And now, to my own promised land–The Everglades. It’s 176 miles south of where I live in Ft. Myers. Actually, it’s south of where everybody lives–the very bottom of the state of Florida. You get there on a two lane road (the original Tamiami Trail), and we stopped a few places to bird on the way. There’s not much in the way of food or even gas as you travel south. There’s a tiny post office in Ochopee (Smallest in the USA) and some Seminole and/or Miccosukee settlements. About half-way down we encountered alligator road kill. One of the birders riding a motorcycle said she smelled it before she saw it.
The Everglades is amazing. It’s flat flat flat. The highest point is 8 feet above sea level. The Sawgrass is about waist high and browny green. Every now and then, breaking the blue and sawgrass horizon are small groups of trees called hammocks, which are like islands for the plants and animals. (And people who get to walk the boardwalk trails.)
Legend (or not) has it the first white man said, upon viewing The River of Grass, “Let’s fill it in.” Since then, human kind has done it’s best to wreck the Everglades, which is presently on life support. The water, both fresh and salt is precious. It’s all about the water.
The Everglades are not a scenic national park, like Yellowstone. It’s a biologic wonder–the largest contiguous freshwater marsh in the world. The coastline has more than 10,000 islands. Man has damned, canalled, diked, diverted, polluted, and drunk the water from The Glades for years, to its detriment. Time will tell if the damage done can be undone.
The most wonderful birds still make their homes in The Glades. Purple ones like the galinulle and pink ones like the roseate spoonbill(see slide show below), little tiny warblers and gnatcatchers and American white pelicans with 9 feet wing spans, kites, hawks and vultures that soar and ducks that waddle. Some birds are elusive, like the mangrove cuckoo, and others appear totally unfazed by humankind, especially on the 1/2 mile loop Anhinga Trail near the Florida City entrance to the park. Shark Valley, another entrance, features huge gators you almost trip over if you are busy watching birds.
There are also mammals, insects, amphibians and reptiles, vertebrates and invertebrates.
The Everglades are home to some endangered rare things. Nesting wood storks, for example, odd and wonderful manatees, and scarce panthers. Invasive creature–pythons and walking catfish also call it home. The Everglades is water, food and habitat– we need all three to live and so do its creatures.
You have to SEE The Everglades to believe it. My husband John is a photographer. He tagged along on this adventure and captured some of it beautifully:
Let it be.