CHRONOLOGY OF SHARK VALLEY
(Prepared by Sandy Dayhoff Hay 1, 1981)
1946 Humble Oil Company drilled for oil, construction of loop road.
1947 Everglades National Park established.
1950 Ranger shelter (office) established at first oil well pad.
1952 Steel frame fire tower installed (at tower site).
Living quarters for fire watch completed (quonset hut).
1965 Concrete observation-fire tower built.
Borrow pits dug (4), ease road completed.
Residential area completed, trailer installed.
Entire 15-mile road oil paved.
1966 Shark Valley opened to the public.
1967 17 roadside exhibits installed (reading from the east road to west).
1968 Road closed due to high water (2 years), east road washed out.
1970 Alligator research started.
1971 East road repaired and debris removed.
May Environmental Education pilot program started, using vest road.
Entrance station completed (junction of road).
Gravel parking lot completed.
Installation of tram boarding chickees.
4 portable toilets placed in northwest corner of parking lot.
1972 March Tram system begun (15 trams per day), taped message.
Fishing pier completed.
Hay Dedication of Shark Valley.
Office shed installed (9'x8') in residential area.
Dec. District Interpreter trailer installed.
1973 Tram program extended to 2 hours, interpreters give presentations
on trams instead of taped message, 8 trips per day.
1974 1/28 Weekly tram maintenance checklist begun.
Seasonal trailer replaced (hen house).
Dec. Bikes purchased for guided bike hikes.
Staff of 16 people.
1975 In-road resurfaced.
66-passenger Mina trams arrived.
April Pargo electric golf carts.
1976 Trees planted in parking lot.
Bobcat Uammock boardwalk put in by YCC.
Otter Cave Hanmock booklet completed.
Comfort station (restroom) installed.
Roads paved and part of parking area (parking spaces left as
Fire on Mina tram (east road).
1978 Environmental Education Program revamped, camping site at
tower moved to Environmental Education Center in Big Cypress.
Baron View Nature Trail booklet completed (use on the East road).
March Office-trailer installed in residential area.
1979 Entrance station moved to parking lot.
Parking lot pavement extended to cover parking spaces.
Quonset hut removed and exotics from Otter Cave and tower area.
Fee collection for tram rides started.
Tram reservation system intiaeed.
Bike lending system started.
1980 Tram rides reduced to 4 a day.
Reservation system revamped.
Concrete holding tank installed for restrooms.
Tn 1946 the east road was constructed by the Humble Oil Company. Equipment
was often stored at what is now called Otter Cave Hammock. Two oil well sites
were drilled with unsuccessful results at both. The first site was approximately
2 miles from the present Shark Valley parking area, known now as the oil well
pad. The second site is where the observation tower stands today.
In 1947 Everglades National Park was established. The road became a link to
the Tamiami Trail for several Indian families living in Shark Valley Slough.
In 1950, at the first oil well site, one of the old oil well shelters was
renovated into a makeshift ranger outpost by Irvin Winney. It was from this
site the first ranger patrols were made. The ranger station was later removed
to its present site at Forty-Mile Bend (a former restaurant, gas station and
rest stop run by a man named Zatey. These rest stops were placed along the
Tamiami Trail for the convenience of the travelers that traveled the desolate
In the early 1950's the fire tower was erected. It was manned mostly during
drought periods and the fire watches spent much of their time planting trees,
often, unfortunately, exotics, and made short nature trails in the spoil bank
around the tower. Water was hand pumped as the site had no generator for
electricity. The road was closed to the general public, but a few groups were
brought in by the rangers.
Things went on like this until 1965, when the present Shark Valley tower was
constructed. At that time the Shark Valley road cut through the middle of
Otter Cave Bammock. Ranger Winney suggested that it be moved to its present
site to protect the integrity of the hammock. The west road was completed by
digging a series of four rock pits. The pits were dug by Rarrison Construction
Company. The crane operator, Mike Green, states that the pits were dug nearly
20 to 25 feet deep. The construction of the road, according to Ranger Winney,
was a big fiasco. Even today in 1981 you can see the bulldozer and dumptruck
trails between the two roads, The roads were oil paved at that time.
In that same year the Shark Valley Loop Road was open to. the public. Traffic
was one way, with the starting point at the present day road division. A large
sign addressed itselfto the area; no feeding of wildlife, gate closing times,
etc. For ten cents (the old honor system) a booklet could be purchased that
described the 21 roadside exhibits. There were several pull-offs on the
Shark Valley Loop Road where visitors could get out of the mainline of traffic
and stop to view wildlife.
Because there were no signs on U.S. 41 indicating what was happening at Shark
Valley, few people knew of the existence of the place, and therefore use of the
area was very limited. Ranger entertainment after hours consisted of riding
down the old loop road known as Stare Road 94 or fishing in the Shark Valley
borrow pit. Fishing was quite good year around. With lowered water tables
the rangers would compete on who caught the biggest bass; 5 to 6 pounders
being the norm with 10 pounders the prize winners.
Other happenings that occurred in 1965 were the moving of the ranger residence
up Forty-Mile Rend to the present site of the hen house at Shark Valley. The
area was filled in and given the name Winney's Island. Ranger Winney was the
first ranger and last law enforcement ranger to live there. Mrs. Winney had
a lovely flower garden. One small problem was the deer often came onto the
island during high water and feasted on her roses.
In 1968 the flood gates on U.S. 41 were opened. With the opening of the gates,
Winney's Island was nearly flooded out along with the entire Shark Valley Loop
Road. For 21 long years the water remained high. The devastation to the road
was apparent in weeks, but the harm it wrought on wildlife was felt for years
to come. There was no need for the rangers to travel to the tower to launch
an airboat, that could now be done at Winney's Island. Traveling through the
Shark Valley Slough was sad. High water was killing willow heads, and upon
entering a hacmock the stench from rotting animals was unbelievable. Turtles
seeking high grounds found their way into the hawmocks in their weakened
condition. It was a vulture's holiday. By 1970 the water slowly started to
recede. In 1971 Billy Go Lightly was contracted to clean the roadway and the
spoil bank was removed.
In 1971 the parking lot was installed and trams were ordered. In September 1971
the Environmental Education Program was started. Groups were brought out from
Miani. At that time there ware only Indian rangers. They met the school bus
at the Miccosukee Restaurant and then proceeded on to the Shark Valley tower.
There they ate lunch, toured the area, and proceeded out to the rock pits to
fish. As can be imagined, 60 kids fishing all at once was quite a chaotic
scene. In December 1971 a fishing pier was constructed to keep kids and Sators
apart. The site chosen was the first pit from the observation tower, where it
remains today. The Environmantal Education Program was revamped in 1973 to
delete fishing and add more environmental awareness activities.
In 1971 the trams were on order; three Ford trucks with a fueling system that
converLed over to propane. It had a 65-passenger capacity, but only 55 people
could sit comfortably on the rough and bumpy ride. Fifty-five is the present
limit for adult passengers. Operations were to open to the public in January
1972, but mechanical difficulties forestalled this. Upon arrival at headquarters,
the trars Wre e.pnri-ented for the firs t tia-. The first accident occurred on
that occasion, wich the steps giving way and a visitor went flying. Finally in
March after working out problems on the steps, the Shark Valley tram system was
open to the public. The road conditions were bad to worse, causing numerous
mechanical problems for the new trams. In lay the Shark Valley tram operation
was officially dedicated with much hoop-la. Tram fees were waived for the day
and a special bike hike was given. At that time, of course, the park did not
have bikes. The festive occasion was one of the main tie breakers with Buffalo
Tiger the chairman of the Miccosukee Tribe.
The tram had a taped message and at an appointed time the Indian tram driver
punched a button for the audio script. Total narration time was approximately
24 minutes. At the tower the visitor disembarked and took a leisurely 30-minute
walk up the tower and on the nature trails. The rrar.s left the parking lot every
30 minutes starting at 9:30, a.m. One tram dropped off a load of visitors, the
next picked them up. Visitors could stay over several trams, if desired. Each
visitor was given a laminated boarding pass indicating what time they left the
boarding area. Most of the time the schedule ran rather smoothly, although
there were numerous complaints on the horribly bad road conditions and the ride.
Visitors had little communications with the drivers though, and a buzzer system
was soon installed on the trams to alleviate the problem. Visitors could ring
the buzzer and the driver would stop. In later years the buzzer system became
a real hassle and visitors wanted to stop to see every gator. It was dis-
continued by the end of the year.
In FY 1972, 1,135 trips had been made, accon=odating 22,547 visitors. The tram
was well accepted by the public and a $2 entrance fee was collected for each car
entering the parking area. Bikers or bikers were charged 50c. In that same
year the first officiri Shark Valley District InterpretEr r arrived in Dece-.ber
1972 and moved into a new 3-bedroom, 1 bath trailer in the Shark Valley housing
In 1973 a small tin shed was nov.ed up from headquarters and used as an interpretive
office.. It was a bit of a joke, 10 by 8 foot inside, vith one window that did
not open. When it rained the office floow filled up with water.
Changes were ro occur'in the interpretive program that year. The tram schedule
was revised, with trams leaving on the hour 9:00 through 4:00, with 8 trams in
all. The taped message gave way to a real live interpreter sitting in the
captain's seat talking; one trip being extended to two hours in length. The
Indian drivers were fairly shy for the most part and preferred driving and
running the entrance station. The Miccosukee drivers often wore their tradi-
tional dress, while the male interpreters wore the traditional gray and green.
Female interpreters wore knit dresses, which proved to be quite a hassle when
fueling the vehicles.
A tram maintenance checklist was initiated, as well as testing forms for all
tram drivers. By 1974 the old seasonal trailer was to be replaced with a new
3-bedroom, 2-bath unit. The staff was increased from 13 to 16. Alternative
activities were initiated with the purchase of 20 bikes. Also wet hikes, called
slough slogs, were started. The Shark Valley Loop Road was continuing to
self-destruct with the seasonal high water and the continued use of trams during
In 1975 the road was refurbished and two new trams were purchased from the
Mina Corporation in California. The Mina trams passenger capacity was 66.
Like the Ford trams when they arrived, the Mina trams had their problems too.
The engine could run on either propane or Sgsoline though and it nade for an
extra convenience, This helped especially eliminate the problem of fueling
with ampa in Homestead after repairs before the return trip to Shark Valley.
In the scu=aer of 1975 two Pargo electric golf carts, 6 passenger capacity were
purchased- One unit was assigned to Shark Valley to be used for short trips to
Otter Cave Hammock. The carts were fairly successful with the exception of
recharging the unit in rainy weather without a shed for protection. The use of
the Pargo cart was discontinued by the end of the summer season and returned to
the headquarters area.
In 1976 the park had a YCC program. The students participated in planting trees
in the Shark Valley parking lot and began the construction of the Bobcat Hammock
Nature Trail. A booklet for Otter Cave was soon completed encouraging visitors
to walk on their own and view the area.
Shark Valley was really starting to feel its growing pains in 1976. Visitation
was up to 94,617, with 1,885 trips. The restroom was soon replaced with four
portable toilets and at that time it seemed more than adequate. The road and
parking lot were repaved and the shade trees were finally growing. The inter-
preters office was replaced (after a long and hard fight) with a trailer at the
present site. The trailer was contributed by the Big Cypress National Preserve
and its Land Acquisition Program.
In 1975 the Environmental Education Program had run a camp at the observation
tower. In 1978 the program was revamped and the camping site was changed from
the observation tower to the present Environmental Education Center in Big
With more visitation all the time and increasing needs for nature trail booklets,
the Heron View Nature Trail booklet was initiated and completed for use on the
east road. It was found that at peak periods of visitation trat cars would line
up at the entrance station back out onto the highway onto U.S. 41 causing a
dangerous situation. So in 1979 the entrance station was moved to the Shark
Valley parking lot where a visitor could pull into the parking lot, use the
restrooms, then make a stop at the fee station either to purchase tickets for
the tram or to find out about the activities going on at Shark Valley. This
is also the same year the exotics were removed from the observation tower that
had been planted there by the fire watchers years earlier. The quonset hut that
had been used as living quarters was also removed. Fee collection at Shark
Valley finally began. To ride a tram it was $2 per person for adults, 16 and
younger $1, or 62 and older $1. The'-tram system seemed to work fairly well
with this new system, but problems arised with people not being able to get on
the trams. That same year cram reservations were initiated. At first it was
not accepted very well by the public, but slowly people began getting use to
the program and accepted it, and some of them finding it quite convenient. We
also initiated the bike lending system. Bikes could be taken out on the Shark
Valley Loop Road on a first-come, first-served basis.
Because of fuel allotments, tram trips decreased in number to four a day and
the staff by 1980 was down to I District Interpreter, 1 permanent Lead Park
Technician, and six seasonal. The trams are now talk-drives which can be
done quite well on the Mina trams but is almost impossible on the Ford trams.
Ford trams are slated to be discontinued and new trams are slated to arrive,
being 45 passenger Mina trams.