Shark Valley

“I don’t see any sharks here”. I’m sure I’m not the first one to make that ironic statement standing at Shark Valley in Everglades National Park. Alligator alley, river alley, or prairie alley would all be fitting.

I came to see the “river of grass”, the great expanse known as the Everglades. I’ve seen the Western side of it and it looked similar to where I live. Mangrove trees, dark water, and of course alligators and mosquitos.

Shark Valley is unique in that it has a 15 mile paved bike loop. You can also take a 2 hour tram ride that takes the same road.

For some reason I find myself in the Everglades in the dead of summer. My last trip was in August and this time was July. In case you didn’t know, that’s the hottest time of the year. The upside is there are fewer tourists. The downside is it’s really hot. It is like being in a sauna; the sweat just pours off you.

I really enjoy biking because it’s quiet and you can go most anywhere. We weren’t on the path more than 5 minutes when a deer came sauntering up from the east. It was just grazing along and eventually walked across the path just a few feet in front of us. It didn’t care about us at all.

The expanse of the Everglades reminds me of places I’ve visited out west. You can see forever and it’s all grass. Not a lush meadow, but tall spindly grass, much likes a prairie. The grass isn’t in dry dirt though. It’s growing out of a couple of inches of water. The Everglades is often called a river of grass and it’s easy to see why.

Biking along the path, I notice these drainage areas that allow the water to flow under the path. The water in these little pools is crystal clear. I bike past one and hit the brakes immediately! In this little oasis was a medium size alligator. The perfect little hiding spot to cool off.

We saw more alligators in those little oasis’s then in other parts of the park. Course the water was crystal clear which made it easier. At one point the path is near what looks like a large river. Of course there is an alligator there. The snout and eyes are the only thing visible. I’ve seen plenty of alligators, but they’re still intriguing. As I grabbed my camera, it decided to stand up out of the water. Holy crap, it was huge!! The snout didn’t look that big, but behind it was at least 10 feet of reptile. I just stood there amazed and very glad I wasn’t in the water.

The halfway point of the path is marked by the lookout tower which has real bathrooms, nature trail, and a ramp up to the tower. Looking across the 360 degree view of prairie grass and trees, I felt like any minute I’d see a giraffe walk by. Or maybe a group of zebras grazing. It just looked like a scene from Africa.

It was amazing to see such a vast landscape of grass. The clouds and grass seemed to meet at one point. Looking out at such a vast expanse always reminds me of my place on this planet.

Before we left, we hit one of the nature trails and were met with quite a surprise. Just off the trail about 20 feet was an alligator somewhat camaflauged in the roots and shade. I actually walked right past him and didn’t see it.  It was a great reminder to pay attention to what’s around.

The bike path up to this point had curves and had vast expanses on both sides. From here on to the visitor center, the path was straight with a canal on one side and the prairie on the other. It was an easy ride back, although not as pretty as the ride in. There’s just something about riding in the wide open spaces.

Looking at the mile markers, we rode the trail backwards, which worked out well. We experienced the wildlife and open spaces before the heat of the day and avoided the crowds.