Statue at Fairchild Botanic Garden ©Author Adventures

Marjory Stoneman Douglas, the First Lady of the Everglades

Marjory Stoneman Douglas (1890-1998), daughter of the first publisher of the newspaper that would become The Miami Herald, was a beacon of conservation efforts in South Florida. She wrote many influential books and other publications on several subjects, most of which focused on key issues of her time. Her best-known book remains The Everglades: River of Grass (1947). A list of her published work can be seen at

Though best known as a champion of the Everglades, Marjory Stoneman Douglas lived nearly a century and her autobiography chronicles around 80 years of writing, mostly from the vantage point of Miami where she lived much of her adult life. Read about the book here:

She agreed to move in with her father in Florida when she was in her twenties after newly separating from her husband, who was three decades older with mounting legal troubles and problems with alcoholism. She eventually made the slowly burgeoning Miami area her permanent home.

Her autobiography book includes such distinct memories as:

  • the first reaction of the writing community to Ernest Hemingway’s books,
  • her enlistment in the Navy (a first for a Miami woman — done on impulse!),
  • a description of her longtime house and why it never had a driveway,
  • an unfortunate disagreement with her friend, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and
  • what it was like to start the Friends of the Everglades many years after publishing River of Grass.

The National Park Service‘s website refers to The Everglades: River of Grass as “the definitive description of the natural treasure she fought so hard to protect,” adding that the author “…recognized that the Everglades was a system which depended not only on the flow of water from Lake Okeechobee into the park, but also upon the Kissimmee River which feeds the lake. To add a voting constituency to her efforts, in 1970 she formed the Friends of the Everglades, and was active as the head of the organization.”

The Everglades is among the top ten most popular bird-watching places in the world. Winter is the best time to see it. The bird photos below were taken through the southern entrance near Homestead on a cool and rainy day in February. The video was shot at Shark Valley, the west entrance to the Everglades, on a sunny January day. (To see more Author Adventures videos, visit Author Adventures on YouTube.) The park bench statue of the writer who saved the Everglades and founded Friends of the Everglades, with space for a visitor to sit beside her, is at the lush Fairchild Botanic Garden in Miami.

While Marjory Stoneman Douglas’ house in Miami is not open to the public, her dedication to the Everglades warrants a long, peaceful visit there. Bring binoculars, a sun hat, sunscreen, bug repellent, and your best camera. You can rent a bicycle in Shark Valley and ride a path adjacent to waterways where alligators sun themselves on the banks and swim in the murky water.

Marjory Stoneman Douglas House, Coconut Grove, FL ©Author Adventures
Wood Stork, Everglades, ©Author Adventures
Shark Valley, The Everglades, next to a walkway/bike path. Visitors are advised to keep a 15-foot distance from alligators. ©Author Adventures
Ibises, Everglades, Author Adventures
Red-shouldered hawk, Everglades, ©Author Adventures

The southern route to the Everglades can be added to Author Adventures Florida Trail #2, followed by the Keys:

The route to the western entrance of the Everglades can be followed to Author Adventures Florida Trail #3 via I-41:

Patricia Smart