Ok, now, no blog post series about Florida’s Tamiami Trail can be complete without mentioning the alligators. One of my main reasons to winter in the Everglades is the warm weather along with viewing the diverse wildlife, and the beautiful sunrises and sunsets.
Since retiring to Southwest Florida, I have become comfortably accustomed to seeing and more importantly respecting alligators by keeping my distance and always considering a path of escape if the beast charges towards me whether I’m walking, kayaking or bicycling. Either of the three would become a speed record. 🙂
So when I chose my campsite next to the shoreline at Monument Lake Campgrounds. I conducted my walk along the shoreline checking for matted down grass as an indicator of previous areas a alligator chose to lay. I checked with my camp neighbors who all acknowledged seeing three-four Alligators floating around the lake and they normally stay in the water, but one camp neighbor four sites away told me when he woke early one morning he found one of the alligators had been laying in the tall grass near his site, some 10-15 feet from his RV.
He heard a loud noise of water splashing and saw the alligator swim from the shoreline. There are two other campgrounds I recommend and they are Burns Lake and Midway Campgrounds. Clicking the Monument Lake Caompgrounds link about will give you access to the National Park System to make reservations. In my opinion Monument Lake has better internet access than the other two campgounds.
As I conducted the assessment of my site location I was surprised to see the alligator above swimming close to the shoreline obviously taking a good look at me, their new neighbor. The photo was taken with the gator less than twenty feet from the shoreline as he or she remained motionless in the water watching me as I returned the stare.
It is obvious former campers have fed the alligators causing the prehistoric beast to not fear me as they floated withing ten-feet of the shoreling. Several days later a federal park ranger stopped to ask if their close proximity to the shoreling worried me as she had recieved reports from other campers about one of the Alligators coming ashore to settle in the tall grass nearby.
I told her I was concern, but I took precautions when I climbed down from my roof-top tent in the morning kicking my annex to alert whom ever was visiting. I also looked under my vehicle and walk the shoreline in the morning checking for guest. Her decision was being decided to have the two alligators who floated near the shoreline removed because they were adapting to humans which at some point will cause injury to the camper who gets too close.
There are serveral location along the Tamiami Ttrail to view wildlife including Kirby Storter Roadside park loacated at 48900 Tamiami Trail E, Ochopee, FL 34141. This 1000 foot boardwalk leads to a pond to view birds and alligators. Another is the Big Cypress Oasis Visitor Center located at 52105 Tamiami Trail E, Ochopee, FL 34141. This boardwalk provides great viewing of doszens of alligators and wading birds from a distance close enough to view with bothering or distrubing the wildlife residents.
My favorite, observation destination along the Tamiami Trail, is the Shark Valley Visitor Center, located at 36000 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33194. Here you have the options to either ride a tram, (bus) bicycle or walk the 6-7 miles along the paved roadway with alligators warming their bodied in the early morning sun as you travel into the the heart of the Everglades towards the 45-foot oberservation tower to view the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States.
Yes, the photos above is a gathering of alligators which can be viewed from the tower, but your arrival in January gives you the greatest of all experiences when the actual snowbirds gathers in the treetops of the everglades to view as far as your eyes can see, along with the noises of millions of birds.
There are various tourist destinations along the route such as the safari parks, and businesses that offer airboat rides into the Everglades. But, my favorite two destinations are the photography studios of Clyde Butcher’s “Big Cypress Gallery, and the Miccosukee Indian Village.
There is a quiet beauty that can on be experienced when road tripping along the Tamiami Trail and I would recommend you make this a must view to experience, but remember, “do not feed the animals,” their diets do not include human tourist or anything you give them. 🙂