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Everglades National Park in Winter and Spring: Are You Prepared?

Winter is the busiest time in Everglades National Park as most people prefer to deal with crowds and congestion rather than summer's heat, humidity, and bugs.
itiswild.com Everglades National Park in Winter and Spring
Airboats at Everglades National Park
Source: unsplash

Unlike many parts of the United States, Everglades National Park experiences two seasons rather than four. The dry winter season begins in mid or late November and usually continues into early May. 

Unlike the wet, mosquito-filled summer, the winter and early part of spring offer drier weather, lower humidity, and fewer torrential rainstorms. 

Instead of downpours, occasional and quick-moving squall lines pass through the area with wind and rain.

Every traveler will have a favorite time of the year to visit Everglades National Park. Visitors who come to the park during the drier late fall, winter, and early spring months should prepare for crowds. 

Air-conditioning has made tourism more of a year-round activity in much of peninsular Florida than it was a century ago. 

However, most of the time visitors spend within the Everglades either takes place outdoors or while traveling in their vehicles since there are no hotel or lodge accommodations within the park. 

Fortunately, guests will contend with fewer insects during the dry season. Pleasant evenings, cooler days, and drier forecasts await. 

These conditions also have an observable effect on the area’s wildlife. Although lower humidity remains constant during most of the dry season, there are noticeable temperature variations between early January and late April. 

Those who visit Everglades National Park during the dry season should bring plenty of sunscreen, a jacket or sweater ‘just-in-case,’ insect repellant, and more than a little patience. 

Related: Everglades in Summer and Fall

One of many airboat companies taking tourists out to the Everglades National Park for a wildlife tour.
Airboat Tour – Source: dreamstime

Pros of Visiting Everglades National Park in Winter:

  • Comfortable temperatures and lower humidity
  • Numerous ranger-led programs, tours, and other outdoor activities
  • Excellent opportunities to see wildlife, including alligators and migratory birds
  • Infrequent rain and fewer pesky insects
  • Hiking, biking, canoeing, and kayaking are more comfortable than in the wet season
  • Reduced risk of unexpected rough tropical weather, such as hurricanes

Cons of Visiting Everglades National Park in Winter:

  • Crowded areas at many observation points and along roadways
  • Parking lots at overlooks, trails, visitor centers, and at Flamingo may become congested
  • Difficulty taking some tours without advance reservations
  • The lack of foodservice and concessions makes it difficult for those who do not pack enough
  • Increased attendance may limit tour and camping options for those without reservations
Woman and active senior kayaking on Nine Mile Pond in Everglades National Park, Florida on sunny winter afternoon..
Kayaking in Everglades – Source: dreamstime

Things to Do in Everglades National Park in Winter:

  • Bird and nature watching
  • Fishing
  • Camping (but make reservations in advance)
  • Hiking and biking along trails
  • Canoeing and kayaking along waterways
  • Taking available tours, such as airboats
  • Enjoying ranger-led programs

Within the dry season, a period between mid-November and mid-May, weather conditions and visitor usage patterns do vary month-by-month. Some of these trends and additional information are included below. 

Related: Everglades in Summer and Fall

Everglades in November

EVERGLADES in NOVEMBER - tourists on airboat.jpg
Source: dreamstime
  • Average Maximum Temperature: 83°F
  • Average Minimum Temperature: 63°F
  • Average Monthly Precipitation: 2.28 inches

By Thanksgiving, crowds begin to return to the Everglades to enjoy the transition to the dry season. 

While warmer temperatures and humidity may persist into this month, rainfall levels noticeably decline. The 5.54 average inches of rainfall experienced in October usually fall by more than half. 

Hurricane season officially ends at the end of the month, and many of the migratory birds that spend part of their winter in the Everglades have arrived.

November is a month when more visitors return, and those that arrive feel comfortable venturing greater distances from their vehicles without fear of swarms of mosquitoes. 

While between 50,000-70,000 guests enter the park in October, attendance numbers in November usually surpass 80,000 people. 

Backcountry campers start to explore destinations that have had few overnight visits for months, while RVs begin to fill prime spots in Flamingo after Veterans Day. 

This month marks a period when many species look for new places to live or adjust their daily routines. Alligators begin making their moves during November. 

The April courtship and mating during May and June usually lead female gators to lay between 32 and 46 eggs. Babies born in August or September begin to follow the water’s retreat by November. They will get to places where they can burrow during colder months.

Gopher tortoises, another sentinel species in Florida that has a presence in some upland Everglades habitats, may also dig new burrows for the winter. Their microhabitats help sustain more than 300 other animal species.

Everglades in December

A gorgeous sunset over the Anhinga Trail Boardwalk in Everglades National Park.
The Anhinga Trail Boardwalk – Source: dreamstime
  • Average Maximum Temperature: 79°F
  • Average Minimum Temperature: 57°F
  • Average Monthly Precipitation: 1.37 inches

A growing number of visitors make an effort to visit the Everglades in December. The number of guests passing through the three land entrances or arriving by boat usually exceeds 80,000 and can surpass 110,00 in busier years. 

Campsites will quickly fill. Those planning to camp in the park should confirm reservations in advance and make sure that their preferred site suffered no damage during the tropical season. 

As the water level recedes, mosquitoes and other pests become less annoying. The sheet flow in the sloughs reduces and, in some locations, disappears. 

Animals congregate near available moist areas and water sources, providing improved wildlife viewing opportunities in weather that is more pleasant for extended periods outdoors. 

Water draining from swamps creates an entirely different landscape in some areas. Sawgrass marshes that require airboats during the hot-and-humid summers change into sawgrass prairies where careful foot travel is often possible. 

The lower water also reveals the bald cypress buttresses – or knees – that support the trees but remain hidden during the wet season.

Alligators continue to create holes by moving muck and creating openings near the limestone rocks near the surface. 

These holes never dry entirely, and their presence offers an added benefit to the gators since they attract other wildlife that the gators may hunt. 

These new holes usually take shape before evening temperatures dip too far below the mid-50s, becoming winter homes that will help the gators get through the cooler months. 

Everglades in January

Tourists sightseeing in Everglades Safari Park
Everglades Safari Park in January – Source: dreamstime
  • Average Maximum Temperature: 78°F
  • Average Minimum Temperature: 54°F
  • Average Monthly Precipitation: 1.65 inches

After the New Year begins, visits to the park surge. The peak period for visitors usually covers mid-January into early March. 

Attendance usually surpasses 100,000 guests in January, with numbers sometimes exceeding 125,000. 

Campsites and RV lots fill, visitor programs increase, and reservations for programs within the park and overnight accommodations in nearby areas become more difficult to confirm. 

Tram tours and bicycle rentals at the Shark Valley Entrance nearly always require advance reservations. 

Vehicle traffic on the Tamiami Trail and the popular Loop Road Scenic Drive within Big Cypress National Preserve increases.

In addition to visitation within the park, activities in nearby areas also increase. At Big Cypress, campgrounds fill quickly, as do walks and swamp buggy nature tours offered by the Big Cypress Institute

While locations in the Naples/Fort Myers area and from Palm Beach to Miami experience their seasonal uptick of “snowbirds,” even quieter destinations such as Everglades City and Chokoloskee will see an uptick in visitors. 

State-operated preserves, such as Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park, Florida’s largest state park, offer programs for those who plan to expand their Everglades adventures outside of the national park. 

Those driving on remote paved roads, especially State Road 29 near Fakahatchee, should be on the lookout for gators sunning themselves on the pavement.

Ectothermic animals, alligators need external heat sources to maintain their body temperature. During the wet and hot season, they stay in the water during the afternoon, coming out to dry in the mornings or near sunset. 

Visitors to the Everglades and south Florida have a much better chance of seeing alligators basking in the afternoon sun during the winter. 

They usually become dormant as ambient temperatures fall below 55°F, staying in burrows or shallow areas of warm water.

Related: Everglades in Summer and Fall

Everglades in February

Anhinga chicks and a parent
Source: unsplash
  • Average Maximum Temperature: 80°F
  • Average Minimum Temperature: 56°F
  • Average Monthly Precipitation: 1.85 inches

The shortest month of the year often has the longest line of vehicles steaming along Florida’s only four-digit highway, State Road 9336, as they approach the main entrance to Everglades National Park. 

Between 110,000-130,000 visitors come to the park this month, with between 7,500-8,500 campers crowding available spaces for overnight stays. 

The generally clear skies and comfortable evenings make this a perfect time for day-use visitors to stay after sunset. 

One of the best places to enjoy stars in the overwise urbanized state, park rangers offer occasional full-moon paddling trips and bicycle rides along the Shark Valley Tram Road. 

While cooler weather slows down the alligators and other reptiles and amphibians, visitors will see plenty of color and action within the park. 

Large flocks of birds frequent this area. Species include the anhinga, flamingo, great blue heron, great white heron, snowy egret, roseate spoonbill, wood duck, and white ibis. 

Seasonal birds that make the journey include the Canada goose and Eastern Whip-poor-will, among many others. 

Flowers bloom throughout the year, with bromeliads found in cypress areas and orchids in hammocks, pinelands, and wetlands. 

Everglades in March

The Airboat tours in the Everglades are touristic highlight in Florida
Source: dreamstime
  • Average Maximum Temperature: 82°F
  • Average Minimum Temperature: 58°F
  • Average Monthly Precipitation: 1.92 inches

Attendance patterns from February continue into March. The park accommodates between 95,000-130,000 visitors during this month. 

Many are snowbirds who have spent a substantial portion of the winter in their seasonal homes, while spring breakers and those who come to Florida to enjoy Spring Training baseball may visit the park. 

The number of campers averages between 6,500-7,500. While an occasional RV spot may become available for a drive-in visitor without reservations, guests are wise to continue to plan in advance.

Most visitors to the Shark Valley Tram tours or other day-use sites can put away their sweaters during visits. 

With afternoon temperatures usually in the 70s, guests can enjoy watching some of the seasonal birds prepare for the long spring migrations. Other birds will be nesting and laying eggs as temperatures warm.

Everglades in April

Alligator swimming in crystal clear water
Source: unsplash
  • Average Maximum Temperature: 85°F
  • Average Minimum Temperature: 61°F
  • Average Monthly Precipitation: 2.77 inches

In early April, the number of visitors to many park facilities remains high, though an early warm front and the first appearance of mosquitoes will keep more visitors in their vehicles as trails become less crowded. 

The Everglades generally welcomes between 90,000-100,000 visitors, though fewer choose to stay in tents at the park’s campgrounds. 

Less than 3,500 people camp in April, with most of them selecting sites with greater elbow room in the early part of the month.

As the number of human visitors begins to decline, many of the native species start to become more active. 

Warmer daytime temperatures and evenings that usually stay in the low or mid-60s get alligators out of their burrows. 

The “River of Grass” that noted environmentalist Marjory Stoneman Douglas wrote about in her story of the Everglades will soon be on the move again. 

Everglades in May

Tourists cycling past american alligator laying on bicycle path at Shark Valley in the Evergaldes National Park
Getting Some Sun – Source: dreamstime
  • Average Maximum Temperature: 88°F
  • Average Minimum Temperature: 66°F
  • Average Monthly Precipitation: 5.86 inches

The transition to the wet season occurs in May, as temperatures reach into the upper 80s and the humidity becomes more noticeable. 

Attendance numbers decline long before Memorial Day as any hint of coolness begins to fade away. 

The number of guests visiting the park averages between 60,000-75,000, with the number of people camping declining by half, and during early warm spells, as much as 75%. 

Early thunderstorms or tropical activity percolating in the Gulf may accelerate the decline in visitors. The sheet flow of water begins to cover areas that remain only soggy or dry during the cooler months. 

Underground water from the Biscayne Aquifer tends to increase in volume, as do freshwater flows from areas near Lake Okeechobee. 

Higher water levels encourage animals to move in the swamp and marshlands, as they either follow the water’s path or retreat from its growing presence.

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