Is it Safe to Swim in the Florida Everglades’ Waterways?

Men, women, and children of all ages flock to South Florida each year to enjoy the year-round sunshine and endless outdoor activities – a perfect escape from colder climates. Kayaking, fishing, boating, and lounging by the water are all the best way to see the Everglades.

Do your plans involve swimming in the Everglades? Perhaps staying on the gorgeous Flamingo Campground, being warmed by the sun, staring at the shimmering water… it can be very tempting. Many people find themselves longing to dip into South Florida’s various bodies of water to cool off from the beaming sunshine.

However, the residents of Florida may be aware of something that most visitors may not know, and it’s something crucial. Many people assume that all of South Florida’s waters are as safe and swimmer-friendly as the clear water on Florida’s white-sand beaches, but this is not the case. In many cases, it is not safe to swim in the Everglades!

Lakes, canals, rivers & streams that flow from North Florida all the way down to the Florida Keys are rich with vegetation and wildlife–“wild” being the keyword here. All sorts of dangerous animals lurk in the waters, eagerly awaiting some unsuspecting visitor. Venomous snakes, non-venomous snakes (such as the Burmese python), the well-known Florida panther, and, of course, American crocodiles and alligators.

Those who haven’t yet had the opportunity to explore the Everglades safely might imagine the 1.5 million-acre national park’s public waterways to be clear, with thick trees overhead for climbing or viewing purposes. Much of the waterways open to the public contain vast areas of brackish water with thick stalks of sawgrass growing randomly throughout, which make for perfect hiding spots for the hundreds of thousands of American alligators throughout.


Is it safe to swim in the Everglades?

Alligators are aggressive, and they dominate the winding waterways of the Everglades. Alligators feed off other animals in the ‘Glades and can detect even the slightest movement in the water. So, if you’re wondering if it’s safe to swim in the Everglades – the answer is ABSOLUTELY NOT. Additionally, the Everglades is the only place on earth in which alligators and crocodiles coexist, so you may spot some of those, as well as various types of snakes–all of which you want to avoid encountering at all costs.

Additionally, swimming/snorkeling is actually prohibited in all canals, ponds, freshwater lakes, marked channels, and boat basins inside the Everglades park which means your options are limited anyway.

Avoid swimming in the Everglades. The murky water makes even the most careful citizen susceptible to the lurking predators of the park waters. Often common sense isn’t enough. During your stay, try bird watching, hiking, bicycling, geocaching (basically, it’s a GPS-enabled treasure hunt), tours, and fishing. More advanced (and adventurous!) campers can try slough slogging, which is off-trail hiking. This is an excellent way to get more in touch with some of the elusive species of the Everglades.

All of that to say, save the swimming for one of the many gorgeous, white-sand beaches of Florida. Miami is only a little over an hour drive from the very heart of Everglades National Park

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    Alligators in the Wild… and Civilization.

    Unprovoked alligator attacks are fairly uncommon in Florida, but that’s partially due to the proper attitude towards the American alligator. Wild animals are unpredictable and should never be treated like domesticated animals. Residents of Florida are fairly used to encountering alligators, so they know to give the creatures a wide berth. Visitors sometimes don’t have a proper appreciation for how dangerous alligators and other wildlife really are.

    Never approach an alligator on your own. Thankfully, alligators begin with a natural fear of humans. Most commonly, they will begin a quick retreat when a human gets too close.

    If you are walking along the edge of a pond or stream in Florida, you may hear a hiss. That sound is your warning that you have gotten too close to an alligator basking in the sun. If you find yourself in this situation, stay calm and slowly back away from the edge in a non-threatening manner. Though it is very rare for wild alligators to chase people up onto land, never make the mistake of assuming they’re slow or lethargic. On land, alligators can run up to 35 miles per hour for short distances. Not only are they fast, they are agile and willing to defend themselves when cornered, which is about the only time an alligator will get aggressive on land. A female protecting her nest might charge a person wandering too close, but she will usually return quickly after the intruder has put a safe distance between them.

    Never feed alligators. When you do that, they lose their natural fear of humans and begin associating people with food. This is when they get dangerous. They may look cute and hungry, but you are doing yourself and others harm by encouraging this dangerous behavior.

    Never grab an alligator by the tail. Most people underestimate just how quick they really are. You may have seen professionals do this as a way to get close and subdue an alligator, but it should not be attempted by someone who hasn’t had a lot of practice in very controlled environments.

    Never try to get up-close photos of an alligator. Use your camera’s zoom feature.

    Never get close to the babies! Even if they look like they’re on their own, the mother, large, protective, and quick, is likely waiting nearby.

    If you want to see Florida alligators for yourself, take one of our guided tours! They’re perfectly safe and headed up by guides with years of experience. They’re the perfect way to relax, get up close to nature, and learn much about their world without risking yourself.

    Still Think It’s Safe to Go Swimming in the Everglades?

    Hopefully, by now, you’ve determined that swimming in Everglades National Park is not the best idea.

    If you need more convincing, check out this article from our wildlife handlers and Everglades explorers at Everglades Holiday Park for more information:

    Staying Safe in the Everglades

    How Can You Safely Explore the Everglades?

    There are safer methods to viewing the River of Grass than to go swimming in the brackish waters of the Everglades – such as fishing, boating, kayaking, canoeing, paddle boarding, Everglades excursion, etc., but the best way to see the Everglades safely is on Everglades National Park airboat adventure tours with an experienced captain.

    Airboats are designed specifically for the Everglades and their various terrains. The Everglades can quickly switch from deeper than you think to extremely shallow, plus everything in between. An airboat will allow for safe seating that offers perfect views of the Everglades and the incredible wildlife that inhabit the subtropical landscape.

    Here are some key points you should know about airboats:

    • Unlike regular boats, airboats do not disturb soil and sediment. Because of this, the ecosystem remains crystal clear and clean, just like it began. To our benefit, this system allows you to see everything that goes on below the surface.
    • Because of the raised seating, nearly every seat on the airboat helps ensure you’ll have stunning views throughout the entire tour.
    • Airboats are exceptionally stable on the water, which means you can safely and comfortably move around the boat if the best view is found elsewhere. Always listen to your tour guide and remain seated unless he or she says otherwise.
    • Airboats are found among the best solutions for ecosystem and habitat preservation. As such, you can feel confident that you’re getting the best experience while minimally impacting the environment. It’s a win-win!

    The Everglades offer some truly stunning sights for visitors to the area and can access many regions that would be inaccessible by foot. As such, they’re among the most popular ways to make the most of these stunning areas–and might just be a great option for you to try, too.

    Everglades Holiday Park is equipped with a fleet of state-of-the-art, well-maintained airboats, led by expert airboat captains who have been navigating the Everglades for decades. Our *60-minute guided Everglades tours are the safest and most exciting way to view the Everglades and its unique wildlife, from the comfort of a shaded, safe seat. So, whether you’re a Florida resident or just visiting the sunshine state, make sure you know the appropriate way to enjoy the different bodies of water.


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