All-American Everglades

The Everglades is known around the globe for its marshy landscape, steamy temps, and, of course, it’s alligators! So today, on the 4th of July, I wanted to share a few photos from last week’s tour of the “grassy waters” near Fort Lauderdale, made while I was in Florida for the Annual Meeting of GFWC (General Federation of Women’s Clubs). The airboat adventure was taken at Sawgrass Recreation Park, which also features a wildlife exhibit of Florida panthers, bobcats, reptiles, and other indigenous wildlife.

Airboat guide at Sawgrass Recreation Park.

Airboat guide at Sawgrass Recreation Park.

Our girl guide was both knowledgeable and engaging, providing information on every topic pertinent to the wetlands, from geology to ecology. After leaving the dock, it took only a few minutes for her to spy our first gator from her lofty perch. After cutting the motor so the boat would drift quietly toward the reptile, the alligator swam over to the boat for a closer look.

Gators lay claim to an area and defend it from others of their kind.

Gators lay claim to an area and defend it from others of their kind.

Any chance for lunch here?

Any chance for lunch here?

Throughout the Everglades, topography is flat and low, with most areas only 1 or 2 feet above sea level. The region has a wet season in summer and a dry season in winter, so it is shaped by both wind and fire. On our visit, we found the wetlands flooded, with water about 2-feet higher than normal. Though it is home to various ecosystems, the primary feature is the sawgrass prairie. The grass, actually a sedge with sharp teeth along its edge, can grow up to 10-feet tall. Just above the dark, murky water, we discovered clusters of snail eggs attached to the sawgrass.

Keep hands in the boat or you'll find out how sawgrass got its name!

Keep hands in the boat or you’ll find out how sawgrass got its name!

Can you find the snail eggs?

Can you find the snail eggs?

Before it was protected, roughly half of the Everglades was drained for agricultural and urban development. Fertilizers used to grow sugarcane and vegetables seep into the sawgrass marshes, changing the quality of the water so that cattails and other water plants replace natural vegetation. The release of exotic animals and reptiles, such the walking catfish from Asia and the Burmese python, are anther major concern. Recently, Florida Fish and Wildlife officials killed a 16-foot long monster snake with a full-grown deer in its stomach. These foreign plants and animals create serious problems, choking out native species and disrupting food chains.

Full speed ahead!

Full speed ahead!

Tree islands provide habitat for birds and many small mammals.

Tree islands provide habitat for birds and many small mammals.

Despite the brevity of my visit, there was much to see and enjoy. And I won’t forget the sight of the last, mammoth gator gliding silently through the water.

I'm glad we didn't get any closer to this big fellow!

I’m glad we didn’t get any closer to this big fellow!

The Everglades has been designated as a wetland area of global importance by UNESCO.

6 thoughts on “All-American Everglades

  1. Anne Martin

    Happy 4th………..Thanks for sharing ……………educational & fun to see…………….Anne M.

    Reply
  2. Evelyn J W

    I lived near there and have seen all you described. The first gator pic of yours was beautifully colored in lavenders and tints of blue. Happy days to you.

    Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Evelyn–it was early morning but the light was sharp, so I was disappointed with the alligator photos. Those taken near the end of the tour at the tree islands, when we had more cloud cover, where much better.

      Reply
    1. Marian St.Clair Post author

      Pauline–No telephoto! The small alligator came with a couple feet of the airboat. The larger stayed about 10 feet out, which was fine with me, as he was about 3 times as big as the first one.

      Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s