The Everglades: Where Wonders Only Whisper

Kayakers in Florida Bay

I grew up on the outskirts of Everglades National Park yet I’ve struggled to love this place like I love the mountains. From a scientific standpoint, I’ve always understood the importance of the Everglades and been amazed by the diversity and uniqueness of the ecosystem. But its beauty is subtle, its landscape often harsh. Mosquitoes, sawgrass, and little solid ground to walk on make it a challenge to embrace exploring the Everglades in spite of its one-of-a-kind status.

I recently revisited the park after a very long absence. It was a casual visit and I stuck to the developed areas supported by park infrastructure such as boardwalks, campgrounds, and roadways. Walking along the boardwalks and marveling at the quirks and delights of this place after so many years away, I finally reached an understanding beyond the nuts-and-bolts of water and wildlife.

My new perspective was due in part to a friend, photographer Bill Lea. It took reading through his book about the Everglades and seeing the park through his lens for me to shift my mountain-loving mindset. His words and images helped me gain the emotional attachment to this place that I’d been lacking. He calls the Everglades the Rodney Dangerfield of national parks, not receiving the proper respect or recognition it deserves, and proclaims that this is a place “where wonders only whisper.”

He’s absolutely right. She’s a park unlike any other and if you’re going to discover her beauty it’s going to have to be on her terms, not yours. Take it slowly, watch carefully, and listen closely. If you can, go deeper. Grab a boat and slip away into a wilderness you can find nowhere else in the world.

However you choose to explore the park, it will be worth it. But know that she won’t brag or shout. She’ll only whisper her secrets to you and if you’re listening, you’ll understand why she’s worthy of respect and awe.


  1. I, too have avoided Everglades NP. Flying over it on my way to the Dry Tortugas NP off the coast of Key West, I looked down and was appropriately impressed with its size but struck by the featureless terrain. Having watched a number of television specials on the place as well as the occassional movie that focused on its mysterious (and oft foreboding) qualities I’ve come to understand that it is a place unlike any other in the country. There are swamps and deltas and then there’s the Everglades. It’s on the list and next time I find myself heading to Key West to enjoy a cocktail-seasoned sunset gaze, I’ll make sure to stop and listen to the whispers.

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