The Everglades is one of Earth’s most unique natural treasures, made up of wetlands, sawgrass plains, tree islands, ridges, and sloughs that support an incredible diversity of life. In its natural conditions, slow moving freshwater flowed through the system from north to south, which gave the Everglades its iconic name, the “River of Grass.” In 1947, Everglades National Park was the first unit of the National Park System established solely for its biological diversity and not for iconic mountains, canyons, or other awe-inspiring monuments. But Everglades National Park is just the southernmost part of the 18,000 square-mile Greater Everglades Ecosystem that begins in the north with the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes near Orlando, then flows through Lake Okeechobee, the Caloosahatchee and St. Lucie estuaries, and south to Florida Bay. The beauty of this vast wetland ecosystem was found in its water and the diverse abundance of life that water supports.
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