Creating the Park
Squish, squash! Your boots sink into mud as you wade through a swamp where frogs, turtles, and fish live. Suddenly, you see a roseate spoonbill with bubblegum-pink feathers soaring overhead. Then your gaze falls upon what appear to be stones emerging from the swamp—but you know these rocks could be crocs. So you keep a safe distance at all times. This wild, watery adventure is happening on a slog—a hike through water—at Florida’s Everglades National Park.
Native American people have lived in southern Florida for at least 10,000 years. But when European settlers arrived in the America Southeast, they tried to push out Native people onto small reservations in the West. That’s when members of the Seminole (SEH-min-ohl) tribe moved into the swampy and mosquito-filled Everglades, which was difficult for the outsiders to explore. Formerly enslaved people and members of other tribes escaping violence also joined them there; many years later, some members of the Seminole tribe still live in the Everglades today.
But many Western settlers thought of the Everglades as nothing more than swampland, and companies began to drain the territory in the 1920s in order to construct buildings. But the National Park Service became aware of the huge numbers of animals that live, breed, and feed in the area, including manatees and types of wading birds. In order to protect the land and animals from builders, they voted to designate the Everglades as a national park in 1934.
Today Everglades National Park is a 1.5-million-acre wetland ecosystem. Much of the area is covered with saw grass, a grass-like plant that sprouts in water. The park also boasts mangrove swamps, or coastal wetlands where sturdy mangrove trees grow. Visitors to the park can boat along the wetlands, or bike through pinelands—forests that take root on rockier sections of the Everglades.
Whether you’re canoeing, biking, or hiking through the Everglades, you’ll likely see some cool critters. In addition to manatees and roseate spoonbills, ivory-billed woodpeckers and the rare Florida panther make their homes here. The park is also the only place where the American alligator and the American crocodile can be found living side by side. The awesome animals at this park really scale up the fun!