The craggy arms of a large, red mangrove stretch out to greet the morning sun at Florida Keys National Wildlife Refuges Complex. Rising above the water line on aerial prop roots and thriving on tropical coastlines, mangroves provide shelter for plants and animals. They’re just one of the many interesting sights you’ll see near the continental United States’s southernmost point. Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Want to escape the winter cold? South Florida offers some amazing public lands getaways. Don’t miss sunrise at Big Cypress National Preserve. The orange light shimmers on the wetlands as a terrific variety of wildlife greets the morning. You’ll forget all about the snow at home. Photo by National Park Service.
On this day in 1947, Everglades National Park was established, protecting one of the largest wetlands in the world. Seventy years later, it remains an international treasure attracting visitors from all over who come to see the park’s mangroves, River of Grass, and unique array of plants and animals found nowhere else on the planet. As we celebrate the 70th anniversary of this south Florida park, test your knowledge with 10 interesting facts about the Everglades: https://on.doi.gov/2j0PyMd
Photo by James Pion (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Dive into adventure at Biscayne National Park in Florida. Stretching out from a shoreline fringed with mangrove forest, the majority of the park covers the aquamarine waters of Biscayne Bay and extends into the Atlantic Ocean. Boating and fishing are popular activities, but some of the best views of Biscayne are found under the water, exploring the third largest coral reef in the world. Photo by Shaun Wolfe, National Park Service.
This time of year, Florida beaches call to people and animals alike. At St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, migratory birds are finding their winter homes in forests and wetlands. Waterfowl populations reach their peak between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The refuge’s 43 miles of gulf coastline are perfect for birdwatching and gorgeous sunsets. Photo by Neil Hostnick (www.sharetheexperience.org).
After significant damage caused by Hurricane Irma, staff and volunteers have been hard at work on clean-up and repairs at Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida to get the preserve ready for the busy winter season. Facilities are beginning to reopen and soon visitors can enjoy paddling, hiking, hunting, fishing, biking and birdwatching in this amazing wetland. Photo by National Park Service.
November is Manatee Awareness Month! These gentle giants – nicknamed “sea cows” for their diet of seagrass and other aquatic plants – can reach lengths of over 14 feet and weigh more than 3,000 pounds. Early explorers once mistook manatees, which have large, spoon-shaped tails, for young women – fueling legends of mermaids. Find out more fun manatee facts: https://www.doi.gov/blog/6-facts-about-manatees. Photo at Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge in Florida by Michel Gilbert, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service SUP holder.
It’s strange to imagine, but the roots of Merritt Island National Wildlife Refuge in Florida go all the way to the moon. In 1962, NASA acquired 140,000 acres of land, water and marshes adjacent to Cape Canaveral to establish the John F. Kennedy Space Center. Despite the massive undertaking of sending a man to the moon, not all the land was needed, so the wildlife refuge was established on the unused portions. Today, you can see manatees, tropical birds, turtles, otters, bobcats and yes, the occasional rocket launch. Photo by Jose Torres (www.sharetheexperience.org).
Loggerhead Key – located almost 70 miles west of Key West, Florida – is the largest island of Dry Tortugas National Park. Covering about 49 acres, it is home to a 160-year-old lighthouse and some truly excellent sites for snorkeling and diving. Along with amazing coral formations, divers can find a variety of colorful reef fish, including parrotfish, angel fish, triggerfish and damselfish. Just remember, look but don’t touch. Not only will an accidental brush up against the coral probably kill it, you may be bumping into any number of potentially dangerous animals, include fire coral, jellyfish, sea urchins or the exotic venomous lionfish. Photo by Bryan Goff (www.sharetheexperience.org).
There’s nothing quite like a wetlands sunrise. The morning colors sparkle across miles of still water while tall grasses wave in the breeze. Big Cypress National Preserve in Florida protects 729,000 acres of unique freshwater swamp, offering refuge to a wide variety of plants and animals. From hardwood hammocks hiding rare Florida panthers to tidal estuaries teeming with birds and fish, there is so much to see in this wonderful place. Photo by National Park Service.