Florida Everglades Facts and History
Florida Everglades facts and history are quite interesting, I hope you agree. This amazing national park, the third largest in the continental United States, contains an ecosystem not found anywhere else in the world.
.In fact, this area is so important that it has been declared a World Heritage Site, along with a Wetland of International Importance and an International Biosphere Reserve.
Quite some feat for an area that was once declared nothing but a swamp that should be drained. And which almost did get drained -- how scary is that?
A Little History
Back in the 1800's, from 1850's through 1890's, the idea was for the Everglades to be drained and then planted with sugar. The thinking was that sugar would bolster Florida's economy.
Some of this actually happened in the area around Lake Okeechobee in the 1900's. Land was drained and large sugar corporations moved in, with the blessings of the government. Naturally the farming not only needed vast amount of water, but since organic farming methods weren't used, pesticides and fertilizer runoff had a bad effect for the ecosystem as a whole.
In the 1930's, the Herbert Hoover Dike was built around Lake Okeechobee, to prevent flooding. The problem was that while it prevented flooding around the lake itself, this effectively cut off the water supply to the Everglades.
In the 1940's a freelance writer called Marjory Stoneman Douglas started taking a look at the everglades as part of an assignment. For five years she studied the land and water of this area.
In 1947, she published The Everglades: River of Grass. The book struck a chord, as she described the Everglades in great detail. She also included a chapter on the disappearance of the ecosystem.
On December 13, 1989, President George H. W. Bush signed the Everglades National Park Protection and Expansion Act. In addition ot adding 109,506 acres to the eastern side of the park, it also closed off airboats from the park boundaries.
In 2000, there was a federal mandate to restore the Everglades, called the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP). Its mandate is the "restoration, preservation and protection of the south Florida ecosystem while providing for other water-related needs of the region". There are questions on some of the methods being used, as the technology is uncertain is some areas. Only time will tell if the Everglades can be revived.
On a personal note, I actually live not too far from the big sugar cane fields on the north side of the Everglades -- I will be happy if and when those cane fields are back to what they originally were -- something that is so amazing that it's almost beyond explaining.
Here are some fun Everglades facts.
What plant is so rare that it in only found around the Florida Everglades? This is the land where ghost orchids grow wild. The ghost orchid is actually found in the Fakahatchee Strand, on the northern boundary of the park.
The Everglades, before people settled in earnest in South Florida, was the entire area from Lake Okeechobee south to Florida Bay -- basically all of the southern tip of the penninsula.
The size of the Everglades National Park is 1,509,000 acres, and it's the largest wilderness area that is left, east of the Mississippi River.
There are no underground springs in the Everglades -- unlike the rest of Florida. Instead, a huge reservoir called the Floridan Aquifer lies roughly 1,000 feet down. Water into the Everglades is primarily through rainfall, as the main supply of water from Lake Okeechobee has been blocked.
Today's Everglades National Park is less than 50% of what existed of the 'Glades before all the drainage efforts started. And while that statistic is a little on the sad side, the good news is that there is still an Everglades.
There are 36 protected species that live inside the park, including the American crocodile, snail kite, West Indian manatee, Cape Sable seaside sparrow, Florida panther and four varieties of sea turtles.
Recent hurricanes that have impacted the Everglades include Katrina, Rita and Wilma, all in 2005. But the up side is that the hurricanes didn't do any lasting damage -- whew!
The busiest visitor season is from about December to March. Why? It's the driest time of year, has the lowest temperatures and the fewest mosquitoes.
Hope you have enjoyed these Everglades facts!
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