into the everglades using a series of canals, to maintain their current size, and ensure the habitat remains for wildlife. The road I travelled in on is being raised to help this so there were delays due to the roadworks.

An hour and a half after leaving Downtown Miami, I was in the heart of the Everglades at a place called Shark Valley. There is a very small visitor centre here, but the main attraction is that there is a 15 mile loop road/track around which you can walk, cycle or get an Eco tram. I chose the tram, not because I am lazy, or it was too hot, but because I thought I might learn more, and see more wildlife. The road was originally built by Exxon when they were drilling here for oil in the 1940's, but they found none, so the Parks Service now make good use of it.

First impressions are that it looks a bit different to what I expected. There are some wet swampy areas with trees growing out of the water, but a lot is scrubby grass land and a few small bushes and trees. All the life congregates around the damp areas, which at this time of year in the dry season are fewer. In the wet season a lot of this area can be underwater including the track, although they do try and stay open year round.

Second impression is that it is amazing how close to the wildlife you can get. You can walk within feet of large birds and the star attraction....the alligators. Hopefully the photos bear this out. I am not a bird lover particularly, but to see various species of herons, bitterns, vultures, and others so close was great. The gators don't look real, but when you hear them growl it is seriously frightening. They're enjoy basking in the sun, and then every so often going into the water to cool down. Also saw several very tiny young gators.

The trip lasted about two hours, and at the half way point, you get to go up a lookout tower to get some idea how vast the area is ie you can see nothing but swampland in every direction. Also saw some turtles, fish, and there are bobcats, but did not see one.

There are loads of places along the road that offer airboat rides through the swamps and along the canals, but they are not allowed in the National Park itself for environmental reasons, so I gave it a miss.

At about half twelve headed back for the hotel. Very humid today but only hazy sun, so passed on the pool and relaxed in my room as I have to leave at 7 to go and see the gig I came all this way to see and like.y to be back late.

The gig was totally awesome. A sweaty crowd of 600 hardcore punk fans from all over the US going totally mental to eight bands for 6 hours. Wild it definitely was....parts of the venue, and probably some of the crowd will need to go in for repairs today. Never seen so much energy in one room. And cos of the Facebook event, people kept coming up to me and saying, oh you're the guy who flew from the UK for the gig ! Plus got to meet and have a long chat with the singer of the main band. Good night. Did not get back to the hotel until 2pm and was a bit frustrated to find that as well as the lateness of the hour, I has lost a further hour because the clocks went forward an hour. So I lost an hour's sleep and will not see any benefit cos I am flying home tomorrow night !

Tomorrow I think I may look around Miami a bit more unless I can come up with a good location to drive to outside the city.

Next: Final day in Miami and a raccoon encounter
Previous: Humphrey Bogart in the Florida Keys


Diary Photos

Shark Valley, Everglades NP, Florida, US

Shark Valley, Everglades NP, Florida, US

Shark Valley, Everglades NP, Florida, US

Shark Valley, Everglades NP, Florida, US

Shark Valley, Everglades NP, Florida, US

Shark Valley, Everglades NP, Florida, US

Shark Valley, Everglades NP, Florida, US

Shark Valley, Everglades NP, Florida, US

Shark Valley, Everglades NP, Florida, US

Shark Valley, Everglades NP, Florida, US

Shark Valley, Everglades NP, Florida, US

Shark Valley, Everglades NP, Florida, US

Shark Valley, Everglades NP, Florida, US

Shark Valley, Everglades NP, Florida, US

Shark Valley, Everglades NP, Florida, US

Shark Valley, Everglades NP, Florida, US

Airboat, Shark Valley, Everglades NP, Florida, US

R41 and Tamiami Canal, nr Shark Valley, Everglades NP, Florida, US


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