Say “Everglades” and people almost always associate it with rip-roaring airboat rides. Although airboats are prohibited in most of Everglades National Park, there are other ways to explore this bio-diverse natural treasure. Located less than an hour’s drive west of Miami in the northern part of the park off Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) is Shark Valley. Visitors can hop aboard a guided two-hour tram tour deep into the Everglades to see first-hand why it’s called the “River of Grass.”
What Makes the Everglades Tick?
Everglades National Park was my home for several years yet, it’s taken me several years of being apart of this World Heritage Site to appreciate it. When my parents visited from Buffalo in February, we jaunted down to Shark Valley (just shy of a 3-hour drive from Port Charlotte) to become knee-deep in alligators.
Led by an extremely animated and energetic National Park Service Ranger, we spotted gator after gator after gator while learning about the park’s ecosystem. At one point during the trip, the tram stopped and the ranger kicked off her boots, rolled up her slacks and tromped into the Everglades. She picked up plants then showed us how the water was clear, meaning it was flowing like a river. A river of grass.
Birds strutted their stuff in full force. There were Anhinga, Ibis, Great Blue Herons, Little Green Herons, Cormorant, and my favorites, Roseate Spoonbill and American Wood Stork. Seeing a nest of Anhinga nursing its young was very sweet.
Nuts & Bolts of Shark Valley Tram Tours
Tours are operated by a concession company and led by park service trained naturalists meaning, sometimes a National Park Service ranger will lead the trip and other times a trained concession employee will. The tour travels along a 15-mile loop road with a pit-stop at the 45-foot high observation tower where you can see out about 20 miles on a clear day.
For those who’d rather tour the loop road at their own pace, they can either bring or rent a bicycle to pedal along gators.
Shark Valley Tram Tours
Tel: 305 221-8455
Open daily with multiple tours a day. An adult tour is $19 with discounts for seniors and children. $10 National Park Service entry fee is additional. Advance reservations are strongly recommended during high-season (December through April)
This post is part of the 2012 Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Check back daily for a different letter!