By Michael Lanza

I confess: Everglades National Park was not near the top of my to-do list before I went there the first time, during an all-day layover in Miami waiting for a flight to Chile to trek in Patagonia. After a short hike in the park, I knew I had to return with my kids. My family spent our first day there paddling through a series of long mangrove tunnels on the East River (lead photo above), watching scores of exotic birds fly just overhead: snowy egrets, white ibises, black anhingas, tri-colored herons, brown pelicans, great blue herons (everything that flies here seems to have a color in its name). And we saw alligators—several of them, up to 12 feet long—floating listlessly on the river’s surface.

We also spent three days canoeing and camping on a wilderness beach at Tiger Key in the Ten Thousand Islands, seeing yet more birds like osprey and brilliantly pink roseate spoonbills, as well as a dolphin that circled my son’s and my canoe one afternoon, and awe-inspiring sunsets into the Gulf of Mexico every evening.

Mid-winter is the prime time of year for canoeing or kayaking in Everglades National Park: few mosquitoes, mild temperatures, lots of exotic birds—and the gators are relatively inactive because, for them, it’s cold. (But we also kept a good distance from them.)

If, like me, you have not considered the Everglades before, I have this advice: Rethink that position. Trust me on this. Check out these photos and the link below them to my full story about that trip.

 

Read my full story about that trip, “Like No Other Place: Paddling the Everglades,” which has more photos, a video, and tips on planning this trip yourself.

Our Everglades trip was the last of 11 national park adventures we took with our kids in one year, which I wrote about in my award-winning book Before They’re Gone—A Family’s Year-Long Quest to Explore America’s Most Endangered National Parks.

 

Hi, I’m Michael Lanza, the creator of The Big Outside, recognized as a top outdoors blog by USA Today and others. I invite you to get email updates about new stories and gear giveaways by entering your email address in the box in the left sidebar, at the bottom of this post, or on my About page, and follow my adventures on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

 

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