A Quick Visit to the Everglades

On the airboat in the Everglades

On the airboat in the Everglades

The next part of our South Florida journey took us from Miami to the Everglades. The family wanted to experience riding an air boat in the Everglades, so we headed west to Coopertown; it was a surprisingly short drive from Miami.  We spotted several alligators in the canals along the highway which added to the excitement about our impending airboat trip. 

Coopertown is not much more than a wide spot in the road on Highway 41 that consists of a restaurant (where you can order gator as well as frog legs), a general store, and the air boat operation. The staff was wonderful and even arranged a cooler full of very inexpensive beer for us.

We were surprised to learn that the current weather patterns would pose a significant challenge to our Everglades experience. The area was experiencing the worst drought in nearly 60 years, severely limiting where we could go in the airboat. The wide-open wetlands were mostly dry with shallow, muddy canals the only navigable places. According to the air boat staff, if the area did not get significant rains in the next week, they would have to shut down.

We had to wait a while for our turn on the boat as only small boats could operate in the muddy channels. We spent the time wandering around the facility checking out some of the “pet” alligators, including the massive “Big Ben,” and assorted wildlife that hang around the area.

Geared up in protective plastic

Geared up in plastic to protect clothing from mud

When our turn came up, we walked across a canal bridge to where the boats were docked in a muddy soup. Previous riders were returning to the base covered in mud from head to toe. Because of the low water levels, the boats were plowing through stretches of the Everglades that were more mud than water. We were offered some thin plastic covers to wear if we didn’t want to get our clothes muddy from the ride. Our driver assured us that he could keep the mud splatter to a minimum by keeping most of the weight (i.e. the passengers) as far to the back of the boat as possible and by moving slowly through the muckiest spots.

We creeped slowly away from the air boat dock as this was where the mud was the thickest. As we got further into the Everglades, the water began to clear up slightly and got a bit deeper so our driver opened up the motor and we were able to speed along at a nice 40 mph clip. One advantage of the low water was that it limited the areas where wildlife could survive, most of which had now relocated mainly to the canals that we were exploring. The result was numerous sightings of alligators. On a normal trip with water everywhere, you might be lucky to encounter one or two gators; we saw dozens on our short, 45 minute ride. We also spotted soft-shelled turtles and wetland birds, including a large Great White Heron.

Alligator spotting in the Everglades

Alligator spotting in the Everglades

We returned to base with barely a speck of mud on our bodies, thanks to our boat operator. After some obligatory photos with us holding baby alligators, we headed down the road to our next destination: The Florida Keys.

It’s very sad what the climate has done to the Everglades and we hope that they get a lot of moisture soon.  We were glad we visited and considered the trip a success because of the numerous alligators that we saw!

Holding a baby gator

Holding a baby gator

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About Mike

I have a passion for adventure travel that began in 1989 with my first overseas trip: climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania. Having never been to a foreign country, Africa felt like being on another planet; I knew then and there I was hooked on travel. Since that time, I have visited all seven continents and dozens of countries. I’m using the experience I’ve gained in planning my own trips to help my clients plan their own adventures through my adventure travel company (http://www.offtrailtravel.com). After working as a firefighter for the US Forest Service in California and Wyoming for three years, I moved to Durango, Colorado where I graduated from Fort Lewis College with a degree in accounting. After graduation I moved to the Denver area where I worked in a Big Eight accounting firm to obtain my CPA license; soon afterward I began a career as an auditor with the Colorado Department of Education. My background in accounting helped me develop detailed-oriented skills that have been extremely useful in researching and planning my own travel over the years. I think this provides a unique asset to my clients in putting together their adventure travel plans. I currently live in Golden, Colorado with my wife Valerie, who shares my love of adventure travel. I’m an active member of the Colorado Mountain Club where I lead trips for club members and have taught ski lessons in their Telemark Ski School. I enjoy skiing, mountain hiking, trail running, photography, and astronomy. I take any opportunity I can get to explore new places, whether it’s on the other side of the world or just down the road.
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One Response to A Quick Visit to the Everglades

  1. marc says:

    Great article and the pictures are fantastic. enjoyed reading it. thanks.

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