Most visitors are justifiably drawn to the dynamic inhabitants of the park, the wading birds and alligators. Nowhere else in North America are the birds that diverse, abundant and easy to observe and photograph. The plant life is no less interesting, in its unique mix of temperate and tropical species. The saw-grass prairie, with its stands of cypress, is progressively replaced by mangroves as the water gets more salty near the Florida Bay. The rock bed beneath the Everglades, only 6000 to 8000 year old, is one of the youngest on the continent, surfacing only since the Ice Age, and nowhere higher than 8 feet. A difference of elevation of just a few feet give rise to small islands called hammocks, which are a whole different world from the wet prairie, and are densely forested with tropical trees such as gunbo limbo and mahogany.
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