Title: Chronology of Shark Vally
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/FI06041913/00001
 Material Information
Title: Chronology of Shark Vally
Physical Description: Archival
Spatial Coverage: North America -- United States of America -- Florida -- South Florida
Funding: Florida International Univerity Libraries
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Bibliographic ID: FI06041913
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: University of Florida
Holding Location: University of Florida
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(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
gravel fill).
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

that period.

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.

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