We left Wauchula after a sixteen day stay and headed south to Big Cypress National Preserve. As we got closer to our campground we began counting alligators in the canals alongside the road. We arrived for a four night stay at Midway Campground in the Big Cypress National Preserve, a nice campground arranged around a small lake. The campground has electric sites with water and a dump station nearby.
Big Cypress National Preserve was the first national preserve in the National Park System. It is a 729,000 acre wilderness of cypress swamps, prairies and wooded regions. It is home to a multitude of wildlife including bobcats and the Florida panther.
On Thursday we visited the Oasis Visitor Center with a boardwalk viewing area where we saw many alligators. We drove down through Everglades City to Chokoloskee with beautiful water views. On the way back to the campground we went on a sixteen mile scenic drive looking for alligators. It took a couple hours to drive the sixteen miles since the road was gravel and like a washboard in many places. It was very dusty and made quite a mess of the car! In the beginning we didn’t see many alligators and as we neared the end of the drive we thought we had wasted our time. But the last few miles were loaded with alligators sunbathing and lounging on the banks and along the side of the road. They really didn’t seem to be bothered with us and ignored us. A park ranger told us they are most active at night. It appears they do most of their hunting and eating at night. During the day they are lazy and sleep while basking in the sun. Final alligator total for this day was 66.
Friday we had reservations to ride the tram at Shark Valley in Everglades National Park. First of all, Shark Valley does not have sharks. It is predominantly a fresh water sawgrass prairie that floods each year to become a shallow thirty mile wide river. This water flows south into the Shark River which was named for the bull sharks found at the mouth of the river. Shark Valley lies between two higher ridges making the area a valley. So because it is a valley that flows into the Shark River, it is called Shark Valley.
The first thing we did at Shark Valley was ride the tram. For $19 each we had a two hour, fifteen mile tram ride around Shark Valley guided by a park ranger. We saw many alligators, turtles and just as many birds, including an egret nest with two babies. We rode by some baby alligators and didn’t have a chance to really see them, so after the ride was over we walked a mile back to get a better view. The mother was guarding her babies so we were afraid to get too close. Since this is the dry season, many of the alligators were sunning themselves on the banks, sometime right at the edge of the roadway.
We certainly enjoyed our time in this area. Next stop: Miami.