Established in 1947, the park's original boundaries contained 460,000 acres. Subsequent increases increased its size to 1,509,000 acres, including most of Florida Bay. The most recent addition came in 1989 when Congress added 109,506 acres in the East Everglades area of the park which included a portion of the Northeast Shark River Slough, a waterway that was critical for the protection of park resources and hydrologic restoration.
The park stretched more than sixty miles north-to-south and forty miles east-to-west. It held the largest expanse of wilderness east of the Rocky Mountains. Congress designated 1,296,500 acres of this vast park as the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas Wilderness to honor this conservation pioneer who brought the beauty and fragility of the Everglades to public attention in her 1947 book The Everglades, River of Grass. The park was located at the interface of temperate and subtropical environments and had a great diversity of resources. These included over 400 species of birds, 800 species of land and water vertebrates, 1600 species of vascular plants, 125 species of fish and 24 varieties of orchids. The park was home to 14 endangered species.
Everglades alone among our hemisphere's national parks was been named an International Biosphere Reserve, World Heritage Site and a Wetland of International Importance.
The Everglades were an integral part of the South Florida Ecosystem, an 11,000 square mile region extending from the Kissimmee River near Orlando to the Florida Keys. Originally a vast expanse of wetland, pineland, wilderness, mangroves, coastal islands and coral reefs, this was one of the continent's most highly populated and manipulated regions. The four national park units of South Florida protect about 2.5 million acres that embody some of the best and most complete examples of the natural and cultural history of South Florida.