Description - The early movement to protect a segment of the Everglades coincided with the settlement and growth of South Florida as people began to recognize the uniqueness of the watery wilderness. In 1916, the Royal Palm State Park on Paradise Key was created as the first protected area in the Everglades. This 4,000-acre (1619 hectares) tract later became the nucleus of Everglades National Park.
Copyright: - US National Park Service
Everglades National Park
Through the 1920s, the idea of a national park began to take shape. Stephen T. Mather, the first Director of the National Park Service, reported to the Secretary of the Interior, "There should be an untouched example of the Everglades of Florida established as a national park." The year was 1923. In South Florida, local efforts to campaign for a national park in the Everglades were also underway. Ernest F. Coe, a Yale-educated landscape architect, made the Everglades park project his life work shortly after moving to Miami in 1925. In 1928, Coe and others organized the Tropical Everglades Park Association and by December 1947, President Harry S. Truman formally dedicated the Everglades National Park in a ceremony held at Everglades City. This event culminated years of effort by a dedicated group of conservationists to make a national park in the Florida Everglades a reality. Original size of the park was 460,000 acres.
Today, the intermingling of plant and animal species from both the tropical and temperate zones, plus the merging of freshwater and saltwater habitats, provide the vast biological diversity that makes Everglades National Park so unique. It is the source of water needs for the region. Serving as a tourist destination, drawing over 1,000,000 visitors per year, it is an important contributor to the economy of the area. There is a growing consensus in South Florida that the economic and social prosperity of the region cannot be sustained without a healthy ecosystem. An unprecedented ecosystem restoration effort now is underway, involving government agencies at all levels: federal, state, local, and tribal; as well as civic leaders, environmental groups, and business professionals. As of 2000, the United States Congress approved a $7 billion, 20-year restoration program for Everglades National Park.
- Everglades National Park is the largest remaining subtropical wilderness in the continental United States and has extensive fresh and saltwater areas, open Everglades prairies and mangrove forests. Abundant wildlife includes rare and colorful birds, and this is the only place in the world where alligators and crocodiles exist side by side. The park is 1,506,539 acres (606,688 hectares) in size. It is a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Significance. No other national park in this hemisphere can make this claim.
Recreation - Everglades National Park provides access for visitors to many water-oriented activities. Visitor centers are located at the main entrance (west of Homestead), Royal Palm, Flamingo, Shark Valley and Gulf Coast (south of Everglades City). Ranger led walks and talks are offered year-round from the Royal Palm Visitor Center and at Flamingo, Shark Valley and Gulf Coast during the winter months. Boat tours are available year-round at Flamingo and Gulf Coast.
Hiking, biking and canoeing are popular activities for Everglades National Park visitors. Trails are located at various points along the main park road and at Shark Valley. Canoe trails are popular in the Flamingo area and at Gulf Coast. In addition, a 99-mile canoe trail, known as the Wilderness Waterway, connects Gulf Coast to the Flamingo area.
Tent and RV camping sites are available at three campgrounds within the park. The facilities include restrooms and water, they are available throughout the year. Backcountry camping is also available. There are three sites accessible by foot and 43 additional sites available in Florida Bay, along the Gulf Coast and inland, accessible by canoe or boat.
Boating and fishing are two of the most popular activities in the Everglades, as many parts of the park are only accessible from the water. There is a marina at Flamingo. Fishing, in the inland and coastal waters of the Everglades, is also excellent and can be enjoyed year-round. Freshwater and saltwater fishing require separate Florida fishing licenses.
Climate - The Everglades lie within a subtropical climate. It is usually hot and humid in the summer with brief afternoon thundershowers. It is not unusual for temperatures to exceed 90 degrees Fahrenheit with averages reaching above 83 degrees Fahrenheit (above 29 Celsius). Winters are mild and dry with temperatures averaging above 64 degrees Fahrenheit (above 18 Celsius). The average precipitation for the southeast area is more than 60 inches per year. The powerful rays of the sun make it a good idea to wear hats and sunglasses along with using a SPF-15 (or above) sunscreen when planning outdoor activities.
Everglades National Park is located on the southern tip of the Florida peninsula. Major thoroughfares in the region include Highways 41 and 1. Homestead is the southern most community on the Florida peninsula, before entering the Keys.