Everglades, Florida on the map. National Park Everglades, Florida on the map of USA
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Below: The alligator once risked extinction because its hide was prized for shoes and handbags, but thanks to protective measures, its numbers are now increasing.
Facing page: Among the many birds seen in the Everglades are the large and beautiful common egret.
Right: The unique grassy waters of the Everglades. No where else in the world is there a place quite like this.
Far right: The eastern diamondback rattlesnake inhabits the Everglades. Beware—these snakes are poisonous.
Established: 1947 Acreage: 1,398,800
Long before the white man came the early Indians—the Colusas and the Tequestas —lived in the Evergaldes subsisting off the conches, oysters, clams, fish and game. The Indians that came later, the Miccosukees and Seminoles, arrived after the American Revolution. Creek Indians from states to the north, crowded out by white settlers came to Florida, and were gradually forced south to this region.
It was the Indians who gave the Everglades its perfect and poetic name —'Pa-Hay-Okee'—or grassy waters. The word 'everglades' actually means a marshy land covered with scattered tall grasses. A freshwater river six inches deep and 50 miles wide creeps seaward through the Everglades on a gradually-sloping riverbed. Along its long course, the water drops 15 feet, finally emptying into Florida Bay. The park was established to protect its unique biological features, and visitors need to take some time to walk the boardwalks and trails to understand and appreciate its mystique.
The Everglades is well known for its abundance and variety of birdlife. Roseate spoonbills, reddish egrets and rare great white herons live in Florida Bay. The park is also home
to other rare and endangered species including the Florida panther, manatee, Everglades mink, green sea turtle, loggerhead turtle, peregrine falcon and crocodile. Other species, such as the Florida mangrove cuckoo, brown pelican and osprey, require special protection. Perhaps the Everglades is best known for the alligator, which has been dubbed 'Keeper of the Everglades.' The alligator cleans out the large holes in the Everglades' limestone bed that serve as a refuge during the dry winter season for fish, turtles, snails and other freshwater animals. In turn, these holes become the feeding grounds for alligators, birds and mammals until the rains come. Survivors—prey and predator—then leave the holes to repopulate the Everglades.
Despite the park's size, its environment is threatened by the disruptive activities of agriculture, industry and urban development around it. Life hangs precariously in the Everglades. Fresh water, although it seems to be everywhere, has been drastically blocked by man in South Florida. Conflicting demands compete for this precious water, leaving the Everglades struggling to survive. There are no other everglades in the world. Fortunately, the importance of the Everglades' ecosystem has been recognized by its designation as an International Biosphere Reserve and a World Heritage Site, but it will take human concern and prudent management to preserve the park's natural treasures.