Wednesday May 7, 2008

Shark Valley

Shark Valley

23 miles west of the Turnpike on Tamiami Trail (click the map above for Google directions), in the heart of the northern Everglades, sits something rather remarkable — an all-access, super-easy nature trail known as Shark Valley. The trail is paved, and accessible by foot, bicycle (bring your own or rent), or tram tour. By bike, it’s just the right length that just about anyone can sit on a bike and finish it at a leisurely pace. The trail is a loop, so at the end you end up back at the visitor center, but at the far end you’re deep into the Everglades, far from civilization, with the birds and the alligators. It’s sort of a must-do for anyone who lives anywhere in South Florida.

This is what it’s really like in the Everglades. Peaceful, and stretching on into forever with grass, occasional patches of solid ground and a few trees, and swamp (note the water visible at the bottom of this photo.

Bleh, I don’t have a photo of the gators you see hanging out just off the path, but they’re there. (No worries, they’ll leave you alone.) Did get this little guy sunning himself, though.

Mostly what you get is lots and lots of birds, in all different shapes and sizes. Not sure what this fellah was hunting in the muck. Something delicious probably. Previously, we met this guy.

At the farthest end of the loop, you come to a rather improbably lookout tower. The views are fantastic, but again, it’s more about the vastness, not something you can reproduce in a photo. Go check it out for yourself.

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  1. squathole    Wed May 7, 09:58 AM #  

    Great photos (again). Amazing how adorable baby gators are, but grown up they’re hideous as Hilary.

    In any event, can’t wait for the UDB to be altered so the area gets covered in malls.

  2. alesh    Wed May 7, 10:11 AM #  

    It’s true — Shark Valley would make a great shopping mall. It’s already paved and wired for electric, the tower would be a cool “historical” feature (maybe some sort of ride for kids?), and the size is just bigger then Sawgrass — great for the all-important bragging rights.

  3. l'elk!    Wed May 7, 10:44 AM #  

    i went out there around dusk a few sundays ago to watch the sun set and the moon rise. the moon was glowing red and after the sun left, the park is swarming with fire flies and other strange creatures of the night. i think the park closes around 6 but if you plan on biking at night you can park your car along tamiami trail. remember to bring a flashlight or go when the moon is full so you dont run over any alligators.

  4. NicFitKid    Wed May 7, 05:42 PM #  

    Went there many times as a kid with my family. I can remember cruising on my little BMX knock-off past gators sunning themselves on the asphalt trail. I watched the herons do their stately walk as they stalked prey at the edge of the sawgrass. It’s really a magnificent place, and one that all Miami residents should visit to learn what came before the sprawl and malls and parking lots.

    Also, county commissioners who vote for measures that push back the UDB should be smeared in cow’s blood, shackled to an iron stake along the trail, and left to the whim of the gators. Now that would make for one helluva tourist destination.

  5. cousin chris    Wed May 7, 07:27 PM #  

    hey – long time listener, first time caller …

    just had to add – some friends and i got a pretty cool panorama from the top of the watchtower at the apical end of this trail. thought i’d share. great pics btw!
    (modem warning: 2.5 MB filesize!)

  6. Alex    Wed May 7, 09:18 PM #  

    Go at night during full moon, pack some sandwiches and eat them at the top of the observation tower. That’s a fantastic view, the Everglades under the moonlight. Throw some to the alligators in the swamp below.

  7. tjl    Thu May 8, 07:05 AM #  

    It’s illegal to feed the ‘gators Alex.

  8. mae    Thu May 8, 10:44 AM #  

    totally unrelated note- i went camping in key largo, following your directions, alesh, and it was perfect.


  9. srcohiba    Thu May 8, 12:12 PM #  

    it’s sad how poor water management and God knows what else has ruined Shark Valley. I’ve been going there for years and the last three years, the bird populations have gotten worse and worse. It’s not even worth it anymore to go there for bird watching or bird photography.

    the bird population at anhinga trail has not fared better either.

    if you want to see gators, then go for it; but forget it if you want to see great bird populations.

    the place is dying!

  10. swampthing    Thu May 8, 03:25 PM #  

    swampstyle, lots of critters if you are the first there, bikes, jetsonesque architecture, what could be better? no mall down the street. Anyone know why the name shark-valley?

  11. tom    Fri May 9, 01:40 PM #  

    Looks AWSE. Thanks for cluing me in to this place. Can’t wait to take my bike + camera out there and see me some gators.

  12. cohen    Sun May 11, 01:41 PM #  

    it is also really hot…….