Sunday – January 13, 2013
This is our last day here at the Long Pine Key Campground at the Everglades National Park. It was a nice sunny day with the temperature in the mid 80’s, so we decided to visit Royal Palm State Park located within the Everglades National Park. This is a beautiful area with an abundance of wildlife. It was officially dedicated as Royal Palm State Park on November 23, 1916, and covers 4,000 acres.
The towering live oaks and royal palms in the middle of this endless prairie are home to a number of ferns, orchids and scores of other plants. Most interesting is how rare and tropical plants exist in this small patch in the Everglades. The slough that surrounds this hammock also provides protection against fires, leaving much of the vegetation well preserved. The establishment of Royal Palm State Park began the greater conservation efforts that would lead to the designation of the Everglades as a National Park.
Royal Palm State Park offers self-guided as well as ranger-guided tours. There are two nature trails: The Anhinga Trail and the Gumbo Limbo Trail. There are elevated walkways provided to view a variety of water birds, turtles, alligators and crocodiles. It is not unusual to see an alligator resting on the footpath blissfully ignoring the humans carefully walking around it. This is one of the few areas in Florida that you will see alligators and crocodiles inhabiting the same environment.
Water birds on the Anhinga Trail include: Egrets, Herons, Cormorants and Anhingas. The Anhinga is an interesting bird in that it completely submerges itself in the water to hunt for fish. It swims very fast underwater using its tail feathers as a rudder to change direction. Oftentimes, it will only raise its head and neck out of the water, keeping its body fully submerged in the water. Their feathers become so saturated with water that they must dry their wings first in order for them to fly. Therefore, you will see numerous Anhingas perched on tree branches or on the ground, with their wings fully extended, to dry their feathers.
As we were leaving the Anhinga Trail, two alligators, about six feet long, got into a violent confrontation with one another. It lasted only about 20 seconds, with one of the alligators receiving a nasty wound on its back. They separated a short distance from one another and then started to circle one another making low growling noises, until one of them swam off, ending the confrontation.
A violent ending to an interesting day at Royal Palm State Park.
Tomorrow another adventure begins.