Everglades National Park is situated on the southern tip of the Florida Peninsula. The park is bounded by the Gulf of Mexico to the west, the Tamiami Trail and mostly state lands to the north and the Florida Keys to the south and south-east. It includes most of Florida Bay. The biosphere reserve includes Dry Tortugas National Park, a group of seven coral reefs and surrounding shoals, coral reefs and waters.
Everglades National Park is a shallow basin tilted to the south-west and underlain by extensive Pleistocene limestone with oolitic and bryozoan facies. The park serves as a vital recharge area for the Biscayne Aquifer, a major source of freshwater for Miami and south-east Florida. It lies at the interface between temperate and subtropical America and between fresh and brackish water, shallow bays and deeper coastal waters, thus creating a complex of habitats supporting a high diversity of flora and fauna. The area of transition from freshwater (glades) to saltwater (mangrove) is a highly productive zone that incubates great numbers of economically valuable crustacea. The vegetation and flora of south Florida have fascinated scientists and naturalists since their discovery and were a primary reason for the establishment of the park. One cause of this fascination is the presence of a high percentage of West Indian species. A noteworthy feature is the rather high degree of local endemism. Hammocks or tree islands are dominated by hardwood species of both tropical and temperate affinities. The most important trees are mangroves, taxa, slash pine and cypress. Prairies can be dominated by sawgrass, muhley grass, or cordgrass in coastal areas.
The Everglades protect 800 species of land and water vertebrates, including over 14 threatened species, and 25 mammals, over 400 bird species, 60 known species of reptile, amphibian and insect, including two threatened swallowtail butterfly species. Over 20 species of snake have been recorded, including the threatened indigo snake. More than 275 species of fish are known from the Everglades, most inhabiting the marine and estuarine waters. Several species are important game species that attract thousands of anglers to the park. During autumn a continuous procession of songbirds and other migrants fly over or rest on these islands.
The park is rich in both prehistoric and historic heritage: it contains 200 known archaeological sites. A Native American group, the Miccosukee tribe of Florida, has a special use permit area inside the park. Fort Jefferson, in Dry Tortugas National Park, is the largest brick masonry fort in America. It was large enough to garrison 1,500 men, but was never involved in battle, although it did secure a post for Union forces during the Civil War and afterwards served as a prison. The park’s northern boundary is retained by the Miccosukee Indians under a special use permit for community development.
Declared a national park on 6 December 1947 under the May 1934 Act of Congress. The park was accepted as a biosphere reserve in 1976, inscribed on the World Heritage List in 1979, and was designated a Ramsar site (Wetland of International Significance) in 1987. The total area of the national park was increased in 1989 from its original size of 566, 788ha to its current size.