Everglades National Park | CHEKIKA DAY USE AREA

Dilapidated buildings at Chekika Day Use Area

Dilapidated buildings at Chekika Day Use Area

The Chekika Day Use Area has been closed since 2013, and there are no plans to reopen it. According to the official Everglades National Park website, groups can still access the area with a permit, though after seeing the deteriorated state of the park, why anyone would want to do so is beyond me. When I visited the gate was open, though there were some motorcycle guys in the parking lot joking that “the gate was open when we got here,” as if they busted it open (this was not the case). I walked around the place, because after all, the gate was open. I don’t really suggest doing so because it is probably illegal, plus the boardwalk to the picnic area is falling down and overgrown with who-knows-what. The grass is tall, a perfect place for not only ticks, but also snakes.

Boardwalk to the picnic area

Boardwalk to the picnic area

Chekika was supposedly closed due to budget cuts. However, I found a sign that read “Area Closed Until Further Notice Due to Needed Wastewater Treatment System Repairs” along with some notebooks from a university that was doing as study on toxic chemical waste. I’m guessing that the place is contaminated and the National Park Service does not have the money to clean it up. Ironically for an organization with no money, the lights were still on in one of the dilapidated buildings located on the property. I turned them off when leaving.

Wastewater tanks

Wastewater tanks

Area Closed sign

Area Closed sign

Interior of one of the vandalized buildings

Interior of one of the vandalized buildings

Old bulletin board

Old bulletin board

Chekika only became part of Everglades National Park in 1991 when the park was expanded (1989) to include the Shark Valley area. The land was originally purchased by Samuel Grossman back in 1917. He attempted to raise tomatoes and then later drilled for oil. Both ventures were unprofitable. When drilling for oil, the Upper Floridian freshwater aquifer was punctured and water smelling of sulfur rose from the well. To contain the water, a soil dike was built, and this became a swimming lake. As water overflowed this lake, two additional fishing ponds were created.

In the early 1950s, Mark Grossman landscaped the area, built a structure around the well to create a fountain, and opened a park for the purpose of bathing in the mineral springs. The park was called Grossman Mineral Springs and Lake Chekika.

In 1970, the state of Florida purchased the land and opened the Grossman Hammock State Park, renamed Chekika State Recreation Area in 1974. The state donated the land to the National Park Service, and in 1991 it became part of Everglades National Park.

The Chekika Day Use Area provided visitors with picnic tables and a few trails. I believe there was a campground in the early years, and certainly there was one when it was a state park. The last reference to a campground I found noted that it was closed in 2000 due to damage from Hurricane Irene the year before. The “Area Closed” sign mentioned early is headlined with the words “Chekika Campground.” You can see the old campsites back in the woods.

Gator hole

Gator hole

When I left, I made it a point to examine the gate. It had been busted open, but not recently. There was no sign stating that the park was closed, though today everything maybe be fixed up and posted.

Photos on this page were taken in 2015, so I imagine it has only gotten worse.

Dilapidated buildings at Chekika Day Use Area

Dilapidated buildings at Chekika Day Use Area

Electric power is still on in the vandalized buildings

Electric power is still on in the vandalized buildings

Old exhibit

Old exhibit

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Last updated on December 31, 2019
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