Guides, online sites assist visitors
FLORIDA CITY, Fla.— Hiking or canoeing through Everglades National Park can be a formidable challenge, even for a seasoned outdoor enthusiast.
Fortunately, navigating the universe of information about the park is not nearly as daunting a task.
“A little bit of research can make all the difference,” Steve Dukovich, a volunteer at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City, Florida, said.
With an extensive official park Web site, more than a dozen official publications and numerous unofficial books on the market, even a complete Everglades neophyte can access reams of relevant information ranging from the mundane (the hours for the Ernest F. Coe Visitor’s Center), to the unexpected (an examination of South Florida’s often-unpredictable climate), to the poetic (an author’s celebrated and influential tribute to one of America’s most unique natural landscapes).
“The Everglades is a vastly unique area, and folks are misinformed when they come here because of what they’ve seen on TV,” Dukovich said. “They think the Everglades is just one location, but it’s many different locations and ecosystems coming together to form one area.”
The official Everglades National Park Web site (http://www.nps.gov/ever) includes extensive trip-planning resources for the park, including driving directions, operating hours and seasons, fees, reservations and permits.
“The Web site has more information than you could read in a lifetime,” Dukovich said.
The site’s “Things to Know Before You Come” section is especially useful for non-local visitors, with an overview of the region’s climate and links to local chambers of commerce. Other sections educate readers about the park’s history, native peoples, conservation efforts and celebrated natural resources.
The site also provides links to numerous official park publications (as Adobe Acrobat portable document format (pdf) files), including:
- maps (Everglades park map, Flamingo area map, South Florida national parks map, South Florida parks trip planner, Everglades wilderness trip planner and Florida Bay map and guide)
- trail guides (Pinelands hiking and biking trails, Nine-Mile Pond canoe trail guide, Hell’s Bay canoe trail guide, Flamingo hiking and canoeing trails and Gulf Coast canoe trails)
- various pamphlets about visitor safety and park regulations
- and a 16-page Everglades National Park bird checklist, listing 366 species, with information on the seasonal occurrence and frequency of each species.
The Everglades visitor centers, including the Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center at Homestead, the Flamingo Visitor Center at Flamingo, the Shark Valley Visitor Center at Shark Valley and the Gulf Coast Visitor Center, feature numerous books for sale.
“It depends a little bit on how deeply somebody wants to go into something,” Jim Conner, a ranger at the Shark Valley Visitor Center, said. “We have a little bit of everything.”
Conner says the center’s selection ranges from introductory volumes about paddling in the Everglades, to children’s books, to books about the history and ecology of the region.
“We have college textbooks,” Conner said. “We have a book about the politics of water in South Florida. We have a wide variety of stuff…. We have about a dozen different bird books.”
“The books that we carry here are all selected for their relevance to the Everglades and the quality of the books,” Conner added. “Everything we have is here for a specific reason. The books that we have here pretty well cover any of the topics that you might want to look at.”
Of course, one need not visit the Everglades to find good books about the park.
Potential visitors can find a number of useful volumes about the Everglades at a local bookstore or on a major bookstore Web site such as Amazon.com.
Some books are travel guides with useful, practical information; others give insight into the area’s history and natural beauty.
The Adventure Guide to the Florida Keys and Everglades National Park (Hunter Publishing, 2005, $18.99, 298 pages), by Bruce Morris, bills itself as “the best guide to South Florida’s natural wonders and unique treasures,” including information on sightseeing, places to stay and eat, fishing, diving, [and] snorkeling, nature and eco tours, and cultural adventures.
Another such guide, the FalconGuide to Everglades National Park and the Surrounding Area (Falcon, 2005, $12.95, 192 pages), by Roger L. Hammer, is one of a series of “FalconGuide” outdoor guidebooks.
According to the book’s cover, it includes information on where to hike, bike, kayak and canoe; detailed maps and trail descriptions; facts about the area’s history, flora and fauna, and weather; local hazards and safety precautions; and lists of canoe rentals, shuttle services, and campsites.
Flora-minded readers can turn to Hammer’s Everglades Wildflowers: A Field Guide to Wildflowers of the Historic Everglades (Falcon, 2002, $24.95, 292 pages) for a tome that boasts a tough, water-resistant cover and extra-durable binding, made to withstand vigorous field use; detailed descriptions and color photos of more than two hundred plants; an introduction to the habits and ecology of the Florida Everglades; a primer on plant characteristics; [and] a glossary of botanical terms.
Yet another guide, Hidden Florida Keys and Everglades (Ulysses Press, 2005, $13.95, 232 pages), by Candace Leslie, promises “selective recommendations” and “opinionated reviews” of sights, lodging, dining, canoeing,” “hidden” (relatively unknown) points of interest, and maps, shopping, nightline, camping, scuba diving, boating and sportfishing.
For those visitors who wish to learn more about the park, Michael Grunwald’s The Swamp: The Everglades, Florida, and the Politics of Paradise (Simon & Schuster, 2007, $15, 480 pages) provides a comprehensive historical overview. The Miami Herald praised the work:
“Grunwald proves to be a surprisingly deft historian, interweaving the natural history of the last American frontier through the massive cast of characters who struggled to conquer, drain, farm and develop the once-impenetrable Everglades. The hubris and greed of drainage boosters, land speculators, engineers, railroad and sugar barons and developers oozes from the pages.”
One of the first authors to appreciate the “reviled bog” was conservationist Marjory Stoneman Douglas, whose classic 1947 work, The Everglades: River of Grass (Pineapple Press, 1997 reprint edition, $18.95, 478 pages), remains as endearing (and enduring) an appreciation of the region as any ever written.
Douglas offers further insights into her own life and work in her autobiography, Marjory Stoneman Douglas: Voice of the River (Pineapple Press, 1998, $17.95, 268 pages).
Finally, trail-walkers might appreciate Everglades National Park Florida: Trails Illustrated, a foldable topographical map published by Rand McNally ($9.95).