Alligators and Kayaking in our 12th National Park, Everglades National Park, Florida

One of the things we were looking forward to the most about Everglades National Park in Florida, was the probability of seeing alligators!  While we were focused mainly on seeing alligators, we didn’t realize how many bird species were also in the area.  In fact, 360 different species of birds can be found in the Everglades. We’ve really enjoyed seeing new species of birds and are slowly convincing ourselves that we’re becoming birders!  Our second day in the park was during the government shutdown and they had closed all of the visitor’s centers and restrooms in the entire park.  Luckily we had already gotten a map and our passports stamped before the shutdown took effect!

Kayaking

We had originally planned to kayak the Turner canoe trail system but didn’t realize that it was on the other side of the park closer to the Naples area.  Oh well, we’ll have to come back and do that someday!  Instead, we went to 9-mile pond to do the kayak trail there.  The first thing you have to do is kayak all the way across the lake to get to the first marker so that you can start following the trail.  There are a TON of markers along the trail so if you go more than a few minutes without seeing one, you’re not going the right way.  We made that mistake and ended up in a system much like what we experienced at Biscayne National Park where we had to pull ourselves along through some tight channels.  We backtracked back to the beginning and realized we needed to go right instead of left to get on the trail.  

There are quite a few different views that you’ll end up seeing while kayaking.  From being out on an open lake, to going through canopied mangrove tunnels, scooting along marshes, to kayaking through cattails, you’re always amazed at how the view keeps changing.  The entire trail is about 5 miles long, but you’ll see a pole marked shortcut that you can cut a mile and a half off by taking it.  It’s not the easiest shortcut by any means, but if it were easy it would just be called “the way.”  We cut across and made our way back to the parking lot.  This area is where both crocodiles and alligators can be seen in the same water, but we actually didn’t see much wildlife at all, which was upsetting. 

Trails and Alligators

There aren’t a lot of trails in the area we focused on, but the couple that we did check out gave us some incredible wildlife experiences.  We went down to Eco Pond where there were possibilities of seeing crocodiles and up to 150 different species of birds!  Unfortunately, we didn’t see any crocodiles but we did get to see two ospreys building a nest for the upcoming season.  From there we drove up to the Mahogany Hammock and the Anhinga and Gumbo Limbo trails.

The Mahogany Hammock was a shorter trail in which you walked along a boardwalk through the jungle canopy.  The giant mahogany trees were an incredible sight to see but one of the craziest things we saw was a hawk who had a decapitated snake clutched in its claws.  We had realized we got a photo of the hawk with the snake, but it wasn’t until we got a chance to process the photos did we realize what had happened.  The rest of the walkthrough was extremely peaceful and serene.

The Anhinga trail was awesome!  Right out of the gate, we saw several alligators and they were super close!  Because we had brought our long lens, we were able to get some really detailed photos of their eyes, scales, and limbs.  We had never seen an alligator foot before and it reminded us of Brienne’s feet.  Also on the trail, we saw birds like Herons, Purple Gallinules, Cormorants, and Anhingas.  The Anhingas are beautiful birds with white markings on their backs and blue rings around their eyes!

The Gumbo Limbo trail was more of a jungle canopy trail and didn’t have a lot of wildlife on it.  It was a really great trail to walk down, but you could tell that the hurricane had definitely ripped through there and left a lot of damage in its wake.  Normally the entire walk is covered by canopies above you making you feel like you’re in this magical jungle, but because several big trees were downed, it was much more open.  One of the craziest things was that the trees spread their roots out flat instead of deep which makes them very easy to topple over, and when they do, they leave this intricate design pattern sticking up into the air.  The walk was absolutely beautiful and we really enjoyed taking the time out to escape into nature.

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