What? No Sharks! ~ Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

On what was to be our first glimpse into this intriguing land known as the Everglades, we loaded up our bikes before the light of day and were on our way to Shark Valley, an interesting name for a valley whose watery depths average 3-4 feet, with not a shark to be seen.  The Shark Valley Slough runs through this terrain, supplying much of the water to the Everglades, and feeding into the Shark River.  It was at this river where early settlers saw the fins of bull sharks, hence the name.

Shark Valley can be experienced in several ways, a two-hour tram ride, on bikes, or a leisurely stroll.  We opted to bike, allowing us to traverse the 15-mile loop at our leisure, making plenty of stops to see yet another bird species or an alligator lazing upon the canal bank.

An observation tower at mile seven provides a 360º view of nothing but Glades.

Observation tower
Observation tower

Visiting Shark Valley at first light gave us the chance to share its quiet beauty with just a few avid birding photographers (at least for a short time).   As the sun welcomed the day, the mist rose off the marshlands, the air refreshingly cool.  The bellows of unseen alligators mingled with the calls of wading birds, a lyrical yet eerie chorus.

Don't get any closer!
Don’t get any closer!

Nicknamed the “River of Grass” for the sawgrass prairies that tower six feet above the land, the Everglades stretch 100 miles from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico.  Woven throughout her vast watery plains lies a symbiotic mosaic of nine distinct ecosystems.  It is home to 36 protected animal species, has the largest mangrove ecosystem in the western hemisphere and boasts the most meaningful breeding ground for tropical wading birds in North America.  Shark Valley is a beautiful embodiment of this montage.

Prior to visiting the Glades, my mind conjured up images of swampy bug and reptile-infested waters but the Everglades is ever so much more.   This National Park was created, not for its unique topographical features, but rather to protect a fragile ecosystem, one that has suffered greatly by human hands in our never-ending quest for development.  This region’s only source of water is the rain that falls on it and the extensive canal systems that have been put into place to support the explosive population growth in South Florida have redirected these crucial life-giving waters away from the Everglades.  The natural habitats of many species are being threatened to the point of extinction. We can only hope that the 30-year Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) put into plan in 2000 will revive a dying ecosystem and allow this natural wonder to heal.

We have just scratched the surface of the Everglades and have a future stop planned later this month in Flamingo, at the southern end of the park, where we hear the mosquitoes are as large as some of the wading birds and quite the voracious little eaters too!

Just a few pics from a pole-boat tour taken in Big Cypress National Preserve:

67 thoughts on “What? No Sharks! ~ Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

  • What great pictures!!! Thanks for the wonderful information about the park. I hadn’t realized the plight of the Everglades, but glad that someone had the wisdom to protect it, by making it a national park. I think the national park system is the best thing our government has ever done for us.

    • I agree with you Joan on the national park system. I must admit that I knew very little about the plight of the Everglades until just recently. It is an amazing place when you look below the surface. 🙂

  • Paul has never been to the Everglades. I loved my trip there. I took an Airboat tour. Awesome!

    Boy do you have a wonderful adventure ahead of you when you visit Flamingo. Better stock up on Off and some mosquito net.

    • This was our first visit to the Everglades and it is pretty amazing. I must admit to being a little uncomfortable with all the alligators before we arrived but being around them in Shark Valley and in Big Cypress put my mind at ease a bit. Their bellows are pretty interesting though!

      I have already been looking for mosquito netting. 🙂

  • Love your roseate spoonbills in-flight photo. Looks like the Everglades are quite the adventure. Don’t you just love exploring in the early morning hours? That’s my favorite time 🙂

    • Thanks Ingrid but you spoiled us with the roseate spoonbill photos!

      I think early morning is the very best time of day to get out and explore. 🙂

  • How lucky that you got to see the roseate spoonbills!! We didn’t see any on either of our visits. Don’t you just love all the gators on the path and the very tame birds! Glad you had a fun time:)

  • LuAnn, your photos are wonderful and beautiful highlighting your day in the Florida Everglades perfectly!
    Love the bird photos; I have only seen the Spoonbill once and have never taken a photo – great job!!

    The Limpkin would be a new sighting for me!

    Congrats! Have fun down there!

    • I so wanted to get a close-up of the roseate but it may not happen, although I think we will still see more of them. I have experienced so many birds that I have never seen before, so I am grateful for that.

      Safe travels to the two of you! 🙂

  • So nice to hear from you guys again, LuAnn. It appears from the great photos that you are now deep into the Everglades. By the way, Gayl & I traveled to San Elijo Friday to say hi and bye to Bill & Lisa. Really nice to see them before they journey back to Sedona. They are doing well. We look forward to some more blogs, photos, etc. from you on your current explorations through Florida. Rog & Gayl

    • Thanks for stopping by you two. Glad you got the chance to see Bill and Lisa before they headed to AZ. Hope you are enjoying your winter. 🙂

  • Your pictures are beautiful and reminded me of our Everglades trips. We love the Everglades and Shark Valley is a must see for anyone traveling in that area. We love the campground at Flamingo and have camped there twice. Don’t give up hope on seeing more Roseate Spoonbills close up. A good place to see spoonbills, great egrets, wood storks and other birds is at Eco Pond early in the morning. Another great place to see birds and alligators is the Anhinga Trai!l. Have fun.

  • Another beautiful park you visitied and glad you shown us around too….. I wouldn’t feel so comfortable on a bike seeing the allligator though… 🙂

    • I have to admit I was a little freaked out about being that close to alligators but they leave you alone as long as you don’t get too close, and who wants to do that! 🙂

  • I love the Glades LuAnn, and am glad that you are able to visit. It’s one of the most unique parks in America, and everyone should visit. I’ve done the Shark Valley ride as well, and it’s wonderful. You’re there at exactly the right time. I’ve been there in August, and the mosquitos fly in squadrons. ~James

  • Sounds like a fabulous place to visit, LuAnn; your images are wonderful.
    I had no idea the glades were that big (stretching 100 miles). I’m glad there is an ongoing protection plan in place; we humans have a way of negating the lives and environmental concerns of our animals and planet – to the detriment of ourselves, of course.
    On a brighter note: What a great life you two are living – gives me ‘food for thought’ for retirement… 😉

  • These are superb photos, LuAnn! Love the butterfly and birds. 15 mile biking, pretty impressive 🙂 I hope to visit the park in the future.

    • It’s interesting that you should say that Rommel as I feel like I’m struggling a bit with the birds. I have had so many bird photos that I have dumped due to blurriness. Those cute little guys just won’t sit still! 🙂

  • Great photography! Especially loved the butterfly and lakeside photo! 😀
    If you’re looking for a mix of the richest and brightest colors, and a deep-rooted culture, I can’t think of any other place than India. You should visit the country sometime. Every photo you’ll take will tell you a different story! 🙂

  • Lovely post! It’s been many years since we have visited the Everglades. Watch out for those pythons….and there were crocodiles around Flamingo…when we were there 15 years ago!

  • I found it interesting biking in Shark Valley that we were cautioned to stay 15 feet away from the alligators, but the bike path is only 10 feet wide, and the gators would sometimes be halfway across the path…I felt more comfortable if the gators were facing AWAY from me. Loved your roseate spoonbills in flight, and your photos of your pole boat excursion. I want to do that!

    • Having spent a lot of time in Yellowstone where we were cautioned to stay much further away from wildlife, I was quite surprised that a 15 foot distance from alligators was the recommendation. Given how fast they can run when they are in the mood, that doesn’t feel like a safe distance. I read someone’s post where the banks on both sides were lined with alligators, many facing toward the bike path. Not sure I wouldn’t have turned around at that point!

      I am still hoping for a closer shot of the spoonbills when in Flamingo.

      We didn’t see too many birds while on the pole boat tour, but it was so peaceful…a quite lovely morning.

  • It looks really beautiful (and warm!) LuAnn, thanks for the tour it’s cheered me up. Quick question if you don’t mind. I’m trying to plan our little RV trip out west and unfortunately it looks like it’ll clash with the 4th July weekend. Do you think that will be a problem for us in terms of getting into campsites and generally getting about, not to mention the loss of tranquillity if there are masses of holiday crowds? I’d be grateful for your advice on how crowded places may become on that particular weekend? Thank you LuAnn, Mike 🙂

    • I must admit that the weather is near perfect right now Mike, although I don’t want to rub it in as I know what a horrible winter this has been for many. As to the RV trip, where out west are you planning to travel?

      • Thanks for getting back to me LuAnn. We are hoping to pick up an RV in Denver and travel to San Francisco via Utah (Arches NP), Arizona (Navajo NM, Grand Canyon) and onto Sequoia and Yosemite. We are likely to be in the Utah/Arizona area during that weekend and don’t want to miss out on the Grand Canyon but am aware that there may be masses of holiday weekenders and that those places are going to be extremely busy?

      • Hi Mike,

        All places out west will most likely be very busy during that weekend. We spent the past 4th of July in the San Francisco area and had to book early. Keep in mind it will also be warm during that time, especially in Utah and Arizona. We almost always go to http://www.rvparkreviews.com to see what others think of the park we might be planning to stay in as well. Hope this helps!

  • Fabulous pics, LuAnn. Makes me realise that one could live here for a lifetime and still not get to see everything. Love the bicycle/’gator pic. 🙂 I wouldn’t dream of going any closer, and my mind would certainly be in getaway mode. 🙂

  • Hi LuAnn,

    Great photography coupled with good information about the park. Curious to know whether the sharks are still there.

    Clearly you have luck on your side with such glorious weather following you around.

    Loved the post.


    • Shakti, I am not certain if the bull sharks still exist in the Shark River. There is not enough water for them to make it to Shark Valley, that is for certain.

  • Looking forward to your future post, once again this lovely place is something I need to experience. I live nature and am in the mind to learn all the names of birds and such like…I was just on about this earlier coincidentally with Anna over on http://inkstainsonareadersblog.wordpress.com/ coincidentally.

    National parks are something that governments should be applauded for and they do need some good press at the moment.

Love to know what you're thinking.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.