Although the Spanish first discovered Florida in the early 16th century, South Florida remained largely unknown to European Americans until the 19th century. Much of the land south of Tampa, which was once all Everglades, was left blank on maps. The harsh subtropical climate, mosquitoes, and impenetrable soggy marshes made it both unappealing and discouraging for settlers to explore. However, Native Americans had made the area their home for centuries and thrived in an environment that appeared so inhospitable to outsiders. The process of exploring the Everglades gained some momentum as the United States gained control of Florida in 1821. From then on, the United States faced an ongoing dilemma of developing the vast wetlands or abandoning them to the Native people that thrived within them.
This section explores the interactions between people and the use of the Everglades. Discover how native tribes built complex and organized societies in a harsh and relentless landscape. The land was further manipulated with the onset of draining and development of agriculture in the area. Beyond this, the Everglades also came to play a role in the United States war efforts. These pages describe the often tumultuous relationship between the land and its users.