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Alligators, Birds and Plants, Oh my!

Oct 14, 2013, 2:03 p.m.

www.fws.gov/okefenokee;

www.okefenokeeadventures.com

Everglades National Park

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A boardwalk along the Anhinga Trail in Everglades National Park makes wildlife viewing accessible to all.

It’s a seven-hour, 385-mile drive from Okefenokee to the Everglades, and I didn’t want to go. When I read that the best way to see the alligators is to walk along a 0.8-mile boardwalk, I turned up my nose. After all, I rode in a low-lying boat through a swamp in Georgia, so why would I want to peer down at gators from a raised walkway? So tame. So tacky.

I was wrong. Everglades National Park is nature at its most convenient and abundant. A one-hour walk along the Anhinga Trail lets us get up close and personal with more alligators and birds than we’d seen from farther away and during much longer expeditions.

We get about 10 feet down the path when a giant black bird with a yellow bill hops on the rail in front of us. He’s waving a small fish in his mouth. We stand mesmerized for several minutes while the cormorant shakes the fish into submission, positions him in line with his throat and swallows him whole.

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A cormorant spreads his wings before diving into the water for his dinner.

A few feet farther, a large osprey spreads his wings, his white upper feathers looking like a fringed cape against the black background.

We turn left along a nice plank pathway. With the water undisturbed by a moving boat, dozens of alligators sun in peace, some half submerged, others happily snoozing in the roots of swamp trees, others completely visible.

The boardwalk makes a stable resting place for tripods, and there seem to be more photographers than gators or birds. Yet the mood is serene. Despite the manmade conveniences, we feel at one with nature.

www.nationalparks.org/explore-parks/everglades-national-park

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