The Everglades is a subtropical wetland system in southern Florida. It is the largest wetland system in the United States, stretching from the Kissimmee River in Orlando to the southern tip of Florida. During the wet season, Lake Okeechobee overflows, releasing water into a very slow moving, shallow river dominated by sawgrass marsh and often called "the river of grass". The water flows southward, passing through a variety of interdependent ecosystems including cypress swamps, wet prairies and estuarine mangroves, until it reaches Everglades National Park itself, covering 1.5 million acres of wetland wilderness. Eventually the water reaches Florida Bay and discharges into the sea.
The low topography means that water flows broadly over Everglades National Park, creating a haven for wildlife. It has the largest concentration of wading birds on the American continent, and is also famous for its alligators. Visitors typically travel by canoe or air boat.
The Everglades landscape is threatened by water diversions and flood control projects as well as agriculture, urban development and invasive species. The size of the Everglades has decreased dramatically since the 1800's but remains a vital ecosystem for wildlife, as well as providing services such as flood defence, drinking water and recreation. It is recognised as an International Biosphere Reserve, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Ramsar Wetland of International Importance.
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