When you visit Everglades National Park, you have reached the last frontier of Florida
Florida's Everglades, the world's only "river of grass," still present a wildlife spectacle difficult to comprehend without a visit.
The living heritage "Florida's last frontier."
I would like to think we can preserve this original Florida for the our children and our children's children.
The Glades have been unalterably changed by the water demands of Miami and Tampa, as well as by runoff from Florida's agriculture industry.
The great flocks of birds -- the egrets, wood storks, spoonbills and herons -- have been vastly reduced in size.
And many alligators are born with physical abnormalities, possibly linked to pesticides and fertilizers used by agriculture.
The federal government is spending billions to buy land and add it to the park before it disappears into suburbia.
During the summer rainy season, water overflows from Lake Okeechobee along its southern shoreline, moving southward across sawgrass marshes and other wetland areas.
Canals dug long ago to funnel water to the cities are being rerouted to their more natural, meandering channels.
Despite the adverse impact on the Everglades from Florida's unbridled growth, vast amounts of fresh water continue to flow out of Central Florida into the saw grass prairie of South Florida.
The Everglades offers a protective area for some fascinating animals and reptiles to flourish.
One such animal is the sea cow or manatee, aquatic mammals which normally inhabit saltwater.
During the winter months, when the Gulf waters and Atlantic ocean grows cold, they will enter the rivers and clear springs for warmth.
Their formidable size and weight can run up to 13 feet and 1300 pounds.
Although their size is intimidating, the manatee is known as a timid animal with a mild disposition
One of the most famous reptiles of the Florida Everglades is the alligator.
Floating like a half-submerged log or lounging in the sun on the edge of a canal, no where is the alligator more at home than in the Everglade
The alligator can be found in most of the bodies of water in the swamps of the Florida Everglades.
It is a protected species in Florida, although there is a hunting season on the alligator, which is done on a lottery system to control the species.
Alligator tail is a long-time delicacy of the South Florida area.
The meat is tender, juicy and low in cholesterol.
A one-hour ride by tour bus, from the Shark Valley visitor center to a viewing platform in the heart of the Everglades, would take a month by the flow of the river.
The Everglades, as tour guides point out, are not a swamp. They are a 100-mile long, 60-mile wide river of clean water that moves ever so slowly across the limestone of South Florida into Florida Bay.
The landscape as far as the eye can see is no more than a few feet above sea level.
The flow of water in the Everglades is barely perceptible -- about aquarter mile per day.