Tamiami Trail Bridges

The road bed for Highway 41 effectively dammed the shallow “sheet flow” of water from the north, but two new bridges have restored the flow.

Hannah Perkins  in a sunhat leans out of a boat under a bridge to release a peacock bass
Water is Life:

Hannah releases a peacock bass beneath one of the new bridges.

The River of Grass used to be much larger than it is today; in the wet season, the shallow sheet flow was up to 60 miles wide, supporting a massive sawgrass marsh punctuated by tree islands, areas of open water, and stands of cypress trees. The ecosystem was home to populations of alligators, limpkins, marsh rabbits, and fish. But over the last century, a network of canals, gates, and pumps was built to get rid of excess water and drain land for agriculture—particularly sugar cane. The result was a highly compartmentalized system of disconnected habitats. In the late 1920s, construction of the Tamiami Trail, which cut across the River of Grass, effectively dammed the system, cutting off the lower Everglades from its headwaters. The reduction of fresh water flowing through Everglades National Park to Florida Bay began to affect habitat diversity and the salinity of the bay.

A map of the Everglades Watershed with Tamiami Trail Bridges marked with an orange circle near the tip
A boat plies a straight stretch of water
Hannah and Simon examine a just caught fish

In 2008, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers built a one-mile bridge at the eastern end of Tamiami Trail to allow some water to pass through and into Everglades National Park, and in 2019, the Florida Department of Transportation removed part of the existing roadbed and constructed two new, longer bridges. Increasing the amount of water flowing through the lower Everglades will strengthen grassland and mangrove ecosystems that can play an important role in carbon sequestration, storing carbon in soils and plants instead of releasing it into the atmosphere. Healthy mangrove forests will also help mitigate upcoming climate-caused disturbances, such as sea-level rise. Scientists are now studying how best to manage this water—how much and at what times of year—to achieve the biggest positive effects. The goal is to return the Everglades to a resilient system that can respond to change by itself, naturally, as much as possible.

A boat follows a straight shot of river between two roads

What you will find here...

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

A line drawing of a Florida Gar (Lepisosteus platyrhincus)

Florida Gar (Lepisosteus platyrhincus)

It’s Not What It Looks Like

What at first glance may appear to be a piece of wood drifting along could very well be a stealthy gar on the hunt. This prehistoric-looking fish, with its hard and bony armor-like scales, inhabits the waters of south Florida’s muddy-bottomed streams, canals, and lakes where it hunts for fish, insects, and crustaceans. An air bladder enables it to retain air at the surface and in low-oxygenated water.

A line drawing of a Bald Cypress (Cupressaceae)

Bald Cypress (Cupressaceae)

You’re How Old?

Known to grow up to 400 to 600 years old in the wild (the oldest in the world was believed to be 3,500 years old when it died), bald cypress trees are truly a sight to behold. With their flowing feathery branches and massive buttressed trunks, or “knees”, which are believed to be a response to growing in soft, wet soil, these iconic trees are found all over Florida and, though they are conifers, they drop their needles every fall, as a deciduous tree does. The bald cypress attracts seed-eating birds and serves as a nesting and roosting area for colonial wading birds.

A line drawing of a American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)

No, I’m Not a Crocodile

With its broad, rounded snout and no lower teeth visible when the jaw is closed, you can be assured that you’re looking at a genuine alligator. Ranging from Texas to North Carolina to the tip of Florida, these armor-clad, cold-blooded wonders of nature can grow up to 14 feet in length feeding primarily on fish, frogs, mammals, birds, and invertebrates. Not classified as endangered or threatened, the primary threat to the American alligator is the disappearance of its habitat due to wetland drainage and development.

Simon Perkins holds a gorgeous Peacock Bass
Amazon Native:

Peacock bass were introduced in the 1980s by Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Commission to prey on other non-native species.

Three people fishing off a small boat on a green ocean

Great Adventures Start Here

From your first cast to your bucket-list trip, Orvis Adventures is dedicated to helping you explore your passion.