Naples Homeowner's Guide to the Everglades
Naples, Florida, is undoubtedly a beautiful place to call home. With its year-round idyllic weather and sprawling views over the glistening blue seas of the Gulf of Mexico, it represents Florida living at its best. It has long been a favorite among retirees, but thanks to its top-rated school and high quality of life, it is also one of the best cities in Florida for young families.
Living in Naples will give you access to plenty of fun activities at your doorstep, from world-class shopping to golfing. However, one of the most fascinating of Naples attractions is a bit wilder: it is its proximity to the Everglades National Park.
History of the Everglades
The Everglades is a unique ecosystem of freshwater marshland that once extended from Lake Okeechobee to the southern tip of peninsular Florida. Of the original 4,000 square miles, less than half remains nowadays. The area is protected by the Everglades National Park, which was founded in 1947. It constitutes the largest designated wilderness east of the Rocky Mountains within the U.S. Beyond its natural beauty, this fragile network of ponds, sawgrass marshes, and forested uplands, plays an essential part in the freshwater flow throughout the entire state. Besides, it is home to hundreds of different species of birds and other wildlife.
Despite their inhospitable appearance, the Everglades have been inhabited as far back as 15,000 years ago, first by the native Calusa and Tequesta tribes, then by the Seminoles. As European emigration intensified during the nineteenth century, the Everglades became the theater of a significant financial stake. The United States Army forcibly removed the Native tribes during the Seminoles wars.
The Everglades were progressively drained to be used as farmland while the water was diverted by canals to supply the booming cities on the coasts. The dedication of the Everglades National Park in 1947 was not sufficient to stop the dramatic ecological impact of these constructions. By the 1970s, it became apparent that dramatic measures needed to be taken to preserve the Everglades ecosystem, and, by extension, the quality and storage of freshwater in Florida. The Everglades was designated a Wetland Area of Global Importance by the UNESCO.
Nowadays, the protection of the Everglades is still a work in progress. The Everglades National Park now covers 1,508,976 acres. In 2000, the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP) was authorized by Congress to "restore, preserve, and protect the south Florida ecosystem while providing for other water-related needs of the region, including water supply and flood protection." It is currently the largest hydrologic restoration project ever undertaken in the United States.
The Everglades is known for the exceptional diversity of its wildlife. With other 360 species of birds, 27 different kinds of snakes, 40 types of mammals, not mentioning the fishes, discovering the local fauna is a quintessential Everglade activity.
Unfortunately, many of the species present in the Everglades National Park are endangered or threatened. Among them, the American alligator, the sea turtles, some species of birds (snail kite, woodstork, woodpecker and bald eagle), and manatees, are particularly sensitive to the destruction of their environment. The Florida panther, with less than 100 individuals living in the Everglades, is one of the most endangered animals in the world.
Besides respectfully admiring the incredible wildlife, the Everglades National Park offers a wide range of things to do for the whole family. Some favorite Everglade activities include:
- Hiking and Biking
- The park provides a variety of trails divided into four groups: Pine Island Trails, Flamingo Trails, Shark Valley Trails, and the Gulf Coast Trails. Each one offers a unique insight into one of the ecosystems present in the Everglades. Length and difficulty levels vary.
- Renting a kayak or a canoe is the best to explore some of the most untouched and isolated areas of the park. It also allows you to get up close and personal with the wildlife. Ask a park ranger for the best tips and security measures to take before leaving. You can also join a tour or go fishing on a chartered boat.
- Scenic Drives
- If the Florida heat is getting to you, explore the Everglades from the comfort of your car on the roads from Royal Palm to Flamingo (76-miles round trip) or Shark Valley to Everglades City (49 miles one way).
Living in Naples puts the endless wonders of the Everglades in your backyard. Not only are Naples attractions enough to keep you busy for a lifetime, but the city also offers an exceptional quality of life. Building a home in Naples will allow your family to work where you play, whether you are just starting, or you are ready to retire. If you are looking for a new home builder in Naples, we can help!
Contributed to Your Home blog by Alix Barnaud
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