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Visiting the Everglades National Park at Shark Valley

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The Overlook

The Overlook

Typical encounter

Typical encounter

General map to it

General map to it

A turtle encounter

A turtle encounter

A bird encounter

A bird encounter

The Everglades is a HUGE national park with a general theme of flat, grassy, areas with marsh or swamps. It does have some trees but not the lush palms you see in South Florida.

You can access the park at two entrances: a main entrance that is west of Miami and Florida City. Use this entrance if you want to thoroughly explore the park once inside, as the roadway is long until it dead ends. There are side roads to take from the main road. Be prepared to be greeted by a host of inhabitants like alligators, crocodiles, red striped turtles, fishing birds with crooked necks, butterflies, mosquitos, deer, and maybe a panther or bobcat. The whole park is remote and you might lose cell phone service, in fact, I know you will!

The other main entrance is off Hwy 41. This highway is the old trans-coastal two lane road from the Gulf to Miami. We started from Venice, so the trip to cross the state was about 3 hrs. your average speed is 60-65 mph. A little further north of this is Interstate 75. Taking either is a choice you make at the split in Naples (if you are going eastward). It's quite a scenic roadway and remote. Cell phone service is lost for awhile. There is only 1 or 2 gas stations along it, so fill up before crossing. The road cuts through several regional preserves until reaching the Everglades at Shark Valley. The entrance is much closer to the Miami side than the Gulf side.

Shark Valley's name is not for what you may think, it's just the name of a once long gone site in the early 20th Century. There is big sign, so you cannot miss it. The entrance to the Everglades is a shocker- $30! It is a one time thing for us, so we paid and parked. Plenty of spaces but it was filling up fast with bikers. There is a store to buy the usual things, some exhibits, restrooms. The main attraction is the overlook at Shark Valley.

Little did we know that the paved road to it was a seven mile walk one way! Many had brought their bikes and you can rent them there for $20 pp. Even riding a bike in the heat and humidity (when the sun is out) presents a challenge. While many attempt to make it, many turn around at some point. The best time is when it's cloudy! Many take a tram tour and times are frequent enough to get there. It frequently stops for alligators just near the roadway. The tour is fairly pricey, IMO, but the fastest if you do not have a bike.

Keep in mind that summer is Florida's wet season. What that means is that whatever you do, try to do it before 2-3 p.m. and look at the weather forecasts. It is almost guaranteed that rain will fall somethin in the mid to late afternoon.

Once you reach the fantastic overlook (which reminds of the one in the Great Smokey Mountains N.P.) you are just looking at the vista across mostly flat land or wetlands with some trees. The overlook itself seems to attract more kudos!

As you leave, you can either go back the same way or a more remote paved path. They both end back at the parking lot. On our visit, literally within 30 minutes along the roadway we ran into baby alligators and their mother lounging in the water next to the path, a bird that had caught a fish and was trying its utmost to swallow it (it was a little big), turtles eating some water lily and others just sunning on a log fully stretched out. We hear loud bullfrogs and found some exotic flowers. We had only walked a mile! The most common thing you run into, literally, are alligators. Either in the water adjacent to the road or sunning on road. It's something one does not forget as you carefully circumvent the obstacle.

The park is popular for cyclists. The downside is that as you move quickly, you will miss a lot of wildlife in the bush or water, as your focus is elsewhere. Some of them are going way too fast, so be careful.

The visit is worth it one time, especially, if you are coming from the Gulf side because it is a good hour to get to it or more, depending on traffic speed. There are few rest stops along the way, however.

As one guy said, getting to the overlook is anti-climatic after what you encounter getting there!

Comments

perrya (author) on June 27, 2021:

If one is in the area, check it out wildlife appeals to you

Liz Westwood from UK on June 27, 2021:

I have heard of the Everglades, but this article gives an interesting overview of the area.

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