Located in South Florida, an hour's drive from Miami Beach, Everglades National Park forms a vast swamp that is lush, wild and partly untamed, yet easily accessible. An ideal place to observe a fauna of rare wealth, including the king alligator. Walk in a unique ecosystem in the world, doubly classified by Unesco.
A unique ecosystem
An hour's drive from the beach and Miami Beach's choppy nights, the wave of the flooded prairie carpets the southern tip of Florida over much of the 6 km100 of Everglades National Park.
From time to time, islands of vegetation are forming and canals are dug. On their banks, hundreds ofalligators bask in the sun. Further on, hammocks and groves of palm trees give way to forests of bald cypress trees with branches dripping with Spanish mosses, then to the mangrove swamp littoral.
In addition to alligators and shy crocodiles (far south), the Everglades are populated by animals of all kinds: more than 350 kinds of birds (ibis, pelicans, flamingos, etc.), around fifty species of mammals ( raccoons, lynx, opposum, Florida panther ...) and reptiles, 300 species of fish, but also a myriad of insects, including mosquitoes, particularly hungry on summer evenings ...
The Everglades ecosystem, 6 to 000 years old, today stretches 8 km long and 000 km wide. This unique place in the world has been classified as a Biosphere Reserve by the international community, as well as Unesco World Heritage.
The formation of the Everglades
Cascading in summer, drained by rivers and lakes to the south of the Florida peninsula, the waters once formed a subtropical mosaic of swamps, wood with raised roots (hammocks) and “upland” lands of more than 28 km000.
The settlers gradually extended their hold, planting sugar cane, bananas, early vegetables, orange trees and other citrus fruits. The development of cities in turn diverted an increasing amount of water. The Everglades went into decline, while the alligator hunt continued, which had been declared harmful ...
Their population declined to the point where the federal government banned their capture in the 1960s. Twenty years later, authorities began to clear the trapped waters.
Today, the fauna has returned: difficult to take two steps without encountering an army white ibis foraging with their long orange beaks in the marshes, or seeing battalions of cormorants aligned with the electric wires.
In winter, the dry season sees the animals congregating in the best irrigated areas. Alligators and birds then share the same water points, where life is concentrated. An ideal moment to discover this incredible natural heritage.
On the way to Flamingo
A single road (the 9336), starting from the southern reaches of Miami, really penetrates into the heart of the Everglades. She joined Flamingo, a sort of tourist camp established on Florida Bay.
THEAnhinga Trail provides a great introduction to the Everglades. Along a 1,2 km path, interspersed with wooden footbridges thrown over the water, most of the park's animals are visible - starting with the anhinga, not shy, wings outstretched in the sun. This "snake bird", whose only neck protrudes from the water when fishing, is not lucky enough to be waterproof!
Great herons, blue egrets, small crab-eating herons stand up, stoic, bodies leaning towards the wave. Their patience seems endless. Suddenly, the beak bursts, pierces the surface and already rises a wriggling fish stung to the quick.
Further, Mrazek Pond is frequented by the pretty rosy spoonbills which incessantly skim the waters with their flat, tactile beaks. Behind the curtains of vegetation, a few tantalum (American storks) are hiding. TheEco Pond houses an egret rookery; sometimes, white pelicans pass proudly there.
Alligators in Shark Valley
Tamiami Trail : the name evokes the trail of yesteryear, painfully traced in the 1920s across the marshy plains of the northern Everglades, to connect the Atlantic coast with that of the Gulf of Mexico.
We are here in the territory of the Miccosukee Indians - now reconverted into the gaming industry and airboat rides, these funny hydrofoils propelled by an airplane propeller which fly over the marshes in a hellish noise!
Become a major axis, the US 41 allows access to Shark Valley, where a 24 km paved loop offers the opportunity for a beautiful foray into nature. Forget the electric tram with guided tour and rent a bike, ideal for browsing from animal to animal, at your own pace.
No need, to tell the truth, to go very far ... From the edge of the parking lot, big alligators bask in the grass, their black skin still glistening with moisture. It is a question, here, of looking where we are driving. Some saurians, sure of themselves, casually let their tails hang over the tar ribbon ... King of swamps, thealligator is everywhere: there are hundreds of them here - and around 1,3 million in Florida !
Wilderness Waterway: The Adventure
Already, the pier has disappeared behind the tall grass. On a half-rotten trunk, sealed with the sand lining the bed of the stream, a tortue take the sun.
No current, or very little. At times, the kayak must make its way through a jumble of branches and eddies caused by some submerged stump. The air is moist, the atmosphere turns stormy. As evening falls, the stopover looms on the horizon: a raised wooden platform, where two tents, barely, can be set up in the dry, sheltered by an awning.
This is the case for eight days, throughout the Wilderness Waterway. This extraordinary waterway, connecting the outskirts of Everglades City (to the north-west of the park) to Flamingo (to the south) offers the opportunity for a real immersion in unspoiled nature, far from all traces of civilization. In the evening, on the campfire, which helps keep mosquitoes away, the sea trout caught in the afternoon grills gently.
Another day, a channel opens onto the Gulf of Mexico. For a few moments, a troop of dolphins escorts the boats. They are ten to cross at a respectable distance, before vanishing into the infinity of the ocean.
To prepare for your trip, see our Florida online guide
Official website of the Keys
How to get there ?
Direct flights Paris-CDG-Miami with Air France, American Airlines, XL Airways.
The two main entrances to the park are on Route 9336, past Florida City towards Flamingo, and at Shark Valley, on the Tamiami Trail (Route 41) further north. It can also be accessed from Everglades City, near the Gulf of Mexico coast.
It's hard to visit the Everglades without a car: the bus doesn't go past Florida City - where the Everglades Hostel organizes trips to the southern part of the park.
The best season to go to the Everglades is winter: the weather is nice, warm but not too hot, and the wildlife is more readily discovered near the water holes. In summer, it rains heavily and the temperature can be sweltering.
We stay at Florida City / Homestead to visit the southern part of the park (Flamingo) and in the western suburbs of Miami for Shark Valley - unless you stop there en route between the east and west coasts.
The southern section has two popular campsites, one in Long Pine Key (shortly after the entrance), the other in Flamingo. It is more than advisable to book.
Everglades National Park website (in English).
Site of the Big Cypress National Preserve, adjacent to the Everglades (in English).
Tourist information (in English) from the Florida City Visitor Center, located near the main entrance to Everglades Park.
Learn all about Shark Valley walking options (in English).
Official site of the Miccosukee tribe (in English).