Thursday, November 10, 2011

The River of Grass

The king of the swamps
It has been almost an year since we moved from Orlando; and besides all the Floridian-activities i miss sometimes, i miss our occasional visits to the Everglades National Park. It was a 3.5 hours drive for us if we drove straight south till we hit US41. US41 approximately marked the north boundary of the Everglades NP. A big attraction for the said route were the numerous plantations, and their extended thatched roofed stores selling perfectly tender avocados, ripe bananas, pineapples,grapes, berries and all other sorts of palatable fruits, all so very cheap! The alternative route was via the turnpike through Miami.
It is not really easy to capture the true vastness of the Everglades in the way I remember the place in my head, through my writing. When I think of it, I want to say it is barren, but then if you ask me, are there no trees? no animals? Oh, there are very tall trees on the border and the whole park is covered with very tall grasses, there is hardly any proper paved road to walk on, and there are crocodiles and snakes and insects and birds and turtles and..

Gators dozing  on Tamiami trail

Everglades is the third largest National Park in the Continental US. The park is a 1.5 million acres stretch of swamp lands, home to the American crocodiles or alligators and numerous species of birds. All the pullouts on US41 or more popularly known as the Tamiami trail teems with hundreds of alligators,particularly if you are there after a tropical shower, in Fall or Winter. The park got its name from the "glades" variety of grass which carpets the whole of the swamp.They sure don't go out much in the South ! The murky mysteriousness of the park have also been made famous over the years through numerous Hollywood movies like "Gone Fishing", "Shark River" and "Distant Drums" to name only very few.

the baby gator
When we were there, one time we had attended an alligator-show with alligators of course and tarantulas and snakes. The man had pulled the gator’s  jaws open and put his head inside the jaws.
The trick was to feed the gator very very well before the show, for as quoted by the showman,gators are not very intelligent animals, they have only two things on mind-food and sleep. So, when the gator was not hungry, it was being lazy and made no effort in closing its mouth! 

the gator show
On another trip to the park, we had boarded the tram from the Shark Valley visitor center. The tram took us till the Observation point, through 15 miles of the "River of Grass" as some locals refer to the swamps as. From the top of the observation point, we got a birds eye view of the flat swampland. We could see only grass till the end of the horizon around us. 

the Everglades from the observation point

the tall crane.. doesn't the landscape look somewhat barren?

awesome airboat ride through the Glades
If we had owned a paddle boat or a kayak, that’s another terrific way to explore the swamps. But the best way to experience the serenity of the Everglades, the somehow desolate yet lush, tropical and foreboding awesomeness- is by getting on the air-boats jetting through the network of waterways that skirt the northwest portion of the park.We were lucky to be on one of the low-raised air-boat, in which we were at a perfect height from where we could touch the gators if we leaned down a little(we didn't actually do it, just saying that we could have.. if we wanted), but the gators could not raise their heads high enough to touch us. When the air-boats picked up speed, the sound was just deafening. The maximum speed an air-boat achieved was 35mph, however swooping on it through the sawgrass towering above our
heads with hundreds of alligators peeping out from the water around, was a heart pounding and exhilarating experience. The guide was very well informed, and seemed very familiar in the surroundings, comprehending from the fact that the birds flew on to his shoulder and sat on his wrist,and waited there for their pictures taken, even when he had no food for the birds. The
Everglades abounds in hundreds of colorful birds of all sizes.

Anhinga drying its wings- that is how they breathe!

mother gator sighing away from camera

There are no lodging in or near the park. Years of past (and 100% possible future) hurricane damages have apparently put a stopper on the government's effort in restoring the business units in the area.Only the 3 NPS visitor centers offer information and restroom facilities. There are campgrounds though, but we did not have an opportunity to camp in the Everglades.

No wonder, I have been remembering the Everglades today. We had visited the park 3 consecutive years (2008, 2009, 2010) during the Thanksgiving holidays. This year we have no such plan.. Alas


  1. Wow wish we could go this year. It looks beautiful. Shailu would have loved the gator show.

  2. Pari-I am 100% sure, Florida is Shailu's n your type of place. It has only miles of sea and gulf coast.


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