Tuesday, February 12, 2013

No Sharks in Shark Valley

We moved from the Elks to the Miccosukee Casino for two nights.  A great South Florida stop that offers free dry camping, $25 free play for first timers and 2 for 1 buffet coupons.  We drove to the Shark Valley entrance of Everglades National Park.  There are no sharks here but there are many gators and tons of birds.  The valley gets its name because it is only 7 feet above sea level much lower then coastal cities Naples to the west and Miami to the east.  Early explorers found sharks where the fresh water flows into the gulf, thus the name Shark Valley.  At this entrance there is a 15 mile loop trail where you can walk, bike or take a tram.  We opted for the tram as we were not prepared to bike. 
Anhinga soaking up the sun and drying its wings.
An egret with its bright yellow feet.
A mother gator protecting her young (find it), which are a favorite food of big males and the invasive Burmese Python.  The pythons have become a major problem and have almost wiped out the small mammals and deer in the park.  They had a hunt this year and several hundred hunters were only able to kill about 40 snakes.
A flock of wood storks, that are no longer on the endangered list, gather in the Everglades river of grass.
Nanc at the tower where you have a great view of the vast expanse of the Everglades.
This is what you see when you look down from the tower.  There are eleven gators gathered in this spot and many more are all around.  I'm glad we were in the tower.
A stupid tourist getting too close.  I told him I know gator hunters Liz and Kristie, but.....
....he was not impressed and got up and took a walk on the path toward me before turning back to the water.  Needless to say I moved along quite quickly.
Look at those teeth.  They have 80.
Nanc's favorite, the Great Blue Heron.
Another egret and gator.
This big guy was about 10 feet long.  The ranger said they can run 40 mph for a short distance, so remember the rule when getting close to one, make sure you can run faster than at least one of the people who are near you.  Actually, attacks on humans are very rare.
A Tricolor Heron doing a little fishing.
Here a tortoise, gator, moorhen and egret are all sunning along the water.  
Up close with an egret.
Up close with a moorhen.  Shark Valley is a wonderful place to see a large variety of birds and to get really up close with gators.
When the Tamiami Trail was built across the Everglades in the early 1900's it blocked the flow of water through the Everglades.  As they have learned the devastating effect this has had on the ecosystem, they have decided to build several miles of elevated highway to improve the flow to more historic levels.  Hopefully, this will work to restore the area to its historic water levels.