We’d taken the Florida Turnpike twenty miles south of Miami to the main entrance to Florida’s Everglades in Homestead. Jim and I, along with my sister Lynda, spent a few minutes at Ernest Coe Visitor Center before heading to our destination, Royal Palm’s Anhinga Trail, the boardwalk; and all those alligators!
Apparently those “crocodilians” (both alligators and crocodiles are members of the reptilian order Crocodylia, but the families they belong to, Alligatoridae and Crycodylida respectively, differ slightly), are considered a keystone species when it comes to the Everglades. In other words, they owned the room, all 1.5 million acres of swamp, sawgrass prairies and mangrove-rooted islands, despite the presence of anhinga in this particular freshwater slough.
This is one of the richest, densest and most subtle ecosystems the world has ever seen; 10,000 different islands harbor 67 endangered species. A thousand different forms of plant life have been found in the Everglades. Nine identified habitats remain in a constant state of flux with rainfall the lifeblood of the nine identified habitats (hardwood hammock, pineland, mangrove, coastal lowlands, freshwater slough, freshwater marl prairie, cypress, marine, and estuarine) that make up this ecosystem.
President Bill Clinton awarded Marjory the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1993 for “her splendid example in safeguarding America's beauty and splendor for generations to come."
Today, man is still a threat to the Everglades; 1,800 miles of canals and dams interrupt the nature flow of water, the life blood of this unique habitat. Nutrient pollution from agricultural runoff and other fertilizers has allowed the growth of plant life not originally part of the delicate balance in this ecosystem, among them cattails, harmful algae blooms and duckweed. Accumulations of toxic mercury in fish, birds, reptiles and mammals, including the elusive Florida panther, are endangering the wildlife.
Notwithstanding the creepy, crawly factor, my first visit to the Everglades won’t be my last.
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The Bottom Line on Florida’s Everglades
Verdict: No doubt about it, I’m a nature lover. Reptiles may not be at the top of my list, but I can appreciate that each species, animal and plant, contribute to the wonder and beauty of this planet we call home. No visit to Florida would be complete without seeing this amazing, one-of-a-kind natural wonder.