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Sunset Bike Ride in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

It’s true that a picture is worth a thousand words. Some experiences require more than words summed up in a photo to express the true impact of that place, that moment, or that memory.

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride

My bike ride on the Shark Valley loop is one of those experiences. I love documenting my travels, and I planned to document this adventure like any other. However, it turns out that I need to work on my shooting-while-bike-riding skills, so many of the photos (as you will see) have a hint of blur to them.

For the second half of this bike ride, I put my camera away and just let the moment consume me. I allowed myself to be fully present, and while I may not have photos to show for it, the beauty I witnessed that day will forever be etched in my mind.

So what is Shark Valley? 

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride

Shark Valley is located in Everglades National Park in South Florida. The access point for this loop is where the Shark Valley visitor’s center is. Here, you can rent bicycles for the fifteen-mile paved path, or you can go on a leisurely tram tour that takes you through the Everglades. From mid-December to April, tram tours leave on the hour, every hour from 9am to 4pm, and from May to mid-December tram tours leave at 9:30 am, 11:00 am, 2:00 pm, and 4:00 pm.

My Shark Valley Experience

I had long lost cell service, when my fiancé and I arrived at the Shark Valley loop off of the Tamiami Trail. We arrived just after 6pm to find the gates to the main park closed, as expected. Outside of the gates, there is room for about four to six cars to comfortably park so bicyclists can bike in before or after the park hours.

We  went late because we didn’t want to contend with the tram tours on the path, and we looked forward to a sunset ride through the Everglades.

We brought our own bikes. I have a cruiser, which was perfectly fine for this ride because the path is paved, wide, and smooth.

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride

My fiancé and I have made it a life goal to visit each of the US National Parks together. This is the first one we crossed off the list!

Tip: If you are considering biking this path after park hours, I recommend doing this ride with a buddy. It is a long ride and there is no cell reception. Once you are seven miles out in the middle of the Everglades, you are out there with no safety net. Make sure you are prepared. 

To the Observation Tower

The Shark Valley trail is a fifteen-mile loop. Each mile is painted in the middle of the path, allowing you to know how far you have gone. Half-way through the loop, is the observation tower, and we were on our way.

The Road

Right out of the gates, we were greeted by one of the local residents.

shark valley bike trail the beach review travel blog everglades

Yes, that black spot in the center of this picture is an alligator! It was about four to six feet long, and completely ambivalent to our presence. Just to be safe, we stayed as far left on the path as possible, and left it alone.

This was the closest that we got to an alligator the whole ride, but seeing this gator at the beginning of the journey was a stark reminder to always be aware of my surroundings. In Florida, it is always wise to assume that there is a gator in any type of fresh water, whether it is a retention pond, a canal, a lake, or of course, the Everglades.

We saw many more gators throughout the rest of the trip. We saw little baby gators and a some huge mamas and papas.

There are a few benches along the loop, but after seeing so many gators, I thought it best to keep the wheels of my bike moving until we got to higher ground.

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride
Endless golden plains.
Life Persists
Life persists.

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride

There were dragonflies everywhere. The gentle zip of their wings hummed across the grasslands. The curious ones would fly parallel to my bike to check me out. Others rested with effortless balance atop their own stalk of grass, awaiting the sunset show.

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride

You can barely see it, but this is the first glimpse of the observation tower way off in the distance. At this point, we had been biking for almost an hour non-stop, so it was a welcome sight.

We saw a handful of wading birds during this whole trip which I found surprising because I expected to see a lot more. We did see a lot of large ravens, especially near the observation tower. They seemed out of place yet to belong.

Watch the above time-lapse video to see the first half of my bike ride on the Shark Valley Loop trail. This video covers about seven miles of trail, and ends atop the observation tower with a special surprise in store.

I filmed the video with my iPhone attached to a selfie stick wrapped to my bike with a hair tie, so while it may not be the best quality, it still captures the spirit of Shark Valley. Enjoy!

At the Observation Tower

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride

This is the observation tower. It is forty-five feet high, and was designed by famed architect Edward M. Ghezzi. I think it looks like something you would find at Tomorrowland in Disney World. (Sorry for the awful picture, but you can’t write about the Shark Valley Loop without showing the observation tower!)

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride
Looking back at the bike path we just rode in on.

We reached the observation tower just before sunset, and the views of the watercolor sky over the Everglades are unforgettable.

shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride
Much to my disappointment, these stairs go to nowhere.
shark valley everglades national park the beach review blog bike ride
A beautiful storm off in the distance.

Continue reading Sunset Bike Ride in Shark Valley, Everglades National Park

Wakodahatchee Wetlands: A Birdwatcher’s Delight

In suburban West Delray, there is a hidden oasis that will truly delight any bird- or nature-lover. Wakodahatchee Wetlands is a tranquil, man-made wetland that has naturally become a sanctuary for over 140 species of birds, as well as a variety of amphibious and reptilian species.

The first time I arrived at Wakodahatchee Wetlands, I was awe-struck by the cacophony of bird calls, and the diversity of birds all in one location. I have never been to any other natural setting where there were so many different types of birds that I could easily observe in their natural environment. There were birds nesting, floating, and soaring in every direction! It was a cinematic moment.

Using over 50 acres of utilities land, the Palm Beach County Water Utilities Southern Regional Water Reclamation pumps nearly two million gallons of highly treated wastewater into the Wakodahatchee Wetlands. Instead of this land just being a nasty wastewater pond, or the wastewater instead being harmfully pumped into the ocean or injected into the ground, Palm Beach County (PBC) has found a way to harmonize with the natural environment. Instead of causing greater destruction, PBC has instead enhanced the lives of many birds who have lost their homes to the suburbs and development of the area.

Wakodahatchee Wetlands is a great example of how modern society can coexist with the natural world, and I think it is a place that other municipalities throughout the state of Florida and the US should tour to see how this man-made ecosystem is thriving.

The Shore-t Story

Who it is good for: The whole family

Cost: Free

Time to visit: 30 minutes+

Parking: Limited spaces, free parking, guarded parking

Activities: Walking, bird-watching, nature-watching, photography

Hours: 7am-7pm

Directions: The Wakodahatchee Wetlands are located on the east side of Jog Road between Woolbright Road and Atlantic Avenue (Exit Route 95 onto Atlantic Avenue West; continue to Jog Road; turn right; park is on the right) The site is on the southeast side of Palm Beach County Water Utility Department’s Southern Region Operations Center at 13026 Jog Road, Delray Beach.

*Tip*Go early in the morning when the birds are waking up and becoming active, and before the sun gets too hot. There are covered pavilions with sitting areas along the 3/4 mile boardwalk just in case.

What to bring: Bring a hat, sunscreen if you have sensitive skin, and definitely a bottle of water in a reusable container. There are covered seating areas if you need a respite from the sun on the walk, but most of the boardwalk is exposed. There is not really a place for picnicking, and it is best to bring as little with you as possible to reduce litter in this beautiful habitat.

The Experience

Wakodahatchee Wetlands Birdwatching Delray Beach Florida The Beach Review Travel Blog
The Wakodahatchee Wetlands welcoming committee.
Wakodahatchee Wetlands Birdwatching Delray Beach Florida The Beach Review Travel Blog
Looking out at the Wakodahatchee.
Wakodahatchee Wetlands Birdwatching Delray Beach Florida The Beach Review Travel Blog
Follow a raised boardwalk for most of the journey through the wetlands.

Wakodahatchee wetlands delray beach florida birds the beach review travel blog

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