Thursday, September 30, 2010

Fall-ing for the Everglades

Big Cypress Marsh
In most places across the country, the fall season heralds a time of transition.  It's palpable. It is seen and felt in the weather, the foliage, the attitudes of people and their work ethic. Subtle as it might seem in South Florida, there is a period of transition in the Everglades as well, most notably in the form of cooler temperatures and an increase in the number of avian and human visitors. It's exactly the time of year that interest in visiting and learning about America's Everglades heats up.Encompassing more than 1.5 million acres, Everglades National Park is the third largest national park in the lower 48 states, behind only Yellowstone and Death Valley in size. The total land area occupied by the Everglades was once 8 million acres; drainage and development have reduced that, but is still HUGE! 

Everglades National Park provides the best way to see the Everglades up close; there are lots of boardwalks and trails for hiking and biking, allowing visitors to see a myriad of birds, fish and reptiles, as well as exotic plants - the Everglades is home to 67 endangered or threatened species! The Anhinga Trail, named for the birds that flock to that area, is also a great place to see Florida alligators in the wild. 

Cypress Prairie
Why is the Everglades so important to South Florida? The massive slow-moving river - 100 miles long by 60 miles wide - allows water to filter through to the aquifer that provides most of South Florida's drinking water, for one thing. Commercial and recreational fishing are part of life in South Florida and the Everglades provides plenty of opportunities for both, as well as an ecosystem with a variety of life seen nowhere else!  Fall and winter, when the water is lower, are the BEST time to see the Everglades. For more information about the "River of Grass," its importance to the planet and efforts to restore and save it, visit the Everglades Foundation online. The National Park Service website about Everglades National Park has all the info needed to plan a fun trip to the Everglades, as well as maps and camping information. 

In the meantime, check out these fun facts about the Everglades, courtesy of the Everglades Foundation
  1. The Everglades comprise the largest wetlands located in the lower 48 states in the U.S.A.
  2. While it is often described as a swamp or forested wetland, the Everglades is actually a very slow-moving river.
  3. Once spread out over 8 million acres, the Everglades ecosystem reaches from the Kissimmee River to Lake Okeechobee where waters from the lake slowly moved south toward Florida Bay completing the Everglades ecosystem.
  4. Native Americans living in and around the river called it Pahayokee (pah-HIGH-oh-geh), the "grassy waters."
  5. Birds were so plentiful in the Everglades that it was said they “darkened the sky” when they took flight.
  6. America’s Everglades are home to 67 threatened or endangered species.
  7. Just months after Florida became a state in 1845, the legislature took the first steps that would lead to draining the Everglades.
  8. Periphyton, the mossy golden-brown substance that is found floating in bodies of water throughout the Everglades, is the dominant life form in the River of Grass ecosystem.
  9. The Everglades is the only place in the world where the American Alligator and the American Crocodile co-exist in the wild.
  10. Mosquitoes play a vitally important link in the Everglades food chain. The larvae of grown mosquitoes provide food for a variety of native fish that are critical to the diet of wading birds.
  11. The Everglades is a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve.
  12. The ubiquitous grassy plants known as sawgrass (a sedge), feature serrated, razor-edged blades of grass that are so sharp, they have been known to cut through clothing. 
Photos courtesy of The Everglades Foundation. 

No comments:

Post a Comment