Shark Valley in Everglades National Park

The Shark Valley entrance is on U.S. Highway 41, about two-thirds of the way from Naples to Miami.

Shark Valley entrance to Everglades National Park

Here at Shark Valley, you'll get the best views of the great River of Grass, a term coined by Marjorie Stoneman Douglas, which became the subtitle to her famous classic Everglades: River of Grass.

Trams carry visitors along a paved tram road about 8 miles into the heart of Shark River Slough.

Shark Valley trams

As mentioned elsewhere on this site, a slough is a wide, natural drainage channel, maybe a foot or two deeper than than the rest of the sawgrass plains. The waters of Shark River Slough flow ever so gently to the southwest, into places with intriguing names such as Rookery Branch, Otter Creek, and Tarpon Bay. Ultimately, these waters give rise to the Shark River and to the Harney River, both of which empty into the Gulf of Mexico.

If you could leave the Shark Valley Tram road in a glades skiff--a small, narrow and long flat-bottom boat--and follow the slough's flow to the southwest, somewhere around Rookery Branch, you'd arrive at that place where the great sawgrass plains meet the mangroves.

I had always wanted to see this mysterious place, this place that in days gone by so few had ever seen. Of course, now with helicopters, it's no big deal to get here, but in the days of the dugout it took effort and know-how. Then, on one my trips to the 'glades, my good friend, Don--the only other guy I know who's game for doing this kind of stuff--and I made the journey from the Gulf, east in search of sawgrass at the the end of the mangroves.

Searching for sawgrass at the end of the mangroves

That was, indeed, a memorable trip. One day playful porpoises jumped out of the salty, Gulf waters beside us; a couple of days later, alligators and softshell turtles paddled the clear, shallow, sweet waters beneath us. Stepping out of our canoe, under the sparse shadows of the remaining mangroves, we stared out to the northeast, seeing only the endless sawgrass of the great Shark River Slough. I felt a joyous thrill because I knew we were standing on a frontier unlike any other--the magnificent mangrove wilderness behind us and the expansive River of Grass in front of us.

Where the mangrove meets the sawgrass in Everglades National Park

Perhaps the best view in the Everlgades of the slough's exansive, grassy waters is from the tower at the end of Shark Valley's tram road. The two-hour tram tour makes about a 15-minute stop here so you can have a look.

As you gaze out to the horizon, remember "There are no other Everglades..." There's no place else like this in the entire world.

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