The Everglades National Park was founded in 1934 in order to protect the unique ecosystem in the area of the Kissimmee River. This river flows out of Lake Okochebee, south, towards the Florida Bay. Even though the today's park covers the area of 6,110 sq km and includes the largest mangrove forest in the western hemisphere, the swamps used to cover a four-time bigger area before. The ecosystem has been heavily damaged by insensitive human interferences: it was drained to create farmland or adjusted for building a railway. Today, the Everglades National Park is home to more than 350 bird species, 300 fishes, 40 mammal species and around 50 species of reptiles. The protection and restoration of the unique ecosystem is one of the hot political topics in Florida.
The park is best-known for alligators, which are literally at every corner. They lie indifferently along the tourist paths, not paying the slightest attention to the photographing tourists. Apart from alligators, you can also encounter crocodiles and other reptiles, as well as various bird species, such as herons, flamingos or eagles. Watching the playful grey squirrels or raccoons can be good fun, too. However, you will also find species on the verge of extinction in Everglades- the manatee or the Florida puma. There are only about ten Florida pumas left in whole Florida. Apart from the swamps, you can also admire the so-called tree islands called hammocks in the Everglades National Park. They are formed by clumps of different tropical woods that are not only resistant to regular flooding, but to the frequent fires as well. The vast mangrove forests spread along the coast while farther into the mainland, there are more cypress and pine trees.
You can explore the Everglades National Park in several different ways. There is a road running through the park, from which you can take short trips into the surroundings. Another popular means of transport are hovercrafts that can reach the speed of 70 km per hour in the vast swamps. It is an unforgettable experience to explore the park by boat. The route through narrow canals, over 160 km long, takes about 7 seven days on a canoe. It is a good idea to have a guide with you as it is very easy to get lost. Do not underestimate protection against mosquitoes, as they are, without doubt, the most populous animal species in Everglades. Watch your steps, alligators are everywhere. The entrance fee (valid for 7 days) is 10 dollar per car and 5 dollars for a cyclist or a pedestrian. It is best to visit the park in winter, even though it is the peak of the tourist season. You will avoid the tropical temperatures and occasional hurricanes that occur in summer. There are also fewer mosquitoes there and a Christmas diner under a palm tree, with the pleasant temperature of 20 degrees Celsius, has its charm.
There are several equipped camps and other camping sites, e.g. along the boat route. It is necessary to have permission for staying outside the official camps and you must take enough water and sufficient food supplies with you. The nearest hotel is in the nearby Florida City .