Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Libra. Libra Wonders, “What is happening to the Everglades?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Libra!

What comes to mind when you think of Florida? You might think of sunshine, oranges, and beaches. You may even picture theme parks full of rides and games. However, visitors to southern Florida might have different memories. They would think of crocodiles, panthers, and swamps. That’s because southern Florida is home to the Everglades!

The Everglades is a huge wetland ecosystem. It stretches from central Florida to the state’s southern tip. Scientists estimate the Everglades covers over two million acres!

Where does all that water come from? Florida is surrounded by ocean, but the water in the Everglades is from rain. Florida’s wet season sees up to 60 inches of rain. This causes the shallow Lake Okeechobee to overflow. Water from the lake floods the land above a wide, underground limestone shelf.

Water moving along the shelf forms a river. If you’re imagining a strong current of quick-moving water, think again! This river is over 60 miles wide and 100 miles long. It moves very slowly. Watching it, some people can’t tell it’s moving at all. In fact, the water only moves about a half-mile each day. It takes water leaving Lake Okeechobee months to reach Florida Bay.

This slow-moving river creates the Everglades. The area includes miles of swamps, prairies, and forests. Its sawgrass marshes have earned it the nickname “River of Grass.” These diverse habitats make the Everglades home to a variety of wildlife.

Have you ever seen a Florida panther? Do you know the difference between crocodiles and alligators? You can learn about all of these animals in the Everglades. Other animals who call the area home include snakes, manatees, and dolphins. You can find 350 species of birds in the region’s forests!

Humans have hurt the Everglades. We have drained away much of the wetlands to make the land usable for building. The size of the Everglades has been cut down a lot. Many habitats have been ruined, which hurts the animals who lived there.

Today, people are working harder to protect the Everglades. Much of the area is part of Everglades National Park. That means it’s protected by the U.S. government. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage site and a Wetland of International Importance. This means more people are watching what happens in the Everglades. Hopefully, we can keep the wetlands around for the future.

The next time you visit the Sunshine State, consider heading down to the Everglades. It may not be a beach or theme park, but this natural attraction can be just as much fun! The Everglades is one of the most beautiful and diverse natural regions in the United States.

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You might want to bring some tissues with you to Wonderopolis tomorrow!