Shark Valley At Everglades National Park

alligator

Florida Alligator

Anhinga bird drying its wings

Anhinga bird drying its wings

Shark Valley Tower

Shark Valley Tower

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By: Jennifer Agress

Get a taste of The Everglades when you explore Shark Valley

Known as “The River of Grass,” The Everglades is one of Florida’s most impressive natural habitats. While it’s often referred to as a “swamp,” as its nickname implies, it’s actually a very shallow, slow-moving river—one that starts at Lake Okeechobee and flows 100 miles over Florida’s southern plains to the Gulf of Mexico. At times, this river can be just a few inches deep and 50 miles wide.

And when we say it’s slow, we mean it. Moving at a speed of just one mile every two and a half days, the crawling speed of The River of Grass has allowed it to create a unique, freshwater ecosystem that nature lovers won’t find anywhere else. Covering 2,357 square miles, making it larger than Rhode Island and Delaware, this nationally-protected park is home to nearly 150 types of trees, more than 40 species of mammals, hundreds of colorful birds and an endless amount of reptiles and amphibians.

Located just 25 miles west of the Florida Turnpike, Shark Valley is the first entry point to the “true Everglades” from Miami. Named for two of its estuaries, Shark River and Little Shark River (and not because it’s actually home to sharks), Shark Valley is surrounded by ridges that reach as high as 20 feet above sea level. Read below to find out how to explore Shark Valley, Miami’s closest piece of The Everglades.

Shark Valley Tram Tour
Shark Valley Tram Tour

Hop on a Tour

Shark Valley offers tram, bike and group tours every day of the week.

Tram Tours: These two-hour tram tours take visitors on a guided ecotour of Shark Valley. They are led by Shark Valley naturalists who can tell you everything you ever wanted to know about The Everglades, point out hidden gems you wouldn’t have seen otherwise and take you to a 45-foot-high observation deck with panoramic views of The Everglades that extend for 20 miles. These trams are open-air vehicles, meaning guests on the tour will get a close look at the varied wildlife within the sawgrass prairies of Shark Valley.

All tram tours are operated by Shark Valley Tram Tours, an authorized concessioner for the National Park Service. There are peak seasons for these tours, with visitation being the highest from December 21, 2019 through April 30, 2020. During this period, daily tours are offered every hour, on the hour, between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. From May 1, 2020 to December 20, 2020, tours are offered at 9:30 a.m., 11 a.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. daily. While walk-ins are allowed, advanced reservations are recommended. Tram tours are priced at $27 for adults, $21 for seniors and $14 for children (ages 3-12).

Biking in Shark Valley
Biking in Shark Valley

Bicycle Tours: Shark Valley’s 15-mile, flat, paved road is one of the most popular places to go bike riding in all of South Florida. With so much wildlife and terrain to see, a bike ride through Shark Valley typically takes two to three hours, and is one of the best ways to conduct your own self-guided tour of this protected area.

Riders can either bring a bicycle of their own or rent one from Shark Valley Tram Tours. All rental bicycles have single-gear, coaster brakes with adjustable seats to accommodate riders of different heights. Baskets and helmets are available upon request. Children’s bicycles, which can accommodate children that weigh 35 pounds or less, are also available for rent. Rental bikes are distributed on a first-come, first-served basis, and all renters must provide a valid driver’s license or state ID card. Bicycles can be rented for $9 per hour, between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. daily.

Group Tours: If you’re planning to visit Shark Valley on a field trip, as a team-building activity or even with a large group of friends, take advantage of Shark Valley’s group tours. Since these are one-off tours, they need to be planned in advance. Group organizers can find out more about group tour times and availability by calling (305) 221-8455 or inquiring online here.

Group tours are offered at reduced rates, which run at $18 for adults and $10 for children (ages 3-12). Educational and tax-exempt groups may be eligible for additional savings. They can apply for those savings by calling (305) 242-7730 and filling out a fee waiver form here.

Wandering down the trails
Wandering down the trails

Wander Down Trails

Those who wish to explore Shark Valley by foot can do so on three different walking trails. All trails vary in length and terrain.

Tram Road: Like its name implies, this is the flat, paved road used for Shark Valley Tram Tours. Climb up the observation tower for panoramic views of the Everglades, and don’t miss the alligators, herons, egrets, deer, turtles, snail kites and more along the way. The walking portion of this trail starts directly behind the Shark Valley Visitor Center and turns off Tram Road into a hardwood hammock, just behind the observation tower. While this is a popular route for walking, it is also used for biking, hiking and, of course, tram tours.

Bobcat Boardwalk: Jutting off Tram Road, just behind the Shark Valley Visitor Center, this boardwalk trail winds through the sawgrass slough and tropical hardwood forests of the Everglades.

Otter Cave Hammock Trail: Starting just a half a mile behind the Shark Valley Visitor Center, also off Tram Road, this rough limestone trail goes through a tropical hardwood forest and passes over small streams via footbridge. This trail has been known to flood during the summer months, so check with the Shark Valley Visitor Center before you go to make sure conditions are conducive to walking.

Birds in the Everglades
Birds in the Everglades

Shark Valley Visitor Center

Shark Valley Visitor Center is the only commercial, air-conditioned building in Shark Valley. Visitors should go here for information about Shark Valley, to rent bicycles or sign up for a tour with Shark Valley Tram Tours, to meet a tour they already registered for or to buy books, postcards and other souvenirs from the onsite gift shop. In the lobby, visitors will find a short film about the area, as well as two educational exhibits: one on plume hunting in the 1800s and another on water conservation in the Everglades. The Visitor Center is also the only place in Shark Valley where guests can access restrooms and food. There is no restaurant, but there are vending machines and packaged snacks and drinks available for sale. The Shark Valley Visitor Center is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily.

Directions and Parking

The Shark Valley Visitor Center is located at the entrance to Shark Valley, at 36000 SW 8th Street, Miami, FL 33194. There is no public transportation to and from Shark Valley. Parking is available onsite, and an entrance fee of $25 is required per car. This entrance fee is valid for seven days from the day of purchase.

Directions from Miami: If you’re driving south, take Florida Turnpike Exit 25A. If you’re driving north, take Florida Turnpike Exit 25. After you get off either exit, head west along Tamiami Trail for 25 miles until you reach the Shark Valley entrance.

Read More:

Guided Tours In The Florida Everglades
Getting to the Everglades from Miami
Best Places to Eat in the Everglades
Sea Turtle Nesting and Conservation

More About Miami's Parks & Attractions

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