About Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park was authorized by Congress in 1934. Because park lands could be acquired only through public or private donation, land acquisition proceeded slowly over the ensuing years. Through the sustained efforts of many supporters, and critical funding provided by the State of Florida, the park was eventually established 13 years later. President Harry S Truman dedicated the park on December 6, 1947, in Everglades City. Everglades National Park was the first national park in the United States set aside solely for its biological resources rather than its scenic or historic values, and it has received international recognition by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as a World Heritage Site and an International Biosphere Reserve and by the Ramsar Convention as a Wetland of International Importance.
From the original 460,000 acres at the time of the park’s establishment in 1947, boundary changes expanded the park to 1.4 million acres by 1958. The Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act of 1989 added the East Everglades (109,506 acres) part of the park, bringing the Northeast Shark River Slough within the park boundaries. This East Everglades Addition (or the Addition) has provided the cornerstone of long-range planning to restore more natural hydrologic conditions and revitalize wildlife habitat and ecosystem health. The 1989 act also authorized modifications to the Central and Southern Florida Project to restore, to the extent practicable, more natural flows of water into the park, and it included flood protection provisions for adjacent agricultural and residential areas. The State of Florida subsequently donated some 44,000 acres to the park in a series of transfers in 1991, 1993, and 2003. This donation represents more than 40% of lands that comprise the East Everglades Addition. The park now encompasses 1,509,000 acres, including the largest legislated wilderness area (1,296,500 acres) east of the Rocky Mountains.
The park preserves part of the remaining Everglades ecosystem, a vast “River of Grass” that originally extended from its headwaters in the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes through Lake Okeechobee and into the Water Conservation Areas and Everglades National Park, including the coastline of the Gulf of Mexico and Florida Bay. Today, freshwater from the historic River of Grass enters the park at its northern boundary near the Tamiami Trail and flows into a series of local basins with Shark River Slough as the predominant slough. A diverse biological community thrives in the park within an expansive patterned wetland in a subtropical climate. The position of the park at the tip of a seasonally flooded peninsula that is surrounded by a warm Caribbean sea has resulted in the formation of a diverse and unique biological treasure.
Upland areas in the park contain pine rocklands and tropical hardwood hammocks, and both habitats feature a high diversity of plants. Beginning at the coastline, the estuarine system of creeks, lakes, and bays serves as the nursery for marine animals and invertebrates. The coastal mangrove forest is complemented by an expansive wetland ecosystem. Densely populated wading bird rookeries are found on isolated islands in Florida Bay. The islands protect breeding birds from predation but are close enough to the mainland to allow daily flights for foraging in the marshes. Florida Bay, the largest marine body of water within Everglades National Park, contains approximately 393,000 acres, all of which is designated submerged marine wilderness; that is, the sea floor is under traditional wilderness protection, but the water column is nonwilderness. Much of Florida Bay is covered by submerged vegetation. Seagrass, mud, and macroalgae habitats provide shelter and food for animals, sustaining the bay’s food web. The fish populations of the bay’s seagrass meadows lure anglers from around the world to try their luck with rod and reel.
The health of these communities has been compromised by the historic diversion of water away from the Everglades watershed. Before Everglades National Park was established, the conservation movement inspired some protection of the area’s fauna. Florida Governor William Jennings, with help from the Florida Audubon Society, instituted a ban on wading bird plume hunting in 1900. Later, through efforts of individuals including Ernest Coe, Marjory Stoneman Douglas, and Daniel Beard, the extent of human impacts on the natural resources of the Everglades was recognized and the park’s enabling legislation was passed in 1934. Since passage of the 1989 act, public concern regarding regional development and ecosystem degradation has galvanized efforts among various governmental and nongovernmental organizations to work toward a balanced and sustainable South Florida ecosystem. Among these efforts, the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task Force, a consortium of federal and state agencies, local governments, and tribal representatives, was established by Congress in 1996. Approval of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) in 2000 resulted in unprecedented focus on Everglades National Park and the greater Everglades ecosystem. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan is led by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the South Florida Water Management District in consultation with ten other state or federal agencies and two sovereign tribal nations. Some of the initial CERP projects have already been planned and built, as have parts of the Modified Water Deliveries project and the Tamiami Trail Modifications project, which are designed to restore and protect the Everglades ecosystem. Some of these efforts are improving the flow of water to the park and the quality of this water. Over the next 30 years, more ambitious CERP and NPS projects will yield further improvements of the park’s hydrology, habitats, food web, and overall function and sustainability of the ecosystem. Restoring and sustaining environmental conditions and communities of the entire Greater Everglades ecosystem, including Florida Bay, is important for the integrity of Everglades National Park and the economy of South Florida.
From initial settlement by American Indian tribes about 6,000 years ago to more recent use of Everglades resources throughout the 20th century, the story of Everglades National Park includes links between natural resources and human use (both historic and prehistoric) of the area. The most meaningful and effective way to understand and appreciate the story of Everglades National Park is through exploration, education, and recreation within the vast subtropical wilderness.
A wide variety of recreational opportunities is available to visitors. Popular activities include wildlife viewing, nature hikes, fishing, camping, bicycling, motor boating, and canoeing. The 99-mile-long Wilderness Waterway that runs through the western part of the park offers outstanding backcountry boating and camping experiences. Five visitor centers and contact stations provide visitors with orientation, interpretation, and educational information and opportunities. The Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center is just inside the main park entrance near Homestead. The Gulf Coast Visitor Center, 5 miles south of Tamiami Trail in Everglades City, serves as the gateway for exploring the Ten Thousand Islands and the park’s western backcountry. The Shark Valley Visitor Center on Tamiami Trail (U.S. Highway 41), about 25 miles west of the Florida Turnpike, is in the heart of the park’s freshwater ecosystem including the Northeast Shark River Slough. The Flamingo Visitor Center, about 38 miles south of the park entrance at the southern end of the Florida peninsula, is the gateway to exploring Florida Bay, Whitewater Bay, and the backcountry. Another important visitor contact site is Royal Palm/ Anhinga Trail. The nonpublic Key Largo Ranger Station / Florida Bay Interagency Science Center provides a presence in the upper keys for park operations, science, and research. The East Everglades Operation Center in Miami and Loop Road Environmental Education Camp in Big Cypress National Preserve provide additional opportunities for park program development and/or delivery. Partnerships are crucial to the success of the park’s conservation and education mission. The park engages with local, state, and federal agencies; American Indian tribes; and nongovernmental organizations in programs that have importance within and beyond park boundaries.
An international treasure as well – a World Heritage Site, International Biosphere Reserve, a Wetland of International Importance, and a specially protected area under the Cartagena Treaty. | Everglades National Park | Florida | https://www.nps.gov/ever/index.htm
|Date the Park was Established:||May 30, 1934|
|Park Area (as of 2019):||1,508,938.57 acres (6,106.5 km2)|
|Recreational Visitors (2018 Total):||597124 visitors|