On our recent trip to Florida during Thanks Giving in November 2014 we visited this park. Everglades National Park is the third largest national park in lower 48 states after Death Valley in California and Yellowstone in Wyoming.
We started our day early and reached the main entrance at Homestead, Florida. It was a sunny day and the weather was favorable.
The national park sign at the entrance.
We reached Ernest C. Coe Visitor Center. This is the first stop before entering the park. We collected some maps of the area and looked at the educational exhibits at the visitor center.
An exhibit about the inhabitants of the park.
Another exhibit of the wildlife found at the park.
The ‘Borrow’ pit.
This ‘borrow pit’ is actually a manmade pond at the visitor center and hence the name. Anything built in the marshy Everglades starts with a high platform of crushed rock created by ‘borrowing’ earth near the construction site.
Ernest C. Coe Visitor Center
The main road from this visitor center leads through all the trails and viewpoints to the Flamingo visitor center at a distance of about 38 miles from the main entrance.
An exhibit with the main attractions at Everglades National Park.
A few miles up to the road we reached the Royal Palm Visitor Center. There was a small shop with souvenirs and some books. This area has lots of vultures flying around and there were warning signs notifying us to use the provided plastic tarps to protect our vehicle’s rubber parts from them.
Royal Palm Visitor Center
A vulture captured with the camera.
This place is the gate way to one of the most popular trails of the park named Anhinga Trail. This trail is full of wildlife and covers a diversity of landscapes in a vast array of boardwalks and paved stretches. It was a short trail but we managed to witness a variety of the ecosystem.
Anhinga trail skirts the edge of a fresh water slough where wildlife is likely to appear at a close range.
Anhinga trail is named after the Anhinga; a spectacular bird; found in abundance along this trail. They often have their back to the warm sun and their wings out to dry.
An American Alligator along the trail.
Great Blue Heron by Anhinga trail
An Anhinga spotted from the trail.
The boardwalks offers close view of nature.
A Great Blue Heron in the sawgrass of the Everglades.
These waterholes are home to the American alligators.
This Anhinga caught a fish and was trying to swallow it.
It made several attempts to swallow the fish but perhaps it was too big for its mouth.
A Green Heron spotted along the trail.
Another alligator basking in the sun.
We spotted few turtles too.
Walkway of the Anhinga trail.
Walking through the sawgrass.
Beautiful Anhinga posing for photographs.
Another trail originating from Royal Palm Visitor center is the Gumbo Limbo trail. This is a short trail of about 0.4 miles that tunnels through a topical hardwood hammock.
The trail is well shaded.
Our next stop was the Pay-hay-okee trail.
Pay-hay-okee is a Seminole phrase meaning ‘grassy waters’.
An observation platform halfway around this trail provided a chance to view this Everglades wilderness as it appeared to the early inhabitants.
Driving in the park
Next we reached the Mahogany Hammock trail. This boardwalk bridges the sawgrass river and enters a lush green island- a tropical hammock.
This is a short loop trail of 0.4 miles.
Boardwalk on the trail cuts through thick vegetation.
A soft, spongy mat of algae which blankets aquatic surface throughout the freshwater Everglades.
This hammock contains the largest Mahogany tree in the US.
Information on Mahogany tree.
Overlook from the second half of the trail.
We reached the Flamingo Visitor center, about 38 miles from the main entrance.
This visitor center was damaged by hurricanes in 2005 and a part of it still remains closed.
Flamingo Visitor Center
Nearly 1.3 million acres of Everglades National Park has been designated as Wilderness.
Skull of an American crocodile. The information board also mentions that Flamingo is one of the best places in the United States to see a crocodile in the wild.
Entrance to the exhibit area.
A painting of the wildlife at the Everglades.
The Red Mangrove dominates the coast of Southern Florida.
Near the visitor center was a public boat ramp.
The Marina also offers boat tours and kayak rentals for day use.
They say Flamingo is the gateway to Florida bay, where the Rivers of Grass meet the Waters of the Ocean.
View of Florida Bay and the coastal mangroves.
Our next and final destination in the park was Mrazek Pond.
This was a small pond and we spotted some birdlife here.
This was a refreshing trip and and I enjoyed watching the Alligators in their natural habitat. The Everglades offered a great place to unwind and be with nature.