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You don’t have to go slogging through deep swamps and get bitten by a thousand mosquitoes to see alligators and waterbirds in the Everglades. In fact, you only have to go 4 miles in from the main Everglades National Park entrance to see an amazing assortment of wildlife, right from the comfort of a boardwalk trail. It’s called the Anhinga Trail.
The Everglades National Park in Florida is a vast (1.5 million acre) wilderness. It holds the largest continuous stand of sawgrass prairie in North America and is the largest remaining subtropical wilderness in the continental United States. It provides habitat for alligators, muskrats, deer, turtles, apple snails, and numerous bird species (around 325), as well as many species listed as endangered in the United States including manatees, wood storks, American crocodiles, and the Florida panther. The greatest concentration of wading birds on the continent of North America is found here in the Everglades National Park.
You can get close up views of many of these species from The Anhinga Trail, a short 0.8 mile round trip that follows paved paths and boardwalks. Simply park at the Royal Palm Visitor Center to find it. The self-guided walk winds through sawgrass marshes which provide habitat for alligators, turtles, and numerous bird species including roseate spoonbills, great blue herons, white ibis, wood storks, black vultures, green herons, triclorored herons, great egrets, common moorhens, cormorants, and of course, the bird for which the trail was named: the anhinga.
Why the Anhinga Trail?
There are many reasons why you should stop at the Anhinga Trail during your visit to the Everglades.
- The wildlife is habituated to people, so you can get close and see natural behaviors.
- Rare opportunites to view nesting water birds, such as cormorants and anhingas, at eye level and at close range.
- See a wide range of bird behaviors including nest building, courtship, raising chicks, hunting for fish, and swimming under water.
- Safely watch alligators from a close distance including tiny babies.
- Easy access. Paved trails, well maintained boardwalks, with toilet facilities and wheelchair accessibility.
- Great photographic opportunities with no fences.
When to Visit the Anhinga Trail
Winter, when migrating birds arrive, is the best time to visit the Anhinga Trail. Wading birds typically nest during Florida’s winter-to-spring dry season. Also winter in Florida means no scorching heat and no bugs!
The time of the day can also be crucial if you are into photography. Arrive just after sunrise or just before sunset and you’ll be rewarded with softer light and more pleasant colors. Don’t forget to pack some warm clothes if you visit in the winter at dawn or dusk.
Photo Gallery from the Anhinga Trail
Though there are many great locations in the Everglades to see and photograph birds and alligators, we always come back to the Anhinga Trail for its ease of access and superb sightings. You’ll be amazed at how many hours you can spend on such a short trail because there’s just so much to see.