(2017) ‘Just Beyond the Trail’ feature for enRoute Magazine
The Everglades is a world heritage site, international biosphere reserve and the most famous wetland on earth. But this was not always the case. Early colonial settlers considered the Everglades to be a worthless swampland. A sentiment was held for decades - many looked to drain the swamp and develop the land into a subtropical paradise. However in 1947, the US government designated the Everglades as a national Preserve protecting the 6,000 square kilometres of wetlands, islands, and winding waterways.
The people of Everglades City have had to adapt along with the region’s natural ecology. Although the national preserve status protected the region from further development, it also meant a ban on all hunting and fishing, stripping families of generational livelihoods and traditions that tied them closely to their land.
The meandering, mosquito-filled mangrove creeks of the famed 10,000 Islands were a smuggler’s paradise of outlaws, bank robbers, murderers, plume hunters, and rum and drug runners. In the 1970s, it was the ideal place for reeling in compressed bales of marijuana. When the boom of the smuggling economy went bust, Everglades City turned tourist. Its people still navigate the complex system of tunnels and bays, but now lead a pack of eager sight-seers and outdoor enthusiasts. The people of Everglades City are in and of their geography: as adaptable and resilient as their rugged environment.