The drive between Naples, Florida, and Miami is about 115 miles, and you can also make the journey in a pair hours. However don’t rush issues. The freeway takes you thru the center of the Everglades and Large Cypress Protect. It is a journey that gives distinctive and historic points of interest that you simply wish to cease and soak up.

The drive is alongside U.S. 41, in any other case often called Tamiami Path, and for long-time Floridians, it is called Outdated Alligator Alley. A lot of the journey is two-lane freeway with restricted passing alternatives. So decelerate and luxuriate in.

I not too long ago drove the freeway from Naples to Miami for the primary time in a few years. It was an extended, lonely freeway, with nothing however timber and grasslands on both facet of the highway. Right this moment issues have modified. You will discover fascinating locations to go to all alongside the highway.

Marina in Alligator Alley.
Fred Mays

1. Again To Nature In Everglades Metropolis

Our first cease is Everglades City. Again within the Seventies and ’80s, it had a nefarious fame as a serious port of entry for unlawful pot and cocaine being smuggled in from South America. After a number of residents obtained to spend time in federal prisons, the city’s focus turned to tourism. Right this moment it’s the airboat capital of South Florida.

No fewer than three airboat constitution corporations greet you as you come into city. They take vacationers on journeys by means of the Thousand Islands of the Everglades. Typically, the journeys final about an hour and value underneath $50 for adults and $25 for kids. A few of the outfitters additionally provide swamp buggy journeys. Airboats are loud, so that you’re not going to sneak up on birds and critters. Ear safety should be worn by all passengers. 

2. Salt Marsh And Island Excursions

The western entry to Everglades National Park is situated in Everglades Metropolis. It affords boat excursions and rents kayaks. Boat excursions out of the nationwide park are on giant pontoon boats that may carry 30 to 40 individuals. The journeys normally final about an hour and a half and take you thru the mangrove forests offshore. You’ll be able to lease a kayak and paddle your self. You paddle in protected waters and the journey will not be very strenuous until the wind is blowing. With kayaks, you usually tend to quietly sneak up on wading shorebirds and wildlife.

3. Large Cypress Nationwide Protect

The realm on the north facet of Outdated Alligator Alley is a part of the Big Cypress National Preserve. It’s onerous to differentiate from the Everglades, besides there are extra timber, plus some climbing and tenting. There are 12 campgrounds within the protect, most of them appropriate for RVs. There are primitive camps for backpackers with tents.

The protect covers greater than 720,000 acres. It has giant seasonal shifts in its setting. From November to June there’s little rainfall and the swamp turns into patchy dry grasslands with a number of wetlands and ponds. Fish get concentrated within the ponds, making it a simple feast for wading birds. One of the best birding season in Large Cypress is through the winter months. 

Three Florida panthers.
Courtesy Go to Florida

4. The Florida Panther

The protect is the final remaining habitat of the endangered Florida panther. You aren’t prone to see one, as there are fewer than 130 panthers left within the wild, in keeping with the newest estimates. Their greatest menace is changing into roadkill. There are panther crossing indicators at factors alongside the freeway. Decelerate and be watchful. I had the expertise years in the past of getting a panther dart throughout the highway in entrance of me. Right this moment nearly each panther is collared and tracked by wildlife managers who’re working feverishly to avoid wasting the species.

Fred Mays

5. Native American Villages 

American Indian villages are discovered often alongside Outdated Alligator Alley. The Seminole and Miccosukee Native American Indians have lengthy lived within the Everglades and Large Cypress areas. You will discover historical past excursions, present outlets, and, sure, extra airboat rides.

Word: Due to COVID, most Native American venues are closed. After they reopen, the Miccosukee Village west of Miami affords fascinating perception into the historical past and lifestyle of the Everglades tribes.

6. The Smallest Submit Workplace In The Nation

Outdated Alligator Alley is dwelling to the smallest post office in the United States. It’s situated alongside the highway within the village of Ochopee, with barely room for one individual to face. It’s a frequent cease for vacationers taking selfies and household footage. The present postmaster has been greeting guests for 4 years, and essentially the most often bought merchandise is a $1 postcard that’s already stamped and canceled. Most individuals jot fast notes and drop them within the mailbox by the entrance door.

Fred Mays

Probably the most fascinating stops alongside Outdated Alligator Alley is the Big Cypress Gallery, that includes the photographic work of Florida photographer Clyde Butcher. Butcher has been capturing within the Everglades and Large Cypress for over 40 years. He shoots primarily black and white and is also known as the Ansel Adams of the Everglades. His gallery options his work and rotating displays of different photographers who specialize within the Everglades/Large Cypress areas.

The gallery additionally has two visitor homes which you could lease for a keep within the swamp. There are guided swamp excursions supplied within the winter when the paths are extra satisfactory through the dry season. 

8. The Oasis Customer Heart 

This middle is on the north facet of the freeway, about halfway between Naples and Miami. It includes a boardwalk the place vacationers congregate to view alligators within the roadside canal. They’re seldom dissatisfied. The middle additionally includes a video presentation on the historical past of the Everglades area. 

9. Shark Valley In Everglades Nationwide Park

Simply off the freeway close to Miami is the Nationwide Park Service middle often called Shark Valley. You’ll be able to stroll a paved path alongside an extended drainage canal and be virtually sure to see alligators. There are additionally tram rides again into the wilderness. 

The brief Bobcat Path is alongside a boardwalk by means of a big stand of mangroves. It is a nice birding alternative through the winter and migratory months.

10. A Stroll On The Wildside In Florida’s Everglades

Most guests to the Everglades wish to see alligators, and so they received’t be dissatisfied. They’re often seen from boardwalks at roadside vacationer facilities. Different wildlife much less generally seen are black bears, American crocodiles, and the Florida panther talked about above.

11. A Python World

In recent times the glades have been taken over by enormous boa constrictors, Burmese pythons, which have decimated the smaller wildlife within the Everglades, devouring raccoons, rabbits, bobcats, even small alligators. They’ve shortly change into the Everglades high predator. 

The pythons aren’t native to the world, and the State of Florida has declared open season on them for hunters, who worth the pores and skin for things like belts, sneakers, purses, and the like. The state even has bounties on pythons starting from $50 to greater than $100, relying on how large the python is. Skilled python hunters are recognized to kill 4 or 5 of the snakes in an evening of searching.

Scientists say the pythons stem from former pets being launched into the japanese Everglades round Miami. A feminine lays over 100 eggs at a time, and the inhabitants quickly exploded. The very best focus of pythons are discovered within the japanese facet of the Everglades, however they’ve shortly unfold all through the ecosystem.

photograph by Fred Mays

12. Florida’s River Of Grass

The widespread false impression of the Everglades is that it’s an enormous, moist swamp. In actuality, a lot of the wilderness drys out through the winter months, leaving a dry swamp mattress. Some areas keep moist year-round, principally within the southern glades. Marjorie Stoneham Douglas, the founding father of the Save The Everglades motion, named it the River of Grass in her e-book of the identical identify. 

There are huge miles of nothing however open grasslands, sometimes populated with timber in barely elevated clusters often called hammocks. 

Professional Ideas

One of the best time to go to is the winter season. Migratory birds are in residence, the afternoon rainstorms have abated, and there are fewer mosquitos. 

An important factor: Don’t be in a rush. There are websites to see all alongside Outdated Alligator Alley. You’ll be awestruck by the vastness and distinctive nature of the grasslands. 

The Everglades is a fragile ecosystem that has been threatened by the inhabitants progress of South Florida and the demand for water. Water from the north that when fed naturally into the glades is now diverted and pumped by means of lengthy canals into the municipal water provides of Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and West Palm Seashore. A lot of the land on the north facet of the Everglades has been transformed for agriculture, significantly sugarcane farming. This requires freshwater for irrigation that may have in any other case flowed into the Everglades.

The Everglades, at 1.5-million acres at the moment, is about half its pure measurement. Mixed with the discount of freshwater circulate from the north, the Everglades is dealing with an incursion of saltwater from the south. Sea-level rise is pushing tides from Florida Bay deeper into the decrease Everglades, with the saltwater killing native swampland vegetation.

So, if you get the possibility, cease, take your time, and benefit from the pure fantastic thing about the Everglades and Large Cypress Protect as you journey Aligator Alley.

For extra Florida inspiration, take into account

Source link