With the perspective of time, the engineering marvel of the Tamiami Trail and its effect are being viewed in a different light. The early desire to conquer the swamp and control the water flow of this untamed wilderness changed the Everglades forever.
The Everglades is a vast system of interconnected rivers, lakes, and wetlands spread across south Florida. The ecosystem once extended from the Orlando area to Florida Bay. In this area, the Everglades was a wide, shallow, slow-moving sheet of water that used to flow from Lake Okeechobee across the southern part of the state.
Draining the EvergladesToday that water flow has slowed to a trickle. Half of the original ecosystem is gone, never to be restored. What is left is crisscrossed with 1,400 miles of canals, irrigation ditches, and water control devices that divert the water before it ever makes it to Everglades National Park. The Everglades has been dredged, diked, and drained to near extinction, and the Tamiami Trail blocks the flow of water in the Shark River slough as effectively as any dam.
Getting the Water RightThe men who built the Trail unknowingly created a barrier that threatened the survival of one of the most unique and diverse ecosystems in the world. The goal now is to restore a more natural flow of water through the remaining
Everglades ecosystem, improving the water quality, quantity, timing, and distribution that will revive the wetland habitats of Everglades National Park.
One step in achieving this goal is to raise the Tamiami Trail. This is being accomplished with a series of bridges to reestablish the sheet flow of water that had been blocked by the road for more than 80 years. Restoring the Everglades is a complex endeavor that has required cooperation between federal, state, local agencies, and interest groups. Restoring the Everglades will take the same commitment, ingenuity, and persistence that were needed for the building of the Tamiami Trail.