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Published: March 12th 2011
Airboat in the Saw Grass
We found the Miccosukee airboat ride to be half the price and twice the value of the river airboat rides out of Everglades City.
We experienced the Everglades several ways. From a boat tour out of the Everglades National Park Ranger Station in Everglades City, from a fishing charter with Captain Pete Rapps, from a Tram Ride to an observation tower at the Shark River entrance to the park, from a Miccosukee airboat ride through the saw grass, from our own bumpy Jeep ride along Jane's Scenic Trail (off Route 20), from local lore and the exhibitry at both the Smallwood Store Museum and the Everglades History Museum and just by "living" in the Everglade environment for 12 days.
On a previous trip from Fort Myers to Miami on Route 41 (Tamiami Trail) we saw tons of alligator at the HP Williams Roadside Park. We skipped this location this trip; but recommend it for those with time constraints (plus it's free). Speaking of free; the park rangers give free talk, free guided walking tours, and free guided bike and canoe/kayak tours (you can rent or use your own kayaks or bikes! Wes and I hold Golden Eagle cards (available for $10 to us over a certain age) they allow us free entry into National Parks - but we do pay the vendor fees for
trams, boats, etc.
On this trip our tour guides ranged from Robert (for whom words were not necessary as he whipped the airboat around slowing down to point to something he wanted us (like alligators); to Captain Pete Rapps the fishing guide who had historic photos aboard in a binder and was a wealth of local lore; to the captain of the boat from the conservation area who pointed out birds and porpoise as they came into view; to Katy, the fun and learned naturalist on the tram who hopped out to walk on squishy ground to pick up "periphyton" for us and told of capturing two pythons (an introduced specie causing havoc in the food chain). Katy had a well informed opinion about the political agenda that puts the preservation of the "glades" on the low end of the totem pole. She and Moses, the tram driver, also knew where to find cute little baby alligators and their protective mothers.
Unlike National Parks like Grand Teton with "over the top" natural beauty, the charm of Everglades National Park is subtle and mysterious. It's where fugitives, deserters, wanted men, thugs, bootleggers, smugglers and hermits sought refuge. The stories
The Miccosukee Tribe has established a restaurant, airboat excursion business, gas station (lowest prices), and an Indian Village in the area of the Shark Valley entrance to the National Park. The food and airboat ride were top notch. The tribe also has a golf course and a casino in Miami. We'll check out the Insian Village another time.
are endless and it's very beautiful in its own way. The nights are darker and starrier than spots closer to cities and airports. One unforgettable night we sat on our deck, fascinated by an incredibly colorful lightning show across the bay deep in the Everglades.
The people are also great. We found our neighbors at the Chokoloskee Outdoor Resort to be welcoming and interesting. We shared itineraries with a couple from Ontario with a penchant for kayaking; and horror stories with a couple traveling from Annapolis to the Bahamas in their fairly huge trawler who got caught in a wicked storm as they came into port near the Rod and Gun Club in Everglades City. Wes went back to a great guy at the hardware store (where we bought our fishing shirts) three time to get parts and advice for a repair on the RV; and the ladies at the Trift Shop ( where we were looking for picture frames ) insisted we take free bread and pastries.
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