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Everglades National Park
Shark Valley Entrance Station
36000 SW 8th St, Miami, FL 33194
5 feet above sea level


Today's activity: air boat tour

Welcome to Everglades National Park - Shark Valley entrance
The Coopertown Airboat facility on US41
This guy was in the parking lot, ready to greet us upon our arrival
The Everglades - River of Grass
Air boat tour route through the Everglades
A hardwood hammock off in the distance
One of two gators we saw in the wild
A one year old, ready to start a new life in the Everglades

While we have been to Everglades National Park many times before, today would be different in several very big ways. On previous trips to the park we have tent camped at both Long Pine Key and the Flamingo campgrounds. We have taken the Shark Valley Tram Tour and ridden our bicycles on the 15 mile loop trail both during the day and we've done a few moonlight rides at night (highly recommended). We also have paddled the Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail.

But today we arrived at the Shark Valley entrance station and purchased my Lifetime Senior Pass (my 62nd birthday was last week) for all of the National Parks. This card will get a lot of use and save us a lot of money over the next decade or so. It grants us free entrance into all the parks and includes half price camping at all the national parks, USFS and COE parks. One other way today will be different is we are going to take an airboat ride in the park for the very first time.

We chose the Coopertown Airboat Tour, from the three different companies allowed to offer tours inside the national park boundary, because it came highly recommended from the ranger who sold us our senior pass. It is the original tour company and the most educational among the three. After a hands on introduction to alligators, snakes and turtles we boarded the airboat. The tour consisted of a 30 minute ride with short pauses to talk about the plant life around us, the history of the everglades and it's possible demise in the future. Work has already begun on US41 in this area to elevate the roadway and allow a more natural flow southward for the river of grass. Twice along the tour we slowed down to a crawl to get up close and personal with a couple of good sized alligators.

Once back on shore we grabbed a quick lunch at the on site restaurant. The cheeseburgers must have been half pounders and the fries were the thick steak fries I like. By the way, you have to try the Alligator Sampler, it was delicious. Lightly breaded and deep fried to perfection and only just a slight bit chewy.

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Until next time

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