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Alligators, Art and the Tamiami Trail Everglades – A Backroad Florida Day Trip

Tamiami Trail Everglades

Most Florida travelers have heard of the Tamiami Trail (State Route 41) going from Tampa to Miami, Florida. Most travelers don’t know Tamiami Trail Everglades is a must-see backroad Florida day trip when it crosses the heart of the Everglades.

There is a section of the Tamiami Trail that is rarely traveled since the opening of the I-75 expressway from Naples to Miami through the Everglades. The I-75 toll road is misnamed the “Alligator Alley”. 

Route 41 in Tamiami Trail in the heart of the Everglades.

I-75 Named Alligator Alley

In previous years, before the opening of I-75, misnamed Alligator Alley, people traveled a two-lane part of the Tamiami Trail, Route 41, to Miami.

The road was dark, dangerous and almost treacherous at night.

Then I-75, now named the Alligator Alley, opened. It too had problems, primarily with the alligators that gave the highway the name. The name, Alligator Alley, was for the swamp home of alligators that had to be disrupted to build the road.

They continued to cross the highway daily. Accidents were frequent. Something had to be done.

 I-75 was rebuilt with fences and drains under the freeway. The alligators are now less intrusive or we are less intrusive to them!

In fixing the problem with wildlife crossings, they raised the view and made the trip across Alligator Alley less attractive for site-seers.

The True “Alligator Alley” on Your List of Backroad Florida Day Trips is Tamiami Trail

Tamiami Trail alligators are more plentiful and much more visible, plus there are no toll roads.

Seeing an alligator while traveling the pay-to-travel concrete highway I75, however, is very fortunate, if you see one at all – even though they call it the Alligator Alley! Many alligators have moved further into the Everglades.

 Tamiami Trail alligators lay alongside the road in canals and sloughs making them much more visible. 

things you need when flying

There are a few miles of the Tamiami Trail, south of the I-75 superhighway, which is truly a backroad Florida day trip adventure. This section of the Tamiami Trail from Carnestown to the Miccosukee Indian School, about a 50-mile stretch, is more aptly named “Alligator Alley”. See the Map of the Tamiami Trail Everglades below.

This less-traveled highway includes a trek directly through the heart of the Everglades. On many warm sunny days, Tamiami Trail alligators line the swamp alongside the Trail.

Traveling east after starting the Tamiami Trail in Naples, Florida, you arrive at Carnestown. This is no more than, a crossroads of Rt. 41 Tamiami Trail and State Road 29.

Rt. 29 south from the Tamiami Trail travels to Everglades City, one of the last frontier cities in the Everglades. From there the road goes to Chokoloskee, an Everglades Island off Everglades City. 

For our adventure, stay on Rt. 41 (Tamiami Trail) that begins a journey through the Florida backcountry. Along the way, the first village is Ochopee noted for the smallest Post Office in the country. This little one-room post office is about the size of an outhouse! It is a tourist attraction ready for a photograph!

Ochopee, Florida – Forgotten Tamiami Trail Everglades Town

In the history of the Tamiami Trail, this little area, Ochopee, was nothing more than a tomato farm over a hundred years ago. The population grew until the government started buying property as part of a movement to preserve the Everglades.

A few miles down the road is Wooten’s Airboats. The waterway trails through the Everglades are followed by Wooten’s and other airboat operators to give visitors a sense of the beauty and diversity of the swamps and lowlands. 

It’s a fun airboat trip in the Everglades and plenty of picture-taking moments with up close-up views of Tamiami Trail alligators and their habitat. Birders will delight at the many Everglades’ unique species.

As you travel the Tamiami Trail Everglades,  you have the opportunity to see one of Florida’s most magnificent preserves called The Big Cypress Swamp.

You will see everything from the colorful Everglades’ birds to densely wooded areas harboring panthers, bears, wild boar and deer. The changing natural backdrop seems to come and go around each corner.

Loop Road and Clyde Butcher Galleries – Must See on Your Backroad Florida Road Trip

At about mile marker 53, keep an eye out for a road called Loop Road. We have written about this true Tamiami Trail alligator heaven. Read about how this Loop Road cuts through an area we only recommend with certain preparations.

A Loop Road backroads Florida adventure is not for the meek or someone who is adverse to the “swamp angels”. Add Loop Road to your bucket list of backroad Florida day trips.

After passing Loop Road, be prepared to stop at one of the most interesting art galleries you will encounter anywhere. Yes, an art gallery in the middle of the swamp called the Clyde Butcher Galleries

Butcher has dedicated his life to capturing the sights from deep within the Everglades. His portraits see life as it exists from dawn to dusk as only the Everglades can produce. Don’t miss this stop on your backroad Florida day trip along the Tamiami Trail.

It should be noted, one of the largest Tamiami Trail alligators we ever saw was in a little slough next to the art gallery. The gallery also has a boardwalk that goes deep into the swamp.

Things To Do in The Everglades

alligators on trail
Along Route 41 Tamiami Trail in the Everglades.
Clyde Butcher Galleries is part of Alligators Art and the Tamiami Trail - Great Florida Day Trip
Clyde Butcher Cypress Galleries is worth the stop. Butcher is the most famous Everglades photographer in the world.
florida road trip the Tamiami Trail Everglades Kirby Storter roadside park and boardwalk
The Kirby Storter Roadside Park is a great place to stop for some photo opportunities deep in the Everglades.
Sign of Alligators at Clyde Butcher Galleries.
This sign is along side a swamp next to Butcher gallery. Plenty of things to see on their boardwalk on Route 41 Tamiami Trail.
Everglades bird
Birds along Route 41 Tamiami Trail are plentiful.
everglades airboat
The airboat is the way to see the river of grass and the swamps in the Everglades.
Florida day trips will tamiami trail everglades alligators
Tamiami Trail alligators in the swamp. This one was looking for a meal.
everglades purple gallinule
This purple gallinule was also looking for a meal near the Tamiami Trail Florida.
Everglades Miccosukee indian village
The Miccosukee have numerous villages and places of interest as you emerge from the eastern end of our Everglades Tamiami Trail adventure.
smallest post office in the world
This one room Ochopee post office is smaller than a jail cell! It is the smallest post office in America. It is located on Route 41 Tamiami Trail.
Tamiami Trail Hiking Trails
There are many hiking trails along the Tamiami Trail . You must come prepared for the harsh environment if you plan to wander around The Everglades.

Kirby Storter Roadside Park & Boardwalk

At mile marker 62.5 is a gem in the middle of the Everglades. Kirby Storter Roadside Park is a place to relax on your travels. The park has restroom facilities, information about the Everglades and picnic tables.

Another reason to stop is the mile-long (round trip) boardwalk that takes you deep into the Everglades. Just a couple hundred yards into the swamp you will be seeing and hearing the sounds of the swamp.

The boardwalk has a small hut about halfway. In just a few quiet minutes, with camera in hand, you will be able to capture the essence of this fabulous ecosystem. This harsh wilderness is home to unique birds, insects, flora and other wildlife.

Tamiami Trail Restaurant - Jo Anns
The only restaurant you will find on the Tamiami Trail Map below.

Attractions Along Route 41 Tamiami Trail Everglades

You can’t travel the Tamiami Trail without encountering the villages, art, and attractions of the Miccosukee Indians. This Native American tribe is an offshoot of the Seminole Indians. The Miccosukee are part of the colorful history of the Tamiami Trail Everglades.

The Seminoles aligned themselves with the British in the Revolutionary War. The new Americans persecuted the Seminoles and drove most of them into reservations in the western United States.

Some Seminoles refused to leave Florida and migrated to south Florida and the Everglades where they were hard to find. They became the Miccosukee Indians named after a village burned by Andrew Jackson in the early 1800s.

The Miccosukee have been granted their territory in the Everglades called The Miccosukee Nation. Besides government assistance, they have their own governing authority. The Miccosukee have a large retail presence along I-75, Alligator Alley to the north, with rest stops, visitor shops and exhibitions.

The Miccosukee survived the harsh Everglades. They found a way of life that represented freedom even at the cost of most comforts created by generation after generation in America. They persist today and try to preserve their culture. At one point in the history of the Tamiami Trail, alligators were a source of food and hides for trading the Native Americans relied upon.

Other Attractions and Mile Markers on the Tamiami Trail Florida

The first Visitor Center for the Everglades is at mile marker 74. You will find some information and some facts about the Everglades.

At mile marker 71.5 is Jo Ann’s Blue Crab. This is the only food along your trip, but don’t plan on it. The hours for JoAnn’s seem to be inconsistent – sometimes open, sometimes not!

Mile marker 69 is a recommended stop. On the north side of the road, you will find H.P. Williams Roadside Park. The fun here is the boardwalk that has yet to disappoint us with numerous Tamiami Trail Florida alligators mulling around the slough along the walkway.

Tamiami Trail Everglades Kayaking
Many places along the Tamiami Trail in the Everglades to Kayak.

Fewer Tamiami Trail Alligators After the School

Our Florida backroad day trip ends at the Miccosukee School and village you will see on the south side of the Tamiami Trail.

Perhaps you can imagine life in the swamp 150 years ago when the Miccosukee fled here. Even today the contrast between the swamp versus America’s playground, Miami Beach, just a few miles east, is hard to visualize.

Many Florida day trips we encounter have these stark contrasts. That is why we call Florida wild and wonderful.

Other Questions About The Everglades and Tamiami Trail

What is the Everglades in Florida?

The Everglades is a vast and unique wetland ecosystem located in the southern part of the state of Florida. It is a subtropical wilderness area known for its distinctive landscape, wildlife, and environmental significance. Here are some key features and facts about the Everglades:

  1. Wetland Wilderness – The Everglades is often referred to as a “River of Grass”, first named that by writer Marjory Stoneman Douglas, because it consists of a slow-moving, shallow river that is primarily comprised of sawgrass marshes, freshwater sloughs, and tree islands. It is one of the largest tropical wilderness areas of any kind in the U.S.
    Route 41 Tamiami Trail Bird
    The beauty of the swamp and the inhabitants is worth the trip along the Tamiami Trail in the Everglades.
  1. Wildlife Habitat – The Everglades is home to a diverse range of wildlife, including alligators, crocodiles, manatees, Florida panthers, numerous bird species, and a variety of fish and reptiles. It is considered an internationally important habitat for birds and other wildlife.
  1. Environmental Importance – The Everglades plays a crucial role in maintaining the ecological balance of the region. It acts as a natural filter for water flowing south from Lake Okeechobee, helps recharge the Biscayne Aquifer (the primary source of drinking water for South Florida), and provides important flood control functions.
  1. National Parks – A significant portion of the Everglades is protected by several national parks and wildlife refuges, including Everglades National Park, Big Cypress National Preserve, and several other conservation areas.
  1. Tourism – The Everglades is a popular destination for tourists and outdoor enthusiasts. Visitors can explore the wetlands through airboat tours, hiking trails, wildlife observation, and fishing. State and national parks are dotted all along the Tamiami Trail.
  1. Conservation Efforts – The Everglades has faced significant environmental challenges over the years, including habitat loss, pollution, and invasive species. Various efforts have been made to restore and protect this unique ecosystem, with ongoing initiatives to maintain its health and vitality.
  1. Cultural Significance – The Everglades holds cultural significance for Native American tribes like the Miccosukee and Seminole, who have lived in the region for centuries.

The Everglades is not only a natural wonder but also a critical area for biodiversity and environmental preservation. It has been the focus of conservation efforts to ensure its long-term sustainability, bio-diversity and ecological health. The importance of the Everglades to Florida cannot be overstated.

How Big is The Everglades in Florida?

The Florida Everglades is a vast and expansive ecosystem covering more than 1.5 million acres (about 2,343 square miles or 6,070 square kilometers) in southern Florida.

This wetland wilderness encompasses a wide range of habitats, including sawgrass marshes, freshwater sloughs, tree islands, mangrove forests, and cypress swamps. Everglades National Park, which is a significant part of this ecosystem, covers over 1.5 million acres on its own.

There are no exact boundaries of the Everglades, but the Everglades is the largest tropical wilderness areas in the United States and plays a critical role in the region’s ecology and hydrology.

Tamiami Trail Alligators Become Scarce After Passing School

Our Florida backroad day trip ends at the Miccosukee School and village you will see on the south side of the Tamiami Trail.

Perhaps you can imagine life in the swamp 150 years ago when the Miccosukee fled here. Even today the contrast between the swamp versus America’s playground, Miami Beach, just a few miles east, is hard to visualize.

Many Florida day trips we encounter have these stark contrasts. That is why we call Florida wild and wonderful.

Map of the Tamiami Trail Everglades A Backroads Florida Day Trip 

Tamiami Trail -backroad Florida Day Trip Tamiami trail alligators
Map of the Tamiami Trail Everglades is the subject of our Backroad Florida Day Trip Adventure. The distance may be short, but the day trip in Florida to get there is worth the time. The Everglades change every day!

Other Things To Do in The Everglades

Other Backroad Florida Day Trips:

The Old Spanish Trail – A Backroad Florida Adventure

Rt. 98 – The Panhandle – A Florida Backroad Trip

Loop Road – The Alligator Super Highway that we highly recommend with caution.

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