Top Ten Parks for Spring

Everglades National Parks
  |  Gorp.com
Tricolored heron
Tricolored heron (Photograph courtesy of the Refuge Reporter)
Only-in-springtime view: Fresh needles on bald cypress trees
Activities: Paddling, hiking, wildlife viewing

After April, the temperature here climbs to a regular 90 degrees or more, with humidity to match. And did I mention the bugs? Early spring, along with late fall and winter, is the best time to experience the majesty of these vast wetlands.

Wildlife is the star attraction of the Everglades, especially birds. Waterbirds such as herons, egrets, roseate spoonbills, and pelicans abound both in the intererior and along the shore. The hardwood tree hammocks, cypress trees, and slash pines are rife with many other species, some of them rare and endangered. Alligators are always exciting—the thrill of the ferocious—and the Everglades are full of them (for the most part, they leave humans alone). Most of the mammals are nocturnal, so you're not likely to see the raccoons, opossums, and skunks that abound in the Glades. And yes, the endangered Florida panther lives on, despite the encroachment on its habitat.

Paddling, as befits wetlands, is the best way to explore the Everglades. You have three basic options. The inland water trails around Flamingo offer the chance to tackle a modest canoe excursion on designated water trails. The Wilderness Waterway is a 99-mile trip through the Everglades backcountry—a once-in-a-lifetime prize. Finally, you can take a trip up the Gulf Coast among the islands, oyster bars, and mangroves of this subtropical wonderland.

But hikers, never fear. The Everglades do offer some nifty hiking trips. The Royal Palm area has especially interesting plant life, with trail options varying from three miles to 11. The Long Pine Key area, which is near Royal Palm, offers some longer-distance, overnight options—28 miles of connecting trails abound. The Flamingo area has a variety of shorter trails, as well as one longer one, the Coastal Prairie Trail, which stretches for 15 miles. If you feel like tackling 15 miles in a day, albeit over flat ground, the Tram Road is a multi-use trail through prime Glades country.

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Published: 28 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 8 Nov 2011
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication

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