EVERGLADES, an American lake, about 8000 sq. m. in area, in which are numerous half-submerged islands; situated in the southern part of Florida, U.S.A., in Lee, De Soto, Dade and St Lucie counties. West of it is the Big Cypress Swamp. The floor of the lake is a limestone basin, extending from Lake Okechobee in the N. to the extreme S. part of the state, and the lake varies in depth from 1 to 12 ft., its water being pure and clear. The surface is above tide level, and the lake is enclosed, probably on all sides, within an outcropping limestone rim, averaging about 10 ft. above mean low tide, and approaching much nearer to the Atlantic on the E. than to the gulf on the W. There are several small outlets, such as the Miami river and the New river on the E. and the Shark river on the S.W., but no streams empty into the Everglades, and the water-supply is furnished by springs and precipitation. There is a general south-easterly movement of the water. The soil of the islands is very fertile and is subject to frequent inundations, but gradually the water area is being replaced by land. The vegetation is luxuriant, the live oak, wild lemon, wild orange, cucumber, papaw, custard apple and wild rubber trees being among the indigenous species; there are, besides, many varieties of wild flowers, the orchids being especially noteworthy. The fauna is also varied; the otter, alligator and crocodile are found, also the deer and panther, and among the native birds are the ibis, egret, heron and limpkin. There are two seasons, wet and dry, but the climate is equable.
Systematic exploration has been prevented by the dense growth of saw grass (Cladium effusum), a kind of sedge, with sharp, saw-toothed leaves, which grows everywhere on the muck-covered rock basin and extends several feet above the shallow water. The first white man to enter the region was Escalente de Fontenada, a Spanish captive of an Indian chief, who named the lake Laguno del Espiritu Santo and the islands Cayos del Espiritu Santo. Between 1841 and 1856 various United States military forces penetrated the Everglades for the purpose of attacking and driving out the Seminoles, who took refuge here. The most important explorations during the later years of the 19th century were those of Major Archie P. Williams in 1883, James E. Ingraham in 1892 and Hugh L. Willoughby in 1897. The Seminole Indians were in 1909 practically the only inhabitants. In 1850 under the "Arkansas Bill," or Swamp and Overflow Act, practically all of the Everglades, which the state had been urging the federal government to drain and reclaim, were turned over to the state for that purpose, with the provision that all proceeds from such lands be applied to their reclamation. A board of trustees for the Internal Improvement Fund, created in 1855 and having as members ex officio the governor, comptroller, treasurer, attorney-general and commissioner-general, sold and allowed to railway companies much of the grant. Between 1881 and 1896 a private company owning 4,000,000 acres of the Everglades attempted to dig a canal from Lake Okechobee through Lake Hicpochee and along the Caloosahatchee river to the Gulf of Mexico; the canal was closed in 1902 by overflows. Six canals were begun under state control in 1905 from the lake to the Atlantic, the northernmost at Jensen, the southernmost at Ft. Lauderdale; the total cost, estimated at $1,035,000 for the reclamation of 12,500 sq. m., is raised by a drainage tax (not to exceed 10 cents per acre) levied by the trustees of the Internal Improvement Fund and Board of Drainage commissioners. The small area reclaimed prior to that year (1905) was found very fertile and particularly adapted to raising sugar-cane, oranges and garden truck.
See Hugh L. Willoughby's Across the Everglades (Philadelphia, 1898), and especially an article "The Everglades of Florida" by Edwin A. Dix and John M. MacGonigle, in the Century Magazine for February 1905.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)