People are often surprised to find out that the Florida Everglades is actually a very large, slow-moving river. Another common misconception about the Everglades is that it is just one, individual habitat: the Everglades. The famed “River of Grass” is actually a nickname for the sawgrass marsh, just one of several different habitats that exist here within the Glades.

Each one is defined by its:

  • Water level
  • Land elevation
  • Type of vegetation
Sawgrass, Everglades Eco Tours

Sawgrass marsh

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Here is the signature “river of grass” environment for which the Everglades is best known. It’s an area much more shallow than the slough and stays flooded for the better part of the year. It has low species diversity, with the dense areas of sawgrass favored by alligators for nesting. Unlike the hardwood hammock, it can bounce back from fire quickly because of its wet roots.

Sloughs

Much deeper than the sawgrass marsh, this area is more river than grass and the main area of water flow of the Everglades. This low lying section of land channels a current that slowly moves at a whopping 100 feet (30 meters) every day! The slough (pronounced “SLOO”) section of the Everglades is made up of two main sections, The Shark River Slough located along in the center and south, and the Taylor Slough on the eastern side.

Hardwood hammock

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The hardwood hammock is a dense area of trees and shrubs. Tropical tree species like gumbo limbo and cocoplum grow beside more temperate species like hackberry, live oak, and even red maple. Because of its open understory and high humidity, the hammock region is fire-resistant, but strong drought conditions make them easy prey for fire damage.

Pinelands

Also known as the pine rocklands, it is an area of forest that sits on exposed limestone substrate. It is found on higher ground like another dry habitat, the hardwood hammock. While named for its abundance of slash pine, much of the ground is covered by saw palmetto. Fire plays an important role for the pines here. Periodic fires burn away hardwood trees while sparing the well-adapted pines, letting more sunlight in to help pine seedlings grow.

Everglades Eco Tours, Florida wildlife

The Everglades is a unique place to visit, having a variety of facets to it that are unlike any in the world. Each one can be explored for hours on a canoe kayak, but aprivate airboat tour can take you on an exciting ride through many of them and also show you their individual beauty one-by-one!