It really isn't a swamp

Trip Start Apr 15, 2012
Trip End Apr 21, 2012

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Where I stayed
Fort Lauderdale Beach Resort
What I did
The Everglades

Flag of United States  , Florida
Monday, April 16, 2012

The Everglades, before people settled in South Florida, was the entire area from Lake Okeechobee (which means big water) south to Florida Bay -- basically all of the southern tip of the peninsula. Today's Everglades National Park is less than 50% of what existed of the 'Glades before all the drainage efforts started. The size of the Everglades National Park is 1,509,000 acres,

The sun was just beginning to rise over Fort Lauderdale Beach when we boarded a van  at 7:15 am with a pick-up from Everglades Day Safari . Fort Lauderdale actually go tits name from a Major Lauderdale, who was the commanding officer of a newly built fort built after the Seminole Indians attacked a family and killed all but the husband, who was away form the home at the time.In 1870, the Fort became a House of Refuge, which were houses placed every 30 miles along the coast as shelter for sailors who were shipwrecked or stranded.

Early colonial settlers and developers saw the Everglades were potential farm land and communities .In 1905, former Florida Governor Napoleon Bonaparte Broward began a 
effort to drain the Everglades to make the land suitable for agriculture and
development. Large tracts of swamp were transformed into productive farmland,
and cities such as Miami and Fort Lauderdale began sprouting up along the coast. Canals were built to drain the water and eventually 1800 canals were built. All canals now have sluice gate to keep the ocean water out of the aquifer., as the Everglades is the source of the drinking water.Development has stopped in certain areas in order to allow for preservation of the ecosystem.

Our drive took us first through the  four main ecosystems that make up the Everglades including: the sawgrass prairie, mangrove estuary, cypress swamps and pine savannah. We first went through the sawgrass prairies and open savannahs of the “Big Cypress”, a 780,000 acre National Preserve in the Everglades. This primarily fresh
water area. Here we took an airboat ride and saw a few alligators and lots of birds. The water in parts is only 4" deep.A nature walk took us  into the cypress swamp area of the Everglades.  Cypress domes form around low-lying areas--usually saucer-shaped
depressions where the limestone bedrock has crumbled away. The larger trees are found toward the dome's center where the water is deeper. In the dome's absolute center, however, water can be too deep for even cypress trees to grow.  Essentially a ring of cypress trees with a hole in the center, a classic cypress dome looks from the air like a big doughnut.Once in the the middle, the ground is squishy and the water in the center can be found by looking for the Alligator Flag plan, supposedly called that because an alligator will go to the water and the plants, only growing where there is water, will "flag" his location. There was some unexpected excitement on this hike.  Keith and I and 2 others were near the front with the guide and the others had fallen behind and were making noise. Norman, our guide, had told us to be very quiet because we might see some deer. When they caught up, we found out that the woman behind me had been startled by a cottonmouth snake not 6 inches from the path!

From here, we stopped at the shop of Clyde Butcher. He is a photographer in the style of Ansel Adams, who has photographed much of the Everglades, including the very rare Ghost Orchid. We then drove the Everglades City, where we had lunch, complete with a fries alligator appetizer. (tastes like chicken)

After lunch we took a boat ride to see the Mangrove Estuary. This estuary has exceptionally clean water, as it is one big oyster bed. The oysters clean the water, but it makes the oyster really unfit to eat unless they are thoroughly cooked. The water is cloudy, not because it is dirty, but because the tannins in the Mangrove leaves color the water.

We entered Indian Key Pass and proceeded down toward the Gulf of Mexico, 7 1/2 miles away. This area ia called the land of 10,000 islands, due to the mangroves. The Red Mangrove appear to walk in the water, and were called "Walking Trees" by the Native Americans. This area has 280 species of birds (some of them migratory), 43 varieties of mosquitoes (13 that bite), and is considered a nursery for fish etc in the Gulf. Dolphins feed here as do Manatees. We did some dolphins, one of which swam right next to the boat.

It was a long day (we got back about 5:00), but I highly recommend taking this tour. It gave a great overview of the area, history, and ecosystem. One can't really appreciate what the place has to offer unless they experience it for themselves.  You can't do that reading a book, nor can you by closing the place down and not let anyone go in and see it.  What is needed is a balanced approached --preserve the area, yet provide accessibility.

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WaHa on

Some great photos Nancy.

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