Tuesday, May 7, 2013

History Lesson: Florida Everglades {Blog Every Day In May}

Last week we had another of those history lessons during which we could say, "Hey, we've been to that place!" It's been several years, but we did visit Florida's Everglades (it was in 2008), but we remembered the brief visit well enough to make some connections to the lesson.

When we visited, we stopped for lunch before entering the National Park. We found a little burger place with a fairly friendly alligator standing guard at Florida City.

In southern Florida, the Kissimmee River flows into Lake Okheechobe and then flows very slowly toward the ocean. Fresh and salt water mingle, and the area is home to wide variety of plant and animal life, including nearly 300 species of fish and more than 350 species of birds. The deepest waters of the Everglades flow through two freshwater sloughs. Freshwater and marl pariaries border these sloughs. Both are covered with sawgrass so it's hard to tell them apart from ground level, especially during the rainy season. There are also hardwood hammocks of mahogany, gumbo limbo (I just like saying that!), live oak, and red maple trees. Air plants, ferns, mosses, orchids, and vines grow here as well. Pine trees can take root in the small amount of soil on top of the limestone that lies under the Everglades, forming pinelands. And cypress heads are the islands of cypress tress that grow in the marl prairies. 

The Spanish Moss was thick on this tree!
Alligators are crucial to the Everglades ecosystem. They dig out alligator holes, clearing much and vegetation from the water. During the dry season these become havens for fish, turtles, and snails; and the alligators often have birds and mammals visiting the holes as well. Sometimes the alligator makes a meal out of one of his guests! On our visit we saw a few alligators, but not close enough to get very good pictures. In a way, I think I preferred keeping that space between us!
It was starting to get dark, but this is an alligator - you can see his snout and the top of his head in the center of the picture.
The Everglades are home to a huge number of birds. We saw anhingas, bitterns, herons, and many others, as well as many others.
little blue heron
little blue heron
Florida Bay is one of the best sport-fishing locations on America's east coast, and birds like to gather there as well. Some are there for the fishing, like this osprey.
We saw large nests like this in many places.

Florida Bay
As large as the Everglades area is, it was once much larger. In the early 1900s, much of it was drained so that the land could be farmed. Edward Coe, a landscape architect who loved the outdoors, worked for many to years to have the remaining portion of the Everglades protected as a national park. By 1934, members of Congress were convinced, but it took thirteen more years before the park was established. In 1947, Marjory Stoneman Douglas published The Everglades: River of Grass, which described the Everglades and its history. Her book was also influential in drawing attention to the Everglades as a place of beauty and an important ecosystem rather than a 'worthless swamp'. President Truman signed legislation creating Everglades National Park on December 6, 1947.  Everglades National Park was the first park established because of its unique ecosystem. It is the largest national park east of the Mississippi, covering 1.5 million acres. 

Kennady earned one of her first Junior Ranger badges at Everglades National Park. The Junior Ranger books can be downloaded as pdf files here: Be A Junior Ranger

Although we only had part of a day to spend at the Everglades on our visit to Florida, we enjoyed seeing an ecosystem so different from what we are familiar with. We would have loved to spend more time there. Perhaps we will be able to make a return visit sometime!

This post is linked to the Nature Journals Round-up at the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog. (This link will be live on Wednesday, May 7th)
Philosophy Adventure

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