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Good Holiday Ideas | August 19, 2022

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The Everglades

The Everglades
John Hill
It is a river, not a swampAlex Ninian

I was talking in the hotel to an academic-looking fellow-guest who turned out to be an ecologist,  who explained that the Everglades is technically a river and not a swamp.
I am trying hard  to ignore this because I so much want to believe it is a swamp.
It takes whole libraries of books and a long time talking to an ecologist to describe what goes on in there but to my simple mind it goes something like this.
The area is flatter than a pancake and slopes towards the Gulf  of Mexico at about two inches per mile. Sixty inches of rain fall in a few summer weeks and flood the place, because it’s so flat.  Because of the measly little slope it takes months to drain off and dry out before it all happens again.
When it’s wet it is a place where fish and water flora and fauna abound and when it’s dry it’s a place for the dry-land birds and bees. The clever bit is that the watery eggs and seeds and stuff survive the dry to germinate next time it rains, and vice versa for the dry things. Or something like that.
It dawned on us that not one iota of this high excitement is apparent to the visitor unless, of course, he carries a microscope. What you actually see if you drive through the Everglades wetlands is sawgrass. The road cuts through it and it lines the road on both sides over 8 feet high. The average car window is, maybe, 3-4 feet high so what you see is the lower half of a millions of blades of sawgrass. Getting out and standing up only proves that the top half of sawgrass is pretty much the same as the lower half.
You have to take an air boat which glides through the water, in order to see anything. It is driven by an air propeller because the water is so entangled with undergrowth that an ordinary propeller would clog up.
What you see is a lot of wading birds doing their thing – wading – such as spoonbills and flamingoes with long legs and beaks, and a few highly coloured parakeets and parrot-type birds flitting overhead, amongst a lot of jungly-looking trees with tendrils hanging spookily down to the water.  And, of course, sawgrass.
I doubt if a real alligator shows itself to many visitors, although our Editor on a trip some years back saw a pet dog being seized and taken underwater by a gator. He did not stay to see the result, but remembers well the woman owner’s fearful screams for help. Of course you can go to an island and see an American Indian wrestle a toothless one every hour on the hour for a couple of dollars.
That is the Everglades and there are countless organized tours from resorts on both coasts. Or easy drive from most places in the State.

everglades airboat
everglades