Shark Valley Visitor Center is located at 36000 S.W. 8th Street in Miami Florida. This is a U.S. National Park in the Everglades. Shark Valley Visitors Center offers educational displays, a park video, an underwater camera and informational brochures. Also you will find books, postcards, T-Shirts, and many other items for sale. You will find guided tram tours, bicycle rentals, and snack and soft drink vending machines. The two paved trails here start at the parking lot, one going along the west (8 miles long), and the other going along the east (7 miles long), and both come together at the back of the park and the observation tower here. And if you don't travel with your bike, you can rent them here. And that is a fantastic feature here for sure.
Important: Please be advised that this park has lots of alligators all around. The road from the observation tower straight to the parking lot (west side) along the borrow pit, please aware that gators are on both sides of the road. There is water across from the pit. Gators go back and forth. Also there are access areas called Bobcat Boardwalk Trail and Otter Cave Hammock Trail that run between the two roads. Gators are on both sides along here, passing back and forth. So if you are new visiting here, please be cautious. Enjoy.
The tower is 65 feet high (only 45 feet is accessible), and was built in 1965, and opened to the public in 1966. The west trail next to the canal is shorter than the east trail. Roundtrip here is 14.8 miles. This trail is used for tram rides, bicycling, and walking. Also visitors may see alligators, herons, egrets, deer, turtles, and snail kites. The observation tower provides incredible panoramic views of the area. Before the park was created, a borrow pit was created along the westside trail during oil exploration. This pit is now a canal where the alligators and other wildlife are.
Shark Valley Tram Tours offers a two-hour, open air tour through the Shark Valley section of Everglades National Park. All tours are led by park trained naturalists, fully prepared to make your journey a memorable one. Besides giving excellent information into the ecosystem as a whole, your guide will also help to point out some of the hidden aspects which help to make this an incredible wetlands area. The open vehicles allow visitors to view wildlife within the sawgrass prairies on either side of the tram. On 9-24-11, my first visit here, tram prices for adults were $18.25 per person. On 14-14, my second visit, trams prices for adults rose to $23. Seniors 62+ are $19, and children 3-12 are $12.75.
Shark Valley Trail is definitely worth biking. And the $10 entrance fee is good for 7 days. That's a real plus. Even though the trail has no shade whatsoever it didn't diminish from my ride. Cooler weather brings out the alligators from the canal. They are not fans of heat. My visit here was on 9-23-11 and it was hot so predictably my visit was without seeing gators. A real bummer. My anticipation of seeing and climbing the 65 foot observation tower heightened this adventure (actually only 45 feet is available to visitors). As I've become more mature, historical things and historical places are just so incredible. So with that being said, a 51 year old structure certainly peaked my interest after seeing the photos online.
Now the negatives of this park. Tram prices here are too high. Tourists prices for sure. As a native Floridian I've seen my share of tourist trap prices. Also both sides of the trail have no shelters, only a small bench halfway down each side. A lot of good that does on a hot day. And there are no picnic tables here. I always bring food when I bicycle on paved trails, parks, etc, so I was really disappointed. When was the last time you visited an outdoor place that didn't have tables?
And the worst thing here are the rest rooms. They are horrible. The toilets in the front aren't even connected to a sewer. It is nothing but a hole in the ground. I've never seen anything like it in my life. I visited here on 9-20-11 on my way to the Florida Keys, and then on 9-23-11 on my way home. Bleach would have gone a long way here. Fortunately the facilities at the observation tower uses a sewer, but no water for washing up. Say hello to waterless soap. And the entire building is just horrible looking for lack of maintenance. Some might not be surprised by the fact that the American government is doing such a lousy job here. But I was. Just look at my photos. The United States used to take more pride in itself once upon a not so distant past. Thanks for seeing.