In the first line of her classic 1947 book, The Everglades: River of Grass, Marjory Stoneman Douglas wrote, “There are no other Everglades in the world. They are, they have always been, one of the unique regions of the earth, remote, never wholly known. Nothing anywhere else is like them…”
However, since its discovery the Everglades has always endured the negative stigma, which goes along with the word swamp – “disease infested,” “hideous,” “monstrous,” “diabolical,” “God-forsaken,” “obstacle to progress,” “enemy of civilization,” “worthless,” “poisonous,” “repulsive in all its features,” “unredeemable,” “evil,” and more. In the 1840’s Florida’s first state legislature deemed it “wholly valueless.” The 1904 governor-elect Napolean Bonaparte Broward referred to the Everglades as a “pestilence-ridden swamp.”
Lacking grandiose mountain peaks, spewing geysers, and tumbling waterfalls, Everglades National Park was eventually established to protect a fragile ecosystem of incredible biological character and diversity. A discerning eye will reveal the beauty of this mix of tropical and temperate flora combined in an array of habitats.
Today, when people “picture” the Florida Everglades they often envision the iconic “river of grass” or sawgrass prairies so characteristic of the area. Yet there is so much more to this wondrous place! Other environments or habitats within the park include pine rocklands, mangrove swamps, coastal prairies, estuaries, cypress swamps, hardwood hammocks, dwarf cypress prairies, and the Southeastern Saline Everglades.
When I think of the Everglades – I smile. Puffy clouds drifting over a sea of sawgrass give birth to glorious landscapes. Soft gurglings of an American bittern, the exotic scream of a lone limpkin, and the deep bellowing of a distant gator all speak volumes of the greatest freshwater marsh in the world. Yet, at other times, a haunting silence shouts the wonder of this vast wilderness. I listen; I watch and learn; I feel the magic. Not everyone sees nor experiences the spiritual revelation. A quick drive-through will certainly not reveal it. Some find it monotonous. One author wrote, “It tends to look a bit yucky…” Even the trained eye of a visiting National Geographic editor failed to recognize its beauty – how sad. For the first time ever, the splendor of tall mountain peaks, grand waterfalls, or mighty glaciers did not drive the establishment of a national park. The unique and diverse biological qualities showcased by temperate and tropical flora and fauna – the complex ecosystem along with all of its extraordinary life – begged for – no, demanded – the creation of Everglades National Park.
When I think of the Everglades, I think about the rugged people who once inhabited this land. It was a hard place – definitely not for the feeble. A 1947 Saturday Evening Post account proclaimed the great abundance of mosquitoes in the Everglades. It told of windshield wipers used to clear a swarm of the persistent insects and the resultant blood oozing down the glass. When an interviewer once suggested to notable author Marjory Stoneman Douglas that the Everglades might be a rather inhospitable place, she snapped back: “Well, they ARE inhospitable! People are not supposed to live there. It’s too buggy and too wet.”
When I think of the Everglades, I think of its intrinsic values. Yes, I cherish the birds, alligators, prairies, dwarf cypress, sounds, and big sky, but I am equally moved by patterns, textures, colors, and the inner-workings of all its life. The grand scenes are incredible but to the discerning eye, subtle beauty abounds and astounds throughout the Everglades – where wonders only whisper.
Reprinted from The Everglades – Where Wonders Only Whisper by Bill Lea
Author & Photographer
Bill Lea & Chris Norcott will be offering an Everglades Photo Tour into the Everglades National Park
March 5-8, 2015
Escape the winter weather and join nature and wildlife
photographers Chris Norcott and Bill Lea as we explore
Florida’s Everglades National Park. During the photo
tour Chris and Bill will show you some of their favorite
locations in the park where you will capture incredible
scenic images ranging from dwarf cypress trees draped
in fog to fabulous sunrises along Florida Bay or the
mystical wonder of a tropical cypress swamp.
We will also be photographing an array of wildlife subjects
including alligators, osprey, a host of wading birds, and
much more – many so close you can literally touch them –
but we won’t! Find a copy of Bill’s book
for a sample of possible
Everglades subjects we will be photographing.
The photo tour begins Thursday evening (March 5th)
and concludes on Sunday afternoon (March 8th).
Participants will be responsible for travel, lodging, and
meal expenses. A variety of lodging is available, but
we recommend the Holiday Inn Express where a block
of rooms has been reserved for us at a reduced price.
be required to sign a liability waiver since we will be in
the wild photographing nature, which obviously poses
some inherent risks.
305/247-3414 – Group Code “LEA”
To register contact Bill at: firstname.lastname@example.org
or Chris at: email@example.com