More than 1.5 million acres of South Florida's 4.3 million acres of subtropical, watery wilderness were given national-park status and protection in 1947 with the creation of Everglades National Park. It’s one of the country's largest national parks and is recognized by the world community as a Wetland of International Importance, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a World Heritage Site. Come here if you want to spend the day biking, hiking, or boating in deep, raw wilderness with lots of wildlife.To the east of Everglades National Park, Biscayne National Park brings forth a pristine, magical, subtropical Florida. It’s the nation's largest marine park and the largest national park within the continental United States boasting living coral reefs. A small portion of the park's 172,000 acres consists of mainland coast and outlying islands, but 95% remains under water. Of particular interest are the mangroves and their tangled masses of stiltlike roots that thicken the shorelines. These "walking trees," as some locals call them, have curved prop roots, which arch down from the trunk, and aerial roots that drop from branches. The trees draw fresh water from salt water and create a coastal nursery that sustains myriad types of marine life. You can see Miami's high-rise buildings from many of Biscayne's 44 islands, but the park is virtually undeveloped and large enough for escaping everything that Miami and the Upper Keys have become. To truly escape, don scuba-diving or snorkeling gear and lose yourself in the wonders of the coral reefs.On the northern edge of Everglades National Park is Big Cypress National Preserve, one of South Florida's least developed watersheds. Established by Congress in 1974 to protect the Everglades, it comprises extensive tracts of prairie, marsh, pinelands, forested swamps, and sloughs. Hunting is allowed, as is off-road-vehicle use. Come here if you like alligators. Stop at the Oasis Visitor Center’s boardwalk with alligators lounging underneath, and then drive Loop Road for a backwoods experience. If time permits, kayak the Turner River.Surrounding the parks and preserve are several communities where you’ll find useful outfitters: Everglades City, Florida City, and Homestead.
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Things You Can't Miss
Explore two ecosystems in half-mile walks accessed through the visitors center. You’ll likely spot alligators from the boardwalk in winter months.
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An open-air tour offers a two-hour exploration of the heart of the Everglades, with wildlife and a panoramic view of the “river of grass.”
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Get terrified all over again at Nike Missile Site HM-69, the Everglades base that housed missiles designed to intercept those fired from Cuba.
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National parks and state parks are beautiful places to visit and go hiking. Maximize your fun by avoiding these common mistakes - like running out of gas or getting dehydrated.
Airboat over miles of wetlands, home to countless species of aquatic creatures. Glimpse deer and wild boar on the small islands that dot the area.
Enjoy breathtaking photos and descriptions of the most beautiful places in America, including Yellowstone Caldera and Death Valley.
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