So, when most people thing of the Everglades, they think of Alligators, like this one. He's the real deal, wild and just hanging out. I was able to get this photo because of my amazing ability with a camera (and the fact he was hanging out about 10 feet away from the boardwalk :-)
But really, what the Everglades is all about water. The land is VERY flat, ranging in elevation from about 15 feet at the north end to sea level at the southern end. The water flows south out of Lake Okeechobee into the Park. In this map from visitor center, you can sort of see the historic flow by looking at the teardrop shapes of the Hammocks, or forested areas.
With the influx of Europeans, particularly a fellow by the name of Flagler, folks started draining the swamp to "reclaim" the land for agriculture. In the view at the time, they were taking worthless swamp land and making it into something of value. Now, we understand that the Everglades provides many services we value, such as water filtration, pollution prevention, flood control, wildlife habitat, a nursery for young aquatic species, etc. This picture shows one of the canals used by the South Florida Water Management District uses today, to move water around the state, irrigate crops, and the like.
This shows saturated grass land of the type that SHOULD be the picture above, if Mother Nature had her way.
This drawing from the visitor center shows the historical flow on the left, and the current flow on the right, where the water is blocked from making it to the Everglades, and the flow is greatly reduced as it is taken and used to provide domestic water for folks in the southern half of the state and for agriculture.
When they drain the Everglades, they often put in these planned developments (many directed toward retirees 55 and older). As you can see, the land that was saturated with water is instead saturated with houses. Every day, there are 1,000 new residents in Florida.
This is a cool diagram showing the change in the landscape as a function of elevation. Here, just a few inches in elevation change makes a huge difference in plant and animal communities in that habitat.
Here's where they drained the land, and converted it to a farm to grow sod to put in the lawns of those houses....
Ok, enough science and policy content. Here are a few pics to whet your appetite....
Oddly enough, these birds are a primary reason the park was formed. Birds were being slaughtered to get feathers for women's' hats. So, a band of women got together and started an initiative which eventually resulted in the area being declared a park.
I learned a lot of odd small details that I'll put on a page (here). We should be heading down South into the keys tomorrow. All the best for a fine week.