Like No Other Place: Paddling the Everglades
By Michael Lanza
Under a hot February sun and cloudless sky, we launch our kayaks from a tiny spot of sandy beach into the perfectly still, dark-chocolate waters of the East River in South Florida’s Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park. Within minutes, flocks of snowy egrets fly in close formation overhead. White ibises, black anhingas, tri-colored herons, and brown pelicans flap above the wide river and the green walls of forest on both sides. Great blue herons lift off effortlessly and glide on wings whose span equals an average human’s height.
A little while ago, when we turned off US 41 onto an unmarked dirt road, just a few miles north of the boundary of Everglades National Park, a small, homemade sign nailed to a tree greeted us with the message: “Welcome to the real Florida.” Although the driving directions I received for this put-in on the East River seemed to invite error—they were of the “turn left past the end of the guardrail” variety—that sign made me think we’d landed in the right place.
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