10 Surprising Facts About the Everglades

Doesn’t everyone love to learn Everglades facts? The Florida Everglades is extraordinary, and it’s easy to see why people come from all over the world to take an Everglades excursion through the wetlands. With unique vegetation and exciting wildlife, the Everglades is amazing to see in person. But with as much attention as the ecosystem has been getting lately, there’s still much to learn about its contribution to South Florida and beyond. For those seeking  Everglades National Park airboat tours Everglades Holiday Park, located in Fort Lauderdale, provides unique and thrilling excursions through the Everglades, right near the border of the Everglades National Park. Here are five interesting facts about the Everglades straight from our experts at the park that may surprise you.

Everglades National Park was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site and as an International Biosphere Reserve because of their commitment to preserving the habitats of endangered species, protecting the largest mangrove ecosystem, and claiming the largest remaining subtropical wilderness, among other things. You can see just how crucial the work is, leading to international importance.

NO. 1: The Everglades is a River

Here’s one of those interesting Everglades facts. Believe it or not, the Everglades is actually a river that’s constantly moving, which works great for an Everglades airboat tour. Water trickles from north to south from Lake Okeechobee, forming a slow-moving river that’s sixty miles wide and a hundred miles long, eventually Reaching Florida Bay. But the River of Grass is much smaller than it was in years past. As much as fifty percent of the wetland habitat has been destroyed by construction and related drainage projects.

NO. 2: The Everglades are the Only Place in the World Where Alligators and Crocodiles Coexist

Both crocodiles and gators live in the Everglades. Crocs are mostly found in small numbers in coastal areas of the ‘Glades, while alligators prefer to stay inland, near freshwater. Nevertheless, Everglades National Park protects a natural habitat for both, and it’s the only place in the world where these reptiles co-exist in the wild.

It’s also home to the elusive Florida panther and the West Indian manatee, many wading birds, and other endangered species.

NO. 3: Fire is Common (and Important!) in the Everglades

When most people think of the Everglades facts they remember, they imagine swampland and trips down the water on Everglades boat tours, murky waters. While that’s true, there’s also a very distinctive dry season where weather patterns create drought-like conditions that are perfect for fire. What many people don’t realize is that fire is actually an essential part of maintenance, clearing the way for a complex system of interdependent ecosystems to thrive. National Park Service has an entire handbook on monitoring fires, so don’t worry.

NO. 4: The Everglades Provide Drinking Water for Eight Million Floridians

As the largest subtropical wetland in North America, the health of the Everglades is a big deal. But aside from providing shelter and protection for scores of wildlife, the Everglades is an important asset to humans as well, and one out of every three Floridians rely on the Everglades for drinking water as well as a backdrop to Everglades National Park airboat tours.

Water flowing from the Big Cypress National Preserve creates the River of Grass in the Everglades, which then, in turn, uses the slow-moving freshwater marshes to provide naturally filtered water for the majority of Southern Florida, totaling up to eight million Floridians!

NO. 5: There are 9 Habitats Providing a Home to 16 Endangered or Threatened Species

The Florida Everglades is complex for sure, but it’s this complexity that makes it so spectacular. The elusive Florida panther, the West Indian manatee, the Cape Sable seaside sparrow, and the American crocodile are just four of the endangered animals the Everglades ecosystem protects. With nine distinct habitats, the Everglades is also home to over 16 species of birds, a variety of mammals, reptiles, plants, and scores of unique flora. America’s wetland is spectacular, and it’s a fantastic Everglades facts learning environment for adventurous families, photographers, and nature enthusiasts alike. The Everglades are also the most significant breeding grounds for tropical wading birds in all of North America, including all the other national parks.

NO. 6: The Everglades is the Largest Subtropical Wilderness in the United States

The Everglades comprise 1.5 million acres of mangrove forests, hardwood hammocks, and sawgrass marshes. This ecosystem is home to many exotic species and is beautifully complex.

  1. Sawgrass Marshes: Sawgrass marshes make up the well-known River of Grass that spans across much of the park. This habitat is characterized by the shallow, slow-moving water that is the majority of drinking water for many Floridians.
  2. Cypress Swamps: These swamps are home to diverse wildlife, including turtles, snakes, and amphibians. The trees are incredibly sturdy against flooding, making them perfect nesting sites for the many species of birds who take up residence.
  3. Mangrove Forests: The Mangrove forests serve as a crucial nursery for several important marine species. During the dry months, the forests become a feeding and nesting ground for wading birds, and during the summer months, the Mangroves provide a strong line of defense against strong winds and intimidating hurricanes.
  4. Estuarine Areas: The estuarine habitats are where freshwater from the Everglades rivers mix with saltwater from the sea and create vital shelter for many species of fish.

NO. 7: The Everglades is Experiencing a Serpent Surge

The Burmese Pythons were released into the Everglades due to accidental or intentional release of captive animals. No one knows the origin of the problem, but the effects of such an invasive species are clear. Pythons eat many different kinds of animals, and they are likely the main reason for the decline of mammals in the Everglades.

The Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission holds a python hunt once every year that is open to the public, challenging people to find and remove as many snakes as they can. Every participant is required to take a training course about humanely killing pythons. Since the hunt doesn’t allow the use of firearms, hunters use either preferred methods, like stun guns, or hunting knives.

Detecting pythons is tricky because they like to hide in marshes, and they thrive in remote habitats. That’s fantastic for visitors because it means they’re not likely to spot a python. It does make monitoring them somewhat challenging for scientists, but they estimate that there are at least tens of thousands of pythons.

NO. 8: It’s Home to Dozens of Species of Mosquitoes

Don’t worry! They don’t all prefer to snack on humans. In the world, there are an estimated 3,500 species of mosquitoes. 200 of those species are found in the US, and about 80 of those are found in Florida. In the Everglades. There are at least 43 species, only 13 of which like to bite people.

You can protect yourself by wearing light, long-sleeved shirts and pants in light colors, as dark colors are most attractive to mosquitoes. Apply mosquito repellant, of course, walk on the paved areas, and enjoy the open, breezy areas.

To avoid mosquitoes, don’t roll down your windows or open doors when stopping along roadsides, don’t wear colognes or perfumes, don’t stand in the shade, and don’t go outdoors during dawn, dusk, or early evening.

At this point, you may be asking, “Why are mosquitoes around, anyway?” Though they can seem like an unnecessary nuisance, mosquitoes are a massive part of the Everglades food web. The larvae are born in stagnant pools of water where they’re consumed by fish. In turn, these fish will become the prey of many important species. While adult mosquitoes only live for about a month, they are a big source of food for dragonflies, birds, amphibians, and reptiles. Mosquitoes that live function as pollinators for many plants.

You can see how these tiny inconveniences are worth it in the grand scheme of the Everglades ecosystem.

NO. 9: Perception-Changing Book, “The Everglades: River of Grass”

Marjory Stoneman Douglas’s iconic work, “The Everglades: River of Grass,” delves into the heart of the Florida Everglades, transforming the public’s perception of this unique ecosystem into something that should be preserved.

The book was first published in 1947. The beauty of it, and perhaps the reason it captured America’s heart, is that it isn’t just a list of scientific facts. It goes beyond that and weaves together all the rich history, ecology, and human interaction with a captivating narrative. Douglas takes the Everglades’ intricacies and makes them accessible to readers everywhere.

One of the book’s enduring strengths lies in its ability to weave science with human history. By showcasing the cultural significance of this ecosystem, she created a broader understanding of the Everglades’ value, igniting a sense of responsibility to protect it. In doing so, “The Everglades: River of Grass” doesn’t just educate—it inspires a call to action and lays the foundation for a new era of environmental awareness.

At 79 years old, Douglas founded Friends of the Everglades, an organization that helped stop the construction of a proposed jetport to be built in what we now recognize as the Everglades’ stunning Big Cypress region.

You can truly see how Douglas’ heart was for the environment, and we can’t thank her enough for all she’s done to preserve the Everglades and bring awareness.

NO. 10: The Everglades Only has Two Seasons

There is the Wet Season and the Dry Season. That’s it.

The dry season in the Everglades spans from November to April. It is characterized by less rainfall and a gradual reduction in water levels throughout the Everglades. This seasonal shift, while it can seem intimidating, plays a vital role in shaping the Everglades’ landscape and influencing the behavior of its many plant and animal species.

As the rainfall lessens, the expansive marshes and wetlands of the Everglades begin to recede, revealing the lovely patterns of its underlying terrain that aren’t otherwise visible.

It is during this dry season that natural fire patterns become prominent. The lack of rainfall makes the vegetation dry and more susceptible to fires. Wildfires are an important phenomenon in the Everglades, clearing out all the accumulated plant matter and keeping fire-adapted species dominant. The presence of humans has slightly altered this natural process, but conservationists are vigilant in mimicking the beneficial effects with controlled burns. The benefits of controlling these burns include: reducing the risk of catastrophic wildfires, controlling invasive species, and promoting the health and diversity of the ecosystem.

The wet season in the Everglades is typically from May to October. This season brings an explosion of life and vitality to the ecosystem. It’s easily recognizable by the very frequent and heavy rainfall, not to mention the dramatic visual transformation that takes place as water levels rise and the landscape becomes interconnected once again by marshes, sloughs, and waterways.

The wet season offers an abundance of resources to the diverse inhabitants of the Everglades. More water flow means ideal conditions for aquatic plants to thrive supporting the complex food web. Fish, birds, and amphibians are suddenly in possession of optimal breeding and foraging grounds because of the expanded wetland areas.

The newly flooded terrain also creates the essential habitat for numerous wading birds we know and love, including herons, egrets, and ibises, which need shallow waters to flourish. The water levels rise, and these birds gather to breed, hunt for their aquatic prey, and nest in the protective covering of the budding marshes.

The bountiful waters of the wet season nurture an astounding spectacle of life, activity, and cooperativeness between species that can’t be found anywhere besides the Everglades.

BONUS FACT: How Many Acres Is Everglades National Park?

Everglades National Park spans more than 1.5 million acres, but you might be shocked to find out that even such a huge space is only 50% of what the Everglades used to be. Only 200 years ago, the River of Grass flowed slowly across almost one-third of Florida. Historically, the Everglades covered somewhere around 3 million acres that ran headwaters in the Kissimmee River through what we now know as Everglades National Park and out into the Florida Bay.

As you can easily see, however, today we enjoy less than half of the historic Everglades ecosystem, all of which fall under the protection of Everglades National Park. This loss is due to decades of draining wetlands and claiming lands for agricultural and urban developments. The remaining 50% (which includes Everglades National Park and Florida Bay) is cut off from Lake Okeechobee. Because of this, the Everglades are no longer receiving enough clean, fresh water to sustain Florida’s wildlife, economy, and drinking water. Restoration projects are focusing on reconnecting the flow of this water through South Florida to protect the delicate ecosystem.

Everglades National Park became the first park in American history that was dedicated solely to protecting a unique diversity of life, and we are grateful for it. Further protection of the remaining 1.5 million acres is absolutely necessary to sustain the ecosystem.

Want to Learn More?

If you’re interested in learning more, and a journey through the Everglades sounds like fun, a narrated tour may be the answer! Visit Everglades airboat adventures in Fort Lauderdale for 60-minute airboat tours, alligator show, and the once-in-a-lifetime chance to meet and greet with Florida’s finest. More information on the national park can be found at any of the several visitor centers. (Gulf Coast Visitor Center and Shark Valley Visitor Center, to name two.)

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