South Florida is home to a unique and diverse eco system, the Everglades. This area’s life sustaining resource is its annual rainfall, over 52 inches per year, most of which falls in the summer months creating what Marjorie Stoneham Douglas called “the river of grass.”. The weather in the Everglades is often described as having only two seasons, the wet and the dry. The rainy, or wet season, is from May through September and 76% of the year’s rain will fall during this period, usually as afternoon thunderstorms. It’s this annual influx of fresh water that nourishes the marshes and mangrove swamps that provide habitat for a multitude of species of both flora and fauna, and ultimately for the fish we are going to catch.
Since 1947 and it’s designation by President Harry Truman, the region, now known as Everglades National Park, has been protected from development. It’s the largest National Park east of the Mississippi at 1.5 million acres and it’s the third largest National Park in the lower 48. Over the years adjacent areas abutting the Park have been incorporated into it for an area now exceeding two million acres. Primary among these areas are the Big Cypress National Preserve, the Florida Panther Reserve, the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve (home to the greatest concentration of wild orchids in the country,) Corkscrew Sanctuary and Picayune State Forest.
The Park is home to over 189 species of birds that live in or use this area at various times of the year and roughly 200 species of fish have been documented in its waters. Included in this list of fish and wildlife are many protected and endangered species such as the Florida panther, American alligator, salt water crocodile, west Indian manatee, bald eagle, peregrine falcon, seaside sparrow, wood stork, small tooth sawfish, Atlantic loggerhead turtle, and Kemp’s ridley turtle. It’s no wonder South West Florida is often described as the Nature Coast.
The Everglades was first inhabited by native Indians, the Calusa and Tequesta tribes among them, and many of their artifacts and settlements are still being discovered to this day. Through war and the progression of the first Anglo settlers in this area, only two tribes, the Seminole and Miccosukee, retain a foothold on this land and large tracts of the Everglades are tribal reservations. Early entrepreneurs such as Henry Flagler who pioneered and developed a rail road system into South Florida and the Florida Key’s, and Barron Collier who was instrumental in establishing the town of Everglades City, were drawn to this area for its raw beauty, it’s natural resources, and for it’s potential as a sport fishing and hunting destination. To this day the economics of this area have changed little. This is a nature lovers and a sportsman’s paradise for hunting, fishing, canoe and kayak exploration, bird watching and photography. It is a must do destination for outdoor adventurers! So kick off your shoes, get some sand in your toes and enjoy Old South Florida and the Everglades.