Preparing for the Everglades

 

Just some basic Everglades info to peruse before you head to the swamp. (Gators don't run in a zig-zag.)

Everglades Holiday Park 2
Tacky fun at Everglades Holiday Park. Photo: Joe Rimkus Jr.
 

No matter what season or activity you choose, there are some basic survival tips that will help make your trip to the Everglades safer and more enjoyable. Click on the following links for directions, a checklist of what to bring and how to prepare, followed by park regulations, hours, prices and important phone numbers:

Getting there

From the East (Miami/Homestead area), there are two main roads that lead into the Everglades: US 41, better known as Tamiami Trail, and SR 9336. Each one offers different treasures depending on how you want to explore the area.

How to Prepare

  • Bring plenty of water. Most of the visitor centers have water fountains, vending machines or small stores, but it’s good to have some fluids handy from the start.
  • Wear sunscreen. The Everglades’ popular Gumbo-Limbo tree is nicknamed the “tourist tree” by park rangers. The reason? Its red, peeling bark resembles what unprepared visitors look like after a day in the hot sun.
  • Wear long sleeves and long pants. The more skin you show, the more you tempt the wet-season skeeters and other biting insects.
  • BYO bug spray. You can buy it at most visitor centers, but that can of Deep Woods Off will cost you double or more.
  • Wear a hat and sunglasses. The Everglades is a flat, prairie-wetland, which means few trees and no shade, so this is more about personal comfort. Bring a mini battery-operated fan if you really want luxury.
  • Wear comfortable hiking or walking shoes and leave your sandals and heels at home. Even boat and tram tours require some walking.
  • South Florida is famous for sudden, violent rainstorms – mainly during summer – so pack an umbrella or poncho just in case.
  • Bring along some food or snacks. Eating on trails is prohibited (with good reason), but it’s a good idea to pack trial mix or cereal bars to munch on at visitor centers or in the car.
  • The Everglades landscape and wildlife are incredible, so don’t forget your camera.

Important Park Safety Rules:

  • Do not disturb or feed the wildlife.
  • No smoking.
  • Watch for poisonous snakes (diamondback and pygmy rattlesnakes, water moccasins and coral snakes).
  • Watch for poisonous plants (poison ivy, poisonwood and manchineel).
  • If you plan on hiking off-trail, let someone know your schedule and route.
  • When viewing roadside wildlife, make sure to pull your vehicle completely off the road and onto the shoulder.
  • Drive slowly and watch for animals crossing the roadways.
  • Pets are not allowed on trails.
  • Hunting and the possession of firearms are prohibited.
  • Personal airboats, swamp buggies and all-terrain vehicles are not allowed inside the park.
  • Watercraft, such as wave runners, jet skis, seadoos and wet bikes, are not allowed in park waters.

Park information and important numbers:

Everglades National Park
40002 SR 9336
Homestead, FL 33034
305-242-7700
www.nps.gov/ever

Hours:
Main Homestead Entrance open 24 hrs. Shark Valley entrance open 8:30 a.m.-6 p.m.

Admission:
Private vehicle: $10 (good for seven days – save receipt)
Pedestrian/Cyclist: $5 (good for seven days – save receipt)
Camping fee: $16 per night

24-hr. Miami Weather Service Recording: 305-229-4550
24-hr. Emergency: 1-800-788-0511 or dial #NPS on cell phone
Ernest Coe Visitor Center: 305-242-7700
Shark Valley Visitor Center: 305-221-8776
Shark Valley Tram Tours: 305-221-8455
Gulf Coast Visitor Center: 239-695-3311
Flamingo Visitor Center: 239-695-2945
Campground Reservations: 1-800-365-CAMP

 

Back to The Everglades: two days, two ways

Click to see A tourist trip through the Everglades

Click to see A nature-lover's day in the Everglades

 

--Melissa Garcia

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