Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

No Sharks in Shark Valley

Thursday January 31, 2013
Site 16, Midway Campground
Big Cypress National Preserve


Rain delays our plans.


We are all set to leave for the second part of our Triathlon, the 15 mile bike ride in Shark Valley.  We want to be there when the gates open at 8:30 so we can get on the trail ahead of the trams.  The first tram starts at 9:00 and the next at 11 and then they run every hour so we could have a pretty tram free ride early in the day.

BUT Mother Nature has other ideas and at about 7:50 she starts raining.  The first rain since we’ve been here and pretty unusual for winter time.  It’s only heavy for a little while but the drizzle continues.  That wouldn’t be too bad, other than the problem of wearing glasses in drizzle, but it is only  54 degrees and in a drizzle with the pretty constant wind here in Big Cypress and moving along on a bike, 54 feels very COLD.   So we decide we’ll just go later in the afternoon.  And then about 10:00 it quits.  Still cool and windy but, we are down to our last 3 days here and have some things we have to do and some we want to do before we leave.

Does that happen to you?  You run out of time at a place before you’ve seen and done everything you want to do?   We seem to take it easy the first few days and then realize we’re down to less than half our time.  David doesn’t think we then start pushing ourselves but that is how it feels to me.  Anyway……..



We go out to take the cover off the bikes which are already on the car and find A hidden herp also delays our start.


We go out to take the cpver off the bikes which we put on the car last night and there he is.  I guess he made himself at home there on my bike last night after the cover was put on them.

Shark Valley 15 mile ride 003


I try to encourage him to get off.  Takes an amazing amount of time.  He’s slippery and I can’t pick him up and his little feet glue to wherever he goes.  He must still be cold – DUH – it is cold – so he isn’t hopping off asone would think he would.

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FINALLY I get a hold of him and take him over to the base of a tree. Later in trying to identify our frog friend I find out that bull frogs are not found south of Lake Okechobee.  I also discover the only non tree frogs in Big cypress are the Pig Frog and the Leopard Frog.  I leave it to the herpists to help me out and tell me for sure which one this is.


Shark Valley 15 mile ride 006A



Opps another delay.


We finally get on the road, drive the 17.4 miles to Shark Valley, get to the parking lot, get out the gear and………my helmet is not there.  Every other thing, including David’s helmet,  is in the back seat but my helmet, my odometer and my lights are not there.  I’m beginning to think perhaps this bike ride is doomed. 

Ok so it’s back to Winnona to get them.   I leave David to ride the trail.  I drive the 17.4 miles back to Winnona where, since I’m there I pack a lunch.  By the time I drive another 17.4 miles back to the parking lot, it will be noon.   David has all the snacks for both of us so he should be fine but I make him a sandwich anyway and leave it in the front seat of the car for him to find when he returns.  My total mileage in the car to ride a 15 mile loop will be 69.6.  LOL!


OK FINALLY I’m ready to get on the road.


Shark Valley 15 mile ride 009



The tram ride goes clockwise around the loop and the bikers go counter clockwise.  Thus they see the greatest number of birds and gators last and bike riders see them first since they are numerous in the area just adjacent to the tram station and the information center. 


This is the start of the ride.  Notice the gators nonchalantly sunning.

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Shark Valley 15 mile ride 012


I love their faces.  They look so ancientShark Valley 15 mile ride 013


The purple Gallinule’s colors are striking.


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Gators are everywhere.

As I ride along the first section of the road Gators beside the road, and on the road.  I’m just hoping they don’t stretch themselves across the road which has happened.  Then you have to wait for them to decide to move.  Talk about a delay!


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None of the wildlife is paying the walkers or bikers any mind.   They are busy with their fishing.


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They are all along the banks of the canal and in its lining trees.

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Shark Valley 15 mile ride 028


Multiple birds and gators are gathered together since deeper water is scarce in winter.

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The canal remains on the right side of road side but scenery on the left changes back and forth between hammock and sawgrass.


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I smell it and look over.


I was told that this alligator lost his life in a fight to the death with another male alligator.  National Parks allow nature to exist without interference so this odorific decaying was left by the side of the road.  It really was interesting to see.  Eventually the decomposers of all types will  leave nothing but the skeleton.

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About mile 7 I begin to see the observation tower in the distance.


  It will mark approximately the half way point.  Can you see it WAY down there?

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Bike racks are provided so you can go up in the tower.  I plan to have my lunch here.

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Shark Valley 15 mile ride 069



The ramp is easy to climb and the views get better and better as you ascend.

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Shark Valley 15 mile ride 077


Miles and miles of sawgrass.

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The gators are here too.  Sunning in the field.

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On the second half of the ride I’m in an area of prairies and ponds.

This feels more natural than the man made canal created in the 40’s by the Humble Oil Company while making their exploration roads.  But water is water and the critters are attracted to it just as we are.


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This group of wood storks who seem to be just hanging out preening in the fields.

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Then later in the wetter areas they are feeding.  They use their feet to stir up the muck in search of food.

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Here comes the tram.

Rules of the road here are that when the tram comes, the bicyclists stop.  And so I did.   Though a bit expensive at $20 for an adult ($1 discount if you are old), I think the tram ride would be interesting to take for all the information you would learn from the naturalist giving the tour.   But today I am biking.


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Shark Valley 15 mile ride 150


This wood stork is spreading his wings.  Probably drying them off after wading around feeding.

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There are flocks of birds flying. 
This is the only group I can catch while I am stopped.

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It just keeps getting better and better.


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Shark Valley 15 mile ride 159


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I reach the end of the 15 mile ride having had the road to myself for a large part of the time.  It is a great ride.  I have seen more wildlife in one place than I could even have imagined. 

I meet up with David and we share stories.  It has actually been a great idea for each of us to have had this experience on our own.

We leave our bikes to walk down the canal once again together before leaving.  We see all of what follows in no more than 1/4 mile.


 Shark Valley 15 mile ride 191


Shark Valley 15 mile ride 193


I can't get over the beautiful designs on these male anhinga.


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Shark Valley 15 mile ride 209




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There are lots of anhinga here and a nest in a tree above the canal.
The male and female take turns sitting on the nest.  His turn now.


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And on the ground, a gator nest.  Eggs hatched of course.  Did you know that because they are cold blooded alligators can’t sit on their eggs so they build a veritable compost pile to heat up and keep the eggs warm.   Those eggs which reach 92 degrees or greater become males and those incubated at lower temperatures will be females. 


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Shark Valley 15 mile ride 240




Now what kind of gathering is this??

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Black crowned night heron.

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How does a bird with webbed feet hang onto a tree limb? 

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 OK even after all this wildlife are you asking
’so where are the sharks’??

Well I was too and I found out.  This area is in the Valley of the shark River which used to flow freely through this area before it was drained/dredged/rearranged.   The Shark River at its mouth is/was a nursery for small sharks.  Thus the Shark Valley.  And sharks are one of the only animals I didn’t see today.


What a great day our second Triathlon event turned out to be.


  1. Amazing pictures of everything. I'm very interested in that observation tower. Great views from there!

  2. Oh, my gosh what a great day!!! Almost, almost feel like I have been there! Don't u ever worry about those gators taking out after you??? Really???? I would really be scared/worried... beautiful birds. that overlook thingy was massive!!! but great view!!! LOTS of great things to see!!

  3. Wow - amazing bird pictures! I especially liked the woodstork with his wings spread - not a pretty bird, but very impressive nonetheless. And, of course, the gators (and baby gators!). So glad you didn't give up on doing the ride given all the delays! Definitely worth it :)

  4. Wow, wow, wow. You got awesome animal and bird shots today. The baby alligator sitting on the head of the big alligator is great. I love the color of the baby alligator. Hard to imagine it will change to the darker color of its parent.

  5. Shark Valley is to biking what the Silver River is to Kayaking!!! Hands down, my favorite place to bike. Hope we get to stay at Midway and I will probably bike it every morning!!

  6. No wonder no sharks with all those gators. That picture of momma gator with her little one is a money shot! Way cool!!! :c)

  7. Wow -- lots of amazing wildlife views on that bike ride! Especially like the pic of baby gator with mama. But I'm kinda chicken and would've been a little scared of all those gators nearby. Yeah, I know that's a big surprise to you. :-)


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