We drove to the Florida Everglades today. We hoped we might see a distant alligator. We actually saw hundreds…. well at least fifty very close-up!
A large alligator snoozing in the winter sunshine
The Everglades National Park in South Florida is an amazing place of over 1.5 million acres.
Historically it was a freshwater river just a few feet deep and 50 miles wide which crept slowly towards the sea. Dropping only fifteen feet during it’s 80 mile course this “river of grass” finally emptied into the Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico where salt and fresh water mixed together and the habitat was dominated by mangrove forests.
The “river of grass” with a red-shouldered hawk perched in the foreground
Unfortunately this fragile place is being (and has been) destroyed on a massive scale – by humans. The park was the first created to protect a “threatened ecological system” but it could still die.
It has no natural sources of water and relies totally on the rain that falls in southern Florida – outside of the park boundaries. However, this same water is now diverted into extensive canal and levee systems (for agriculture and human consumption) before it can even reach the park. At times it receives no water, at other times human-managed flood waters inundate the park – washing away young birds and nests.
Basking alligators near a rapidly drying freshwater pool
To add to this there is poisonous run-off from agriculture outside of the park. High levels of mercury are present from fish, through raccoons and alligators, to the rare Florida panther of which only 10 are thought to survive.
Now, after years of drainage and destruction, Congress has authorized the world’s largest environmental restoration project due to take 30 years to complete. The aim is to restore what is left of the Everglades but it’s an uphill battle against massive multi-national agricultural and industrial companies and human demands on the land and water.
Airplants cover the trees – living off thin-air and rainwater
From what I can see the fate of the Everglades is still very much in the balance.