Snappin' Critters

Shark Valley

Just the name of this area is enough to make you want to visit—but don't expect to see any sharks. Instead alligators and wading birds make this a photographer's dream. The entrance (thirty miles west of Miami) is at the northern end of Everglades National Park and therefore far removed from the coast. The site takes its name from the Shark River Slough which runs through here.

There are several unusual options to access Shark Valley. A paved road penetrates fifteen miles into sawgrass plains. You can either walk it, rent a bicycle, or take a two-hour tram tour. For photography, the best way is to walk or bike the road.

At the end of the pavement is an observation tower, offering a wonderful panoramic view of the region. The road is a loop, so you return by a totally different route, which effectively doubles your photo opportunities.

Gators are quite common, including young hatchlings: in fact, you'll have to be careful not to walk on the babies that may be obscured by the grass at the side of the paved trail.

The park opens at 8 am, and the tram rides begin at 9 am. It can get crowded quickly in winter months, so you need to arrive early. If not, be content with knowing that the animals have become accustomed to the tram and apparently don't view it as a great intrusion (say, like a train blowing its whistle at 1 am outside your window).

It gets very hot in summer; January and February are generally considered prime months. Call ahead if there have been unusually heavy rains: during periods of high water, the trail is sometimes closed to human traffic in order to provide dry, high ground for the animals.

To reach Shark Valley, take US 41 west of Miami. The entrance is across from the Micosukee Indian Village. Shark Valley has its own phone number: (305) 221-8776.

© Article copyright Menasha Ridge Press. All rights reserved.


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