For my final Florida post (it’s taken awhile, hasn’t it?) I saved the best for last. The Everglades! I was so happy to see a part of the park!
We went to the Shark Valley Visitor Center, Everglades National Park, near Miami. That’s the closest visitor center to Chris’ cousins’ house, who we visited the next day. (See my Bill Baggs Cape Florida post here.)
Word of caution … this is a very popular stop. We could not even find a parking spot inside the park. We had to park along U.S. 41 (which, by the way, Chris says runs to his hometown, Evansville, Ind.) and walk in.
And though it was just around lunch time (it took 5 hours to drive from Kissimmee to Miami), all bike rentals and spots on the tram were booked up for the afternoon. So we walked around a portion of the paved, 15 mile look.
No, we didn’t walk the whole 15 miles. There’s no way we could have done that, especially in the blazing heat. We just walked a ways around each side of the loop and along two paths that connect either side of the loop.
Walking along the paved road I felt like we were in a zoo. All the birds and gators were right along the path in pools of water. Interpretive signs explained that during the winter months (we were there in March) the wildlife hang out in the small pools of water. When the spring rains come, there’s more water and the animals move further out.
So it didn’t really feel like we were out in the wild. Which is okay. We were able to get a lot of photos of birds and gators, including this fella who was sunning himself right by the path:
Since it was cooler than 80 degrees, the gators weren’t moving around much. The need higher temps to move about and digest food. Lucky for us, I guess. 🙂
Here’s some more photos:
Next we took an air boat ride, courtesy of the Miccosukee Indian Village. The boats were stationed across the highway from the park’s entrance so we just walked across the road. Here’s a shot from the boat:
The tour guide took us into the middle of the grassy river to a former chickee, or home. We got out and walked around, checking out the open shelters were families ate and slept:
Chris and I later ate at a Miccosukee restaurant down the road where I tried fried frog legs. I don’t think it tasted like chicken as many people say. I thought it tasted like fish and was appropriately served with tartar sauce. Though they tasted okay, I don’t think frog legs are something I will order again. It’s too hard to get past the fact I’m eating a frog. Blegh!
We briefly visited the Big Cypress National Preserve, which is just a few miles west of Shark Valley. The visitor center was already closed so we watched some lazy alligators lounging in front of the center:
Then we headed down the road to take the driving tour — the 16 mile Turner River Road Loop Drive.
It took us 3 1/2 hours to complete the drive. The dirt road had been washed out by rain and had lots of large potholes in it. A park volunteer, collecting trash at the trail head, said the road was passable. And he was right, it was passable, but I felt like the car needed an alignment after the long, bumpy trip. 🙂
Here’s some photos:
I would love to go back to Big Cypress to check out more of the park. And, maybe, one day Chris and I will be able to make it down to the main visitor center of the Everglades — much, much further south in Florida.