Walking and Looping – Friday – February 22, 2013

Today, Nancy suggested that we WALK the trail at Shark Valley instead of riding our bikes.  We had no intention of walking the 15 mile trail, but thought it would be fun to walk a few miles and spend more time checking out the wildlife up close and personal;o)  Since Midway Campground is only about 15 miles east of Shark Valley we could get there at opening and beat any crowds out on the trail.

Midway is number 17 on the map and Shark Valley is just off the map on the right. On our way back to the campground, we would hang a left onto the Loop Road Drive and travel to #14-Monroe Station before turning right on the Tamiami Trail (Rt.41) and returning to Midway Campground.
00a - Map of Big Cypress Preserve
Midway is a great campground to explore the Big Cypress National Preserve and the Northern Everglades. Wish they took reservations!!
Walking the Shark Valley Trail is a very different experience, especially during Alligator mating season!!!  We got out on the trail before anyone else.  Today, there were no crowds and the birds and alligators were everywhere.  We saw a couple alligators fighting some turf wars.  They do get pretty aggressive during mating season.  We saw one alligator along the trail bellowing to attract a mate or deter his rivals!?!?!  For the most part, we felt safe walking as we could see where all the animals were.  However, when we rounded a bend in an area that has thick vegetation along the trail, we were both startled by a VERY LOUD BELLOW right next to us:o(((  We were about two miles down the trail... we promptly did an about face and quickly headed back in the direction we had come from!!! 
Walking sure made all that nature feel real up close and very personal;o))
(click on any photo to enlarge)
05 - Alligator - only one on the path
05c - Alligator - bellow and arching
  05d - Alligator in the canal05e - Alligator in the canal
01b3 - Alligator - Little Alligator01b4 - Alligator - Little Alligator01b2 - Alligator - Little Alligator01b5 - Alligator - Little Alligator
Early morning, during the week, is the best time to visit Shark Valley.  The park opens at 8:30 and the first tram does not leave until 9am traveling counter-clockwise, so you have about an hour before the first tram comes by. The birds were everywhere and we had them all to ourselves!!! 
Great Blue Heron
02 - Great Blue Heron 02b - Great Blue Heron
Little Blue Heron
04c - Little Blue Heron 04d - Little Blue Herons
Little Green Heron
03b - Green Heron 03c - Green Heron
06 - Anhinga06b - Anhinga
06e - Anhinga in nest
06c - Anhinga06d - Anhinga
07 - Limpkin
07b - Limpkin     07c - Limpkin
Purple Gallinule
14 - Purple Gallinule 14b - Purple Gallinule
Snowy Egret – Love the Yellow Legs and Feet!!
09 - Snowy Egret  09b - Snowy Egret
10b - White breeding colors10c - White breeding colors
White Ibis in their breeding colors and Juvenile just turning white!!
10 - White Ibis Juvenile
Black-crowned Night-heron                                                      Grebe              
12 - Blackcrowned Night-Heron   15 - Grebe
Great Egret
11 - Great White Egret
16 - Loop Road Sign
It was almost 11:30am by the time we left Shark Valley.  We hadn’t packed a lunch, but still wanted to ride the loop road since it was on our way back.  Just a few miles west of Shark Valley you will see the sign.  Looking at the map, we turned at #18 and followed the paved and gravel road to #14.  Most people travel in the opposite direction, but it really doesn’t matter.  The beautiful section is the gravel road section!!
“Figuring out how to remove alligators from the roadway is not on the agenda of most tourists when they decide to take the Loop Road drive. Nevertheless, be prepared for anything on this wild, spectacular 25-mile trip through Big Cypress National Preserve deep into the Everglades.” For even more information check out the rest by clicking here...article on the Loop Road.
16a - paved loop section  16b - unpaved loop section
16d - Cypress Swamp Bromelaids
16c - Cypress Swamp and animals  16e - Cypress Swamp Big Trees and Big Gators
16f - Cypress Swamp Turkey Vultures
16g - Cypress Swamp Alligators  DSC_0286
The loop road took much longer than we expected…that’s a good thing.  It’s like going on your own jungle adventure ride and we highly recommend it.  You won’t find a lot of info on the loop road, so it isn’t crowded.  However, it is a great ride though amazing natural habitat. 
We ended our ride at the Monroe Station end of the loop.  It was close to 2pm and we still hadn’t had lunch.  So we decided to check out Monroe Station on another day.


  1. OH I would love to hear an alligator bellow. Looks like we left too early for that. Although maybe not right next to us as we walked along.

    We did the gravel road too and loved it thought about biking it or maybe half of it and then turning around and coming back.

    I'm actually glad they don't take reservations at the campground, I hate having to make them so far ahead. I guess I'd change my mind if I wasn't able to get a spot there when I needed it. As always your pictures are fabulous!!

  2. Pretty cool! I think the alligators wouldn't bother me half as much as those other critters I can't deal with, even if they bellowed :)
    Heading north...see you soon :)

  3. How come they named it Shark Valley Trail with all the gators around? Is there something they're not telling you???

    Glad you got away from that bellowing gator before you were his pre-mating snack! ;c)

    As always, just amazing pictures, I especially loved that huge (mini) gator on the road. :cD

  4. I liked the little gator crossing the trail too. We hope to spend a few nights in Midway this Fall so we'll definitely check out the loop road. Great pics!

  5. Love your pictures! We loved Shark Valley (thanks for the recommendation!), but I'm glad we were on bikes! We never felt threatened, but did get "surprised" a few times when there would suddenly be an alligator on our left (99% of them were on the right)!

  6. Wow...your pictures are awesome as usual! Feel like I'm looking at National Geographic. We definitely have to get back to Florida one day.

    Safe travels.

  7. Great pictures- It is wild when those gators talk!

  8. If you thought it was a VERY LOUD BELLOW, me thinks I would have had a heart attack!
    Great pictures

  9. As usual, the pictures are great! I would be squirmish around the alligators though!