Less than an hour south of Miami, the Everglades is an entirely different world, a river of grass. As Ranger Bob proudly shares, it is a wide open sawgrass prairie, a vast subtropical wilderness, and home to three parks, each one remarkable in its own right: Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and Biscayne National Park. These national treasures are home to wildlife, world-famous photographer Clyde Butcher, the Miccosukee Tribe of Indians, and countless unforgettable adventures.
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Make your way to the northern region of Everglades National Park, look up, and you’ll see the 45-foot tall, spiral-ramped Shark Valley Observatory Tower; it’s tough to miss. To get there, bicycle the 15-mile loop, or take the naturalist-guided Shark Valley Tram Tour. Your guide will point out hidden aspects of the Everglades’ unique ecosystem. Just as the seasons and water levels change, so do migrations and the many varieties of wildlife you’ll discover.
Big Cypress National Preserve
Big Cypress National Preserve was established in 1974. It’s the size of Rhode Island, and essential to the Everglades’ health. Beginning in hardwood hammocks, it flows down to the pinelands, across the prairies, into the cypress swamps, mixes with the waters of the estuaries, and finally escapes to the Gulf of Mexico. Take a guided walk, attend a talk, interpretive program, or campfire program. It’s the one place you can see cypress, mangroves, alligator, and possibly a Florida panther, in the same day.
One of the most unique ecosystems in the nation, the third largest national park, and the largest subtropical wilderness in the U.S., the 1.5-million-acre Everglades National Park is home to many rare and endangered species. It’s also designated a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Importance. In other words, it’s a true must-see. Only an hour from Miami, it’s best explored by guided boat or airboat, on foot, by bike, or you can even camp. It’s an experience not soon forgotten.
Only 30 minutes from Miami, you can experience how the Miccosukee Indians lived and live in the heart of the Florida Everglades. Take a guided airboat ride through the River of Grass and witness wildlife as well as the tribe’s doll-making, beadwork, patchwork, basket weaving, even a wild alligator demonstration. Their tour will take you to an authentic hammock-style Miccosukee Indian camp, and teach you about the tribe’s culture, lifestyle, and history. No tour is complete without a stop by the gift shop and a sampling of the tribe’s traditional cuisine.