For visitors to the South Florida and Miami areas who crave to see a bit of the Everglades without having to slog through the swamp in unknown areas, or who don’t want to take on the expense or crowds of the touristy air boat rides, there is a little gem of an area called Shark Valley. Shark Valley is actually a small piece of the Everglades National Park, which is one of the largest in the continental United States. It is located on U.S. Highway 41 which is also known as the Tamiami Trail. The entrance to shark Valley is approximately 25 miles west of the Florida Turnpike or if you are coming from the west coast of Florida, it s 39 miles east of State road 29.
I have used this incredible park as a training facility for many years, as the 15 mile loop which makes up the park is paved and makes biking the preferred method of transportation although on cool days hiking is a fantastic experience too. Whether you are a novice hiker or training for a bike event, this area allows you to explore at your own pace and it is a perfect place to engage in nature photography. As you make your way around the loop or to the observation tower located midway around the park you will see a wide variety of wildlife and plants.
The chance to see the diversity of life is very seasonal as birds and alligators are much more likely to be encountered in the winter and spring when the water levels are lower. However, I have always encountered at least some alligators, and more than enough birdlife to keep me happy. The loop at Shark valley is bordered by canals and ponds which contain water year round and as such are a great place to take pictures of Herons, Egrets, Ospreys, Alligators and even the occasion River Otter!
For those who are visiting this area from out of town, there is a facility to rent bikes at the beginning of the 15 mile loop for a nominal fee, as well as a tram which takes tourists around the loop with a guide pointing out all the points of interest as well as the wildlife during this 2 hour tour. The next few months should be prime wildlife viewing periods as the water levels will drop for the dry season and all the wildlife will be forced into relatively smaller areas in search of food.
Shark Valley is a must for anyone who loves Wildlife viewing while combining a vigorous workout in a beautiful, yet easily accessible area of the Florida Everglades.