Gators and Skeeters…Welcome to the Everglades.

The week after Disney, we stayed at Collier-Seminole State Park near Everglades City, FL. I now know why there are NO bugs in Disney. It’s obviously due to their secretive and sophisticated skeeter catch-and-release program. They catch ’em in Disney and release ’em into the Everglades. I’m on to you Mickey. *side eye*

Aside from those little apocalyptic vampire-leeches, the Everglades area was surprisingly fascinating. The campground was fairly nice. There were some great sites and some awful sites…a brand new, pretty bathhouse and an old serviceable one, nice biking, a great little waterfront for kayaking/canoeing and some interesting history. We were told Collier-Seminole is the oldest state park in Florida.

The park was originally created by Barron Gift Collier to preserve the royal palm trees and later the park was donated to the county. The park then served as a memorial to Barron Collier and those who fought on both sides of the Seminole Wars. In 1947, the county donated the land which became Collier-Seminole State Park.

In the 1700s, Seminole Indians emigrated from the Creek Confederacy to Florida. Three Seminole Wars took place to remove the Seminoles from Florida and send them to reservations. During the Third Seminole War, the Seminoles resisted and retreated to the swamps of southwest Florida. Soldiers searching for the Indians drew maps. One crude 1857 military map illustrates the Blackwater River and an area labeled “palm grove.” That area, now part of the park, contains the beautiful royal palm trees.

We headed down to Everglades National Park to pick up the Jr. Ranger packets for Quinn & Callum and then made our way to Loop Road, in Big Cypress National Preserve, for a scenic drive along a gator-infested dirt path. It was 45 minutes of gators, big and small, swimming and sunning, hissing their displeasure at us and ignoring us completely. And there were birds by the thousands…birds I’ve never seen before and others I just hadn’t seen SO close up. Totally enthralled for the first 30 minutes or so, the boys were almost bored with gators by the end of the drive and were able to make excellent headway on their Jr. Ranger workbooks in the backseat. There is no better way to see gators in the wild…it was very cool. I am now anticipating your “why did the gator cross the road” jokes…

There was Taco Tuesday, goofy giggles and a drive to Marco Island for ice cream and playground time. You know, regular stuff.

And then, the best part of the week. The airboat ride with Gram and Pop. I knew it would be fun and I figured the boys would love it but I didn’t expect something so “Everglades kitsch” to be SO CRAZY fun! I was shocked at how fast we went zipping through the shallow water but also at how much of a science and history lesson it was as well. Our driver was fantastic and stopped many times to fill us in on the Everglades ecosystem and the history of the Seminole Indians. If you ever find yourself in the Everglades, make sure you take an airboat ride at Corey Billie’s Airboat Rides…absolutely worth it.

We finished out the Everglades week with not one, but TWO new Jr. Ranger badges for the boys: Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. This was pretty intense ranger work…they spent many hours learning and working on those books!




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