Everglades National Park

When you think of the Everglades in Florida do you think of alligators, giant snakes and pine forests?  You aren’t far off, throw in some mangroves and wild birds and you have a pretty accurate picture of the Everglades.  The UNESCO World Heritage Site and Biosphere Reserve contains more than a million acres of protected wetlands with a diverse ecosystem.  Here are some of the things you can see while you are there.

Alligators and Crocodiles

The Everglades contains lots of different birds and animals but let’s face it, people come here for the alligators and crocodiles.  This is the only place in the world where you will see these modern day dinosaurs living side by side in the same habitats.  Remember this is their home and you can regularly see both alligators and crocodiles sauntering across the road without a care in the world.  Keep your distance these animals aren’t’ cute nor are they friendly.  You can also check out some of the restaurants around the park and try some alligator.

Park Activities

There are all kinds of organized activities that allow you to explore the park safely, you can do more in Florida than just lay on the beach.  There is the Anhingan Trail, this will give you the chance to see and take pictures of the wildlife.  There are other hikes you can do too so pick the one that suits your physical ability.  Florida is sunny and hot so bring along plenty of water and sunscreen.

You can try biking through the park too but the one activity that you should absolutely try is an airboat ride.  These are flat bottom boats with giant propeller engines on the back that skim across the water of the Everglades.  You get a great view of the terrain and all the wildlife that lives in the park.

Protecting South Florida

The ecosystem that you find in the Everglades National Park is what you used to find all over South Florida before urbanization and human development.  It needs to be protected as it is what purifies and provides the drinking water for the area.  It helps preserve the region against the many storm surges that batter South Florida each year.  It is integral to the identity of South Florida yet despite that it is still facing pressure from pollution and population growth.   The next time you are down here soaking up the sun take a day and explore the park and appreciate the natural beauty of South Florida.

Osceola State Park

While the Everglades National Park is arguable the most well known National Park in Florida, there are others here that you should take the time to see and one ov those id Osceola State Park.  It is the smallest and the oldest of all the Florida parks but it has an incredibly rich history.  Osceola State Park is located between Lake City and Jacksonville and not only does it give you a glimpse into the flora and fauna that live here but you can learn a lot about the local history.

The Osceola State Park

The history of Osceola State Park goes back to the Civil War and the largest battle in the state of Florida having been fought near here at Olustee.  On February 20, 1864 more than 10,000 Union soldiers attacked the Confederate and they were forced to defend their position, the battle lasted for five long hours.  At the time the Union was trying to occupy Jacksonville and disrupt the transportation routes of the Confederates.

The Union soldiers didn’t just want to seize good they were also there to recruit African American soldiers and deprive the Confederates of food.  The Union soldiers were unsuccessful that day and the Confederates defended their positions forcing the remaining Union soldiers back to Jacksonville.

Artifacts and Re-enactments

As you go through the park there are plenty of historical artifacts and knowledgeable guides who can educate on the historical significance of the park.  There are trails that are named after the battle of Olustee and you can see the actual places where events took place.  You can learn about the tactics that were used and the resulting aftermath.  The historical information comes from letters written by soldiers who fought here along with other personal accounts.  Each year on President’s Day there is a re-enactment that you can watch.

The Naming of the Park

The name Osceola has a tragic history as well, it comes from the Seminole Indians who were relocated and tried to resist.  When President Andrew Jackson and Congress approved the Indian Removal Act in 1830 the government chose to ignore the previous treaties they had made with the Seminole.  There was widespread abuse as local militias drove the native people across the Mississippi River by force.  The Seminole Chief, Osceola refused to sign another treat and Osceola led the resistance…thus the naming of the park to Osceola State Park.