The View from Here

Everglades Revisited
April 11, 2009, 10:37 am
Filed under: Adventures


Anhinga at its namesake trail.

Anhinga at its namesake trail.

   I used to live in south Florida and visited the Glades quite often back in the late 70’s- early 80’s. It was my introduction to tropical ecosystems, and as a life long reptile lover, something of a “holy” place for me. After reading of the adventures of famous herpetologists there, it was really exciting to see it for myself.
We went back this past January, after an absence of nearly 20 years. It was a very nostalgic trip, but we couldn’t help but feel that the place had diminished somewhat. Some of our favorite trails were closed because of storm damage, and we noticed even more exotic invasive plants. Although we didn’t see one for ourselves, Burmese Pythons have become a scourge since our last visit. I’ve read of extensive mercury contamination of the Park waters. It is no longer healthy to eat fish from the Glades.
Still, we saw much of the beauty we expected to see. The vistas of vast sawgrass prairies are still there. The great pine savannahs are still there. Even some of the huge old mahogany trees in Mahogany Hammock have survived the hurricanes that blasted through the park in the last 20 years.
   The bird life concentrated at the usual spots (Anhinga Trail, Mrazek Pond) was still in evidence, and I got some wonderful reference photos.


White Ibis in the light from sunset

White Ibis in the light from sunset

However, I read that birdlife in the Glades is only 20% of what it was in the 80’s! Back in the 80’s, I read that the bird life was only 10% of what it was before man intervened around the turn of the last century. That’s pretty discouraging. There are efforts underway to restore the Glades to some of its former glory, but money and politics still get in the way. An effort by the state of Florida to buy up sugar cane fields south of Lake Okeechobee has been much reduced by the recent economic downturn. These lands are critical to restoring the flow of clean water into the Everglades. For me, the place is still a wonderful source of images. Inside the Park, the vistas haven’t changed much, and I can find truly sublime visions.

Gators have always been an interest of mine, and they give the place a very Cretaceous-like aspect. Cypress and alligators go all the way back to those Mesozoic days, although the cypress were in Canada back then.  


An alligator at Shark Valley

An alligator at Shark Valley

Back in our early days of visiting the Park, I searched for the American Crocodile. In nearly seven years of trying, I never did see one. On this recent trip, I spotted five in one morning. It’s nice to know that something there is making a real comeback.  I also got to see a cottonmouth. I never managed to find one before, although I knew they were around.  It was a beautiful specimen, looking freshly shed and very colorful.  It was lying in the middle of the main park road, a very risky basking spot. I tried to encourage it to leave the pavement, while steering traffic around the snake with my flashlight. As cars passed, I’d illuminate the snake so they could appreciate my efforts. I wish I could have heard the comments. 


The head of a 10-foot American Croc basking near the docks at Flamingo


A Florida Cottonmouth on the main road.


"Everglades Morning" is now on display in the US Embassy in Costa Rica.

"Everglades Morning" is currently on display in the US Embassy in Costa Rica.


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