Shingle Creek

The headwaters of the Everglades watershed is a slow, meandering, cypress-lined creek just outside the city of Orlando.

A bridge crosses the green gloom of an overgrown Shingle Creek
The Source:

Fresh water from Shingle Creek is vital to the health of the Everglades, hundreds of miles to the south.

Rising from a swamp just south of the bustling city of Orlando, Shingle Creek is considered the headwaters of the entire Everglades watershed. This unassuming waterway is the start of an incredible natural drainage system that historically delivered clean, fresh water all the way to Florida Bay—a journey of some 350 meandering miles. Unfortunately, over the past century, man has interrupted this flow at several key points along the way, most notably at Lake Okeechobee. Today, the Everglades and the bay receive less than half the fresh water they need to support the unique habitats that are home to a wide variety of plants and animals, some of which don’t exist anywhere else on the planet. The Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan (CERP), passed in 2000, aims to reconnect Shingle Creek and the Everglades, sending more clean water south.

A simple map of southern Florida with You Are Here marked at Shingle Creek
An old log cabin among the trees
Simon Perkins points out the sights to his cousin, Hannah Perkins

Over its 23-mile course, before it flows into Lake Tohopekaliga, Shingle Creek meanders through swamplands, wet prairies, pine islands, and cypress forests. (The creek’s name derives from these cypress trees, from which shingles are made.) Its remarkable populations of animals, birds, and fish make it a popular destination for hikers, canoers, kayakers, and wildlife watchers. In a single day, visitors have the chance to see dozens of different species, from the mundane to the exotic. Whitetail deer and wild turkeys appear onshore, while alligators sun themselves or lurk in backwaters. Birders can spot herons, egrets, ibis, wood ducks, and even bald eagles. As it is everywhere in Florida, the key to this healthy ecosystem is fresh water, and in the next five stops along this journey we will focus on how people are working to restore the natural flow of this vital resource.

a satellite map of Florida, highlighting the location of Shingle Creek

What you will find here...

...and what is at stake of being lost.

A line drawing of a Black Crappie, a squat round fish

Black Crappie (Pomoxis nigromaculatus)

What’s My Name?

If you’re a Floridian, it’s a speck, or speckled perch; if you’re a visitor, you’d call it a black crappie. Found over much of the state of Florida, this popular game fish thrives in clear, calm water, such as lakes, reservoirs, and slow-moving rivers, yet unlike most panfish, it feeds primarily offshore on small fish. Its scales are typically yellowish green in color, and it features large dorsal and anal fins that are practically identical in size.

A line drawing of the Hooded Pitcher Plant

Hooded Pitcher Plant (Sarracenia minor)

Don’t Fly Too Close

Deadly to insects but not to humans, the insectivorous hooded pitcher plant, commonly found in swampy environments of northern Florida, lures flying insects into its tube-like leaves with an enticing combination of nectar, scent, and translucent patches on the leaves. Once deep inside, the insects are trapped by reverse-facing hairs and slippery walls. The plant then digests the insects leaving only tiny, indigestible body parts behind.

A line drawing of a bobcat

Bobcat (Lynx rufus)

Here, Kitty, Kitty …

Though seldom seen, bobcats are, in fact, widely distributed throughout Florida. These stealthy and efficient hunters prey on squirrels, rabbits, rats, and various ground birds, and typically call the deep forest, swamps, and hammock land of Florida’s unpopulated regions home. However, they can also be found in urban and suburban areas, where they may occasionally take a feral cat or domestic chicken. Approximately twice the size of an average domesticated cat, the bobcat is identifiable by its tufted ears, mottled or spotted fur, and its trademark short or “bobbed” tail. 

A bird's eye view of Shingle Creek running through trees toward buildings
Urban Oasis:

Shingle Creek offers a wilderness experience right outside the city of Orlando.

Three people fishing off a small boat on a green ocean

Great Adventures Start Here

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