This morning we got up early for our scheduled tram ride.
We were rewarded with a very pretty sunrise.
Our scheduled time was at 9am but we were told to be there at 8:30am. It was at least a 30-minute drive to the center. We arrived on time, but the gate was closed and did not open until 8:30am sharp. Seems 8am was not when the park opens despite how logical that would be. We did have a nice conversation with some tourist from England.
Shark Valley is part of the Everglades National Park. The name came from Ponce de Leon who found many bull sharks at the end of a river. He named it Shark River. Well that river starts way up here, so someone thought hey this should be named Shark River but since it is hard to see the river how about Valley. Yep, the name was just for marketing.
Soon our tram tour started. The tram takes a meandering path to the observation tower and then a straight line back. The straight road was put in by an oil company exploring the area to no success. As a result, they tried to recover money spent on the land but finally gave up and donated it to the government for tax write offs. That is how we got a lot of the land that we now call the Everglades. I have no problem with tax write offs if they save nature. I'm even ok with a company buying land just to get the write off if that land should be protected.
WOW! It is hard to imagine just how HUGE the park is.
Of course, Gators. Lots and lots more alligators. Love is in the air gator style.
This is a mated pair. The smaller is the female. Once successful they will separate, and she will make a nest to lay her eggs and watch over the babies for the next 3 years. He will just wonder off to try to find another female.
We got a few pictures of a mom and babies. She was about 5 feet off the road.
We did see several single gators. One that was may have just been runoff by mom.
And a crocodile! This is our first crocodile in the wild.
The rangers do not know how this crocodile got this far away from the normal area that Florida Crocodiles are found. All others are at the very farthest southern point of the Everglades. They have determined that it is female and has not mated for several years. She does not tolerate attention from alligators even though some will try.
She was right next to the road.
At the furthest point on the road is the observation tower. It is the sister to the tower at Clingmans dome in Great Smoky National Park. It was designed by the same man. The tower gives a view from 70 feet above the Everglades.
Roads and other dry areas in the Everglades are taken from borrow pits or ditches. Soil is only a few inches deep and from there down for a great distance is limestone. Of course, any hole dug in here fills in with water quickly. In these pictures, you can see limestone.
We did come across birds, turtles and fish. The big bird seems to be a stork.
We did take a short hike. The Bobcat Boardwalk trail starts a short walk down the tram road, walk on a boardwalk. This is where we got better pictures of the mother gator and her babies.
Many places there is a strange kind of material floating. These algae are called periphyton and is critical for the Everglades. It gives shade and hiding placed for tiny fish, frogs, and turtles from birds. Water is cleaned by it. In dry periods, it holds moisture for extended periods of time which protects plants and some eggs for fish and other animals. It is strange looking. At first glance, it looks like some sort of pollution.
This trail is supposed to have snails, but we only saw a few of them.
Flowers and a couple of moth and butterflies.
We enjoyed the tram ride and the boardwalk. After leaving the visitor center, we decided to drive the loop road. That will be in the next post.
We are a couple who have started on a new adventure...