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Nike Missile Tour - Everglades National Park
directions to the historic site 7.20 Florida ratingStar
Nike Missile Tour - Everglades National Park guyonthego

The Nike Missile Tour is a 90 minute walking tour of a former military missile base located in Everglades National Park. The tour is typically offered in winter and early spring. As the base is relatively small, the amount of walking on the tour is minimal. Also, these tours are on a first come first served basis, so it's best to sign up at the main visitor center early in the day.

Nike missiles were developed and deployed in the early 1950s to primarily defend against jet aircraft, which could outfly traditional antiaircraft batteries. The Nike missiles and later enhancements also could defend against some basic types of missiles, but were ineffective against more sophisticated intercontinental ballistic missiles. As a result, the Nike systems were retired in the late 1960s and 1970s. The Everglades site was in operation from 1964-1979. It was built shortly after the Cuban Missile Crisis along with three other nearby bases to protect south Florida against Cuban and Soviet threats. Since Cuba is so close to south Florida, the soldiers stationed here would have had only a few minutes notice of an enemy attack and would have been a prime initial target. Accordingly, the base was typically at heightened alert.

The tour meets at some former base buildings that are now used for park administrative purposes. Oddly, these buildings were painted pink at the time and are still pink in color today. An older park ranger met the group at a wooden sign which had pictures and information about the base and the Cuban Missile Crisis. The ranger discussed the purpose and operation of the base, the Cuban Missile Crisis and the lives of soldiers who were stationed here. Most of the remaining base buildings are closed due to environmental hazards, but the group did visit a former warehouse which was mainly empty but did have a few displays, such as historical pictures and information. Since there are few facilities to visit, the tour's quality depends heavily on the communication ability of the tour guide. This particular ranger was upbeat and a good storyteller, making the tour more enjoyable. If your time is limited at the park, stick to the natural areas as that is the primary reason for a visit here, but if you like history and want to see what a Nike missile base was all about, this tour provides an informative overview.
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September 2014
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