Last weekend I drove down to Marathon in the Florida Keys for a fun kayaking excursion with Burnham Guides. During the drive I chose to follow the two-lane Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41) rather than the I-75 and Alligator Alley because the Trail is more scenic. I mean, where else can you see the Skunk Ape Research Facility, the Smallest Post Office in the U.S., a Miccosukee Indian Village, and gators galore?
About mid-way across Tamiami Trail heading east from Southwest Florida I stopped for a break at the Oasis Visitor Center in Big Cypress Preserve. My main objective was to visit the bathroom because I’ve stopped at that visitor center many times before and didn’t think there was anything new to see. Something in my mind told me to walk the boardwalk in front of the center to see if there was anything interesting down below. Typically when I’ve stopped in the past, I didn’t see anything. No gators. No turtles. No birds. Just visitors hoping to spot an alligator.
Boy, was I in for a treat! There were gators galore just hanging out while cormorants and other birds fished for dinner. There were at least a dozen gators, maybe two dozen, floating, swimming and resting in the water below. Cormorants swam, doze and emerged with big, juicy fish. Oftentimes, an alligator would soon launch from its resting place and set sail toward a bird then submerge itself, hiding from the tannin water.
When given the chance to drive across the Florida Everglades, choose Tamiami Trail if it’s during daylight and not Alligator Alley (I-75). Sure, it’s a two-lane road and driving may be slow if you get behind a truck or recreational vehicle but it’s a lovely leisurely trip with a spectacular view. Take time to visit the attractions along the way including Big Cypress Preserve and Shark Valley in Everglades National Park. Book an airboat tour and walk a trail.
Just don’t wrestle an alligator. Leave the gator wrestling to the professionals.