The Everglades National Park is one of the largest and most important National Parks in the U.S. The Everglades is a World Heritage site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Importance. The park protects 1.5 million acres of ecosystems which are vital to hundreds of species of birds, fish, mammals including the Florida panther and West Indian manatee, and reptiles including the American crocodile. The park is also home to the largest mangrove forests in the western hemisphere.

Although most people picture the Everglades as one big swamp, the Everglades actually contains many different ecosystems including ponds, wet prairies, marshes, swamps, tropical and pine forests, coastal prairies, and more than 200,000 acres of mangroves. The Everglades visitor center near Miami has a short hiking trail which will allow you to see many species of birds, fish, plants, and alligators from a safe distance. Before you travel along the trail, make sure you have no food in your car because the vultures will try to break in while you are away!

From the visitor’s center it takes an hour to drive to the tip of Florida which overlooks Florida Bay and the thousand islands of Mangroves. If you are lucky you will see Manatees and maybe even American Crocodiles. This part of the park has boat tours, hiking trails, and camping during the peak season ending around spring. If you come in the summer, be prepared to be attacked by mosquitoes! Much further north, the Everglades transitions to a giant Dwarf Cypress forest. The northern part of the park is popular for backcountry hiking and has no marked trails.

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