Federal Government Shutdown: Where to Snorkel, Kayak, and See Gators Until the National Parks Reopen
If you had grand plans for an Everglades adventure or a killer scuba session in Biscayne National Park this week, think again. Thanks to Congress' inability to get its shit together, non-essential government programs have been shut down as of this morning -- and that includes both Miami-area national parks.
That's bad news for park employees, as well as the private tourist companies who work within the park grounds. But it's not necessarily bad news for you, would-be outdoor explorer. You may not be able to see the 'Glades unique, swampy terrain or Biscayne's protected, but you can still do all the things you had in mind elsewhere in South Florida.
Hiking and Biking
For once, compared to the federal government, the state of Florida looks good. While national parks are closed, state parks like Oleta River State Park in North Miami remain open, with three miles of paved hiking trails and 14 miles of mountain biking trails that wind through dense flora and fauna while still just a stone's throw from FIU and the high rises of Sunny Isles Beach. Maybe you can even find that creepy clown statue that's hidden there. It's almost Halloween, after all.
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Oleta River State Park, open daily from 8 a.m to sundown. Admission costs $6 per vehicle. Visit floridastateparks.org/oletariver/default.cfm.
Kayaking and Snorkeling
Ordinarily, Oleta Park would be our choice for kayaking as well. But this morning, the park falls into a swimming advisory area in Northeast Miami-Dade County, due to a sewage spill. Unless you see this as your chance to develop some superhuman powers, comic book-style, you better stay out of the water.
Instead, head to Key Biscayne, well south of the affected spillage area and just as scenic. Eco Adventures runs a Key Biscayne Kayak Adventure that not only puts you in your own paddler, but lets you get out and swim around with a snorkel. Try doing that in the Everglades and you're asking for an unpleasant encounter with a water moccasin.
Eco Adventures at Crandon Park Visitors and Nature Center. Cost is $40, tax included. Visit miamidade.gov/ecoadventures.
If you're an angler set on hooking tarpon, you're pretty much out of luck right now. The Everglades is one of a very limited number of places in Miami where you can catch those suckers. But if you just wanted an easy day on the water with a rod and reel in your hand, that's another story. Fishing charters depart from Bayside Marketplace downtown, and from Haulover Marina in Bal Harbour. If you're on your own, head boats like the Kelly Fleet will get you on the water for cheap. If you're part of a group, you can haggle with the captains of smaller vessels along the docks.
Don't be fooled by the name; though it takes its title from the national park, Everglades Alligator Farm is privately owned, and sits just outside the official park grounds. So if you're dying to see one of the 'Glades' famous gators, this is your best bet. It won't be as cheap as a trip to Shark Valley (adult prices range from $15.50 to $23), but you'll get to see the reptiles do a lot more than just lay around as alligator handlers feed and show off the creatures.
Everglades Alligator Farm, with shows at 11 a.m., 2 p.m., and 5 p.m. and feedings at 12 p.m. and 3 p.m. Visit everglades.com.
Follow Ciara LaVelle on Twitter @ciaralavelle.
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