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Road-trips through the Everglades

There are two options when driving from Naples to Miami and seeing the Florida Everglades. One is Interstate 75, affectionately called ďAlligator Alley.Ē The four-lane toll road runs west from Naples to east in Weston. U.S. Highway 41 is the colorful, scenic route sprinkled with must-see sights. It serves as the northern border of Everglades National Park and portions drive through Big Cypress National Preserve. The two-lane road is commonly called the Tamiami Trail because the road begins in Tampa and ends in Miami.

Airboats

Airboat operators and wildlife observation pullouts are plentiful across U.S. 41. Bird-watching is spectacular and itís common to see wood storks, anhinga and great blue herons in the Everglades landscape. Tamiami Trail offers entry points into Everglades National Park via Everglades City and Shark Valley. Itís a two-hour drive when traveling between Naples and Miami but plan a leisurely road trip to see these must-see sights for a memorable Everglades experience.

Clyde Butcherís Big Cypress Gallery

Artist Clyde Butcher captures the mystique of the Florida Everglades with his powerful black and white landscape photographs. The gallery is open daily and displays Butcherís dynamic images along with that of his photographer wife Niki. Butcher tromps with his camera through the waters of Big Cypress and the Everglades to capture his amazing images. Each Labor Day, the Butchers invite visitors to tromp through the nearby swamps in waist-deep water during their annual Muck-About. The Muck-About is ideal for Butcher-wannabes and those who love to get muddy and wet. Reservations are required (Telephone: (239) 695-2428). The Big Cypress Gallery is located 35 miles west of Miami.

Miccosukee Indian Village

This living museum is the cultural center for the Miccosukee Tribe of Florida. Miccosukee demonstrate the arts and crafts they are known for, including doll making, beadwork and woodwork. Alligator shows explain how important the reptile is to the Miccosukee. Airboat rides thrill visitors through Everglades hammocks. The Indian Village is located at U.S. 41 mile marker 70. (Telephone: (305) 552-8365)

Skunk Ape Research Headquarters

Smell something funky when driving across U.S. 41? The stench may be from the elusive Skunk Ape, a large (males can get up to seven feet tall) and hairy mammal calling the Everglades home. Skunk Ape researchers believe the creature is related to Big Foot. Skunk Ape believers and skeptics can learn more about the creature at the Skunk Ape Research Headquarters located about four miles east of Highway 29 at the Trail Lakes Campground. The facility is open daily. (Telephone: (239) 695-2275)

Smallest Post Office in the United States

Just seven feet wide by eight feet deep, the Ochopee Post Office was originally an irrigation pipe shed. In 1953 a fire burned the nearby general store which housed the community post office. The shed was pulled closer to U.S. 41 and established as a post office. Yes, it is a working post office filling all postal needs for the community and visitors. The Ochopee Post Office is a definite photo stop. The Smallest Post Office in the United States is located about three miles east of Highway 29.

ValueJet Flight 592 Memorial

One hundred ten passengers lost their lives in the Everglades on May 11, 1996 when the plane crashed en route from Miami to Atlanta. Three years later a memorial was dedicated with 110 concrete pillars, one for each passenger. Visiting the ValueJet Memorial is sobering yet peaceful. The memorial is on the north side of U.S. 41, across a canal. It sits 11 miles west of Florida State Road 997 (Krome Avenue).

Road trips are about adventure, exploration and fun. Driving across U.S. 41, seeing the sights and indulging in experiences is the best way to enjoy and understand the Everglades. Just donít forget to stop and smell the Skunk Ape.

Links

www.suite101.com/content/everglades-road-trip-on-us-41-a49389: