The refuge itself is part of the Everglades and part of the Arthur R. Marshall Foundation since 1998. They are dedicated to preserving the Everglades and its inhabitants, the Florida panther and the alligator, both listed as endangered species.
Loxahatchee is only a small part of the Glades. It begins as far north as Kissimee, draining through Lake Okeechobee and filtering into southern Florida. According to author Majorie Stoneman Douglas, the broadest point of the Everglades or "River of Grass" measures 60 miles across but is only a few feet deep.
To Florida's first settlers however, the Everglades was considered a worthless swamp. In 1881, a Philadelphia businessman named Hamilton Disston purchased four million acres of the Everglades which he promised to drain and turn into profitable farmland, but died before he had the chance. In 1904, Governor Broward initiated the drainage by constructing five major canals, all of which exist today.
In 2000, the Florida legislature recognized the need to preserve this marvelous ecosystem and ratified the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan, a 30 year plan to restore the Everglades. In 2008, land was purchased to provide a missing link from Lake Okeechobee to the Everglades. This program, along with the U.S. Sugar Corporation selling off its 187,000 acres of farmland (a longtime staple in the area) will help to revitalize the River of Grass. I also forgot to mention that the Everglades is the backup water system for three million south Floridians.
Hopefully, you can see the head of George, the 13 foot alligator. That's the name the volunteers at the Visitor's Center gave him. He was hanging out under the boardwalk and Rob got a great picture of him. You can see my shadow at the top before Susan grabbed me away.
The levees are divided into different areas and most of the alligators can be spotted here along the Marsh Trail. This is the place to go to find a gator and you won't be disappointed. Each and every time we've stopped by, we always catch one or two or three. There are also beautiful birds and wildlife can be seen as well. You can also climb to the top of an observation deck and spend hours watching and listening to everything around you.
By the way, there is plenty to do at the Visitor's Center. You can take a virtual air boat ride, learn the history of the Everglades and discover the Everglades at night. There is also a lovely butterfly garden as you drive in. The volunteers are friendly and informative and keep you in the loop as to the comings and goings of the refuge. There are boardwalks you can follow such as the Cypress Swamp trail where I'm seated above.
As usual, here are links to other sites which will talk about the Everglades in more detail:
This is the Wikipedia article:
The official site:
The Arthur R. Marshall Foundation Site, where I found the history of the Glades.
And the Everglades Trail: