Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gators, Birds, and a Florida Panther?

Ochopee, Florida

We left the Tampa area around 8:30 am on Monday…a record for us. 

Our plan was to go about 230 miles and try to find a campsite in the Everglades, along Highway 41.  There are a few campgrounds, but they are first come, first serve, so we didn’t know if we would be able to get a site or not.  Fortunately, we did.

Map picture

We spent Monday night at Midway Campground, in site 18.  We had 50 amp electric, but no water or sewer.  Actually they have a spigot where you can get fill your tank, but no water at the campsites.  It was okay, because we traveled with a full tank of water, anticipating we’d be staying there.  The cost with Al’s Senior Pass was $10.00.  

It was a nice campground, but out in the middle of nowhere.  It would be a great place to spend a few days.  There was a lot to do in the area.  We’d love to go back and take an airboat trip into the glades, and do some more exploring.

It was so dark last night, that you couldn’t see anything except lots of stars.

Here is a picture of our campsite.

our site at Midway Campground on hwy  in Big Cypress Preserve

The road  and sites were all paved. 

our site at Midway Campground on hwy  in Big Cypress Preserve

There is a small pond, and the sites are all situated along the pond.  The campground is nice, but it’s main attraction was being in the everglades.  



We were in the middle of the Everglades and there were alligators everywhere.  All along highway 41, there are canals along the side of the road, and all were full of gators.   The ecosystem seems to be extremely healthy.  There were birds everywhere. The canals were full of fish, gators and birds.  Driving along the highway was a wonderful experience.  It wasn’t a good place to stop and take pictures though.  There were several visitor centers where you could view the wildlife.   I would have loved to gotten some pictures of the birds sitting in the trees along side the road, but it’s a 2 lane road with enough traffic to make it unsafe to stop along the road.

I have never seen so many Anhinga’s.


anhinga taking off for flight


I have also never seen so many gators.




They were all along the canals that ran alongside the roadway.

gator alongside road canal

We stopped at a visitor center, where you could stand on a boardwalk and view them from above.  There were a lot of foreign tourists and very little English being spoken. The everglades appears to be a big tourist draw.

After we left the visitor center, we took a driving trail and shortly after starting the trail, we saw what we thought was a Florida Panther.  I didn’t get a good shot and he disappeared into the woods, but this is what I saw.  I was disappointed I didn’t get a better picture, but what I saw looked very much like a panther.  It was large and it wasn’t a dog.  It had the shape of a cat.

Florida Panther?

A little while later, we saw a small snake curled up in the middle of the road.  Of course, Al had to get out and poke it, to get it out of the road.  He thought it may have been hit by a car, but he wanted to at least attempt to help it get to safety.

al trying to rescue snake...pgmy rattler?

There was no arguing with him!

snake...pgmy rattler?

You  can see his fangs if you look carefully. He thought it might have been a Pygmy Rattler.   Wonderful!

We  found a few other places to stop and look at gators.  This place had a pile of 9 gators…all big boys!



I don’t know what was wrong with this ones mouth.  It may have had an injury.

inside gator mouth



pissed off gator

It is extremely dangerous to feed alligators, even small ones.  It’s against the law and there are signs all over, telling you not to do it.


Once they lose their fear of man, they are dangerous.

There are always people who want to feed them and we ran into a family that had hot dogs that they were feeding the small gators.  I think they might have been from Brazil and only the woman spoke much English.  I think I educated her in why they shouldn’t feed gators.  I hope so anyway.

Here is a “swamp buggy.”  They use these to travel in the everglades.  I guess they are hunters.


This gator appeared to be making eye contact.


The water was teeming with fish.  No one went hungry!

alligator Garr

The Everglades is truly a beautiful place.  We had driven through it years ago, but always in a hurry to get to the Keys.  We felt lucky to have had some time to explore it a little bit.  Boy were there a lot of birds.  We hope to be able to go back and spend a few more days.  Winter is the time to go though.  It was pretty warm yesterday and we ended up running the a/c all night long.  No mosquitos though.   We got lucky.

We got up early today and went looking for that panther….but we never saw him again.

It was then time to head towards the Keys.  More on that tomorrow, but we are in the Keys and and it was a beautiful drive.  We think we’re going to love it here!


  1. That has to be one of our most favorite places....The Everglades. Spent a week there last January and would love to spend more time. Thanks for sharing your great photos and I think you saw a panther also!! How cool!!!!

  2. WOW just the thought that I might have seen a panther would have thrilled me to death. They are so endangered and their numbers decreasing so fast. Lucky you! Congratulations!! We hope to be where you were in February for at least a week maybe more. Come on back and join us!


  3. Oh, MY, that is ALOT of alligators!!! Isn't it frightening?

  4. Sounds like wonderful trip thru the everglades, we are enjoying your pictures.

  5. Great pictures. I made sure we kept the girls on a short leash when we were in the Everglades. Every campground had a pond with gators in them. And you would love the airboat ride.

  6. What AWESOME pictures! Paul would love to be where you are. It does sound like a great place to enjoy nature.

  7. your campground looks very nice!..as for the gators?..I guess Tucker wouldn't be going swimming?

  8. Great price on for your campsight. But, I'm so confused...you are so afraid of little green frogs but not those big toothy gators. LOL! Be careful out there.

  9. Great price on for your campsight. But, I'm so confused...you are so afraid of little green frogs but not those big toothy gators. LOL! Be careful out there.

  10. Great photos, guys! Lucky you to have seen a panther! Glad you got in at Midway..

  11. Wow, that is great that you were able to glimpse a panther. The last time we were down there, I found a fresh print, but no cat.
    Those gators look fat and happy. Hope they are gobbling up those invasive pythons.
    Thank you for sharing your journeys with us.

  12. thought you would be able to land a spot for a night there and glad you did... especially after the possible panther sighting... we head to the keys on the 7th of Jan...

  13. Nice looking campground. And I thought Gainesville was GATOR Country. Looks like you were in it! Have fun in the Keys-we'll be following.

  14. We stayed at Midway Campground in March 2008 and then biked to the Visitor's Center down the road. We enjoyed our visit there but we didn't get to see a glimpse of a Florida Panther. Looks like it could have been one, so cool!

    Kevin and Ruth

  15. What a wonderful post and wow on seeing so many gators! We will have to get there someday (but keep the doggers in the rig!)

    Karen and Steve
    (Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard


Please feel free to leave comments. We love to read them! To contact me directly you can send e-mail to rvtravels2@yahoo.com