Everglades National Park | PADDLING

Nine Mile Pond in Everglades National Park

Nine Mile Pond in Everglades National Park

Everglades National Park has the widest variety of paddling opportunities of any National Park in the country. Open water, mangrove tunnels, bays, creeks, rivers—you name it, the Everglades has it. Established paddling trails range from the 2-mile long Noble Hammock Canoe Trail to the 99-mile Wilderness Waterway, the Appalachian Trail for paddlers. Furthermore, there are plenty of backcountry campsites along many of the routes, making it possible to split longer trips into multiple day adventures.

Before setting out on any paddling trip, be sure to check with a Ranger about the weather. Even the creeks in the backcountry pass through some sizable lakes, and high winds can whip up waves that can easily capsize your boat. I visited the park in February and there had already been three drownings since New Year’s Day. Furthermore, bring a GPS with you or know how to navigate by map and compass because it is easy to get lost in the maze of creeks that wind through the mangrove-covered islands that all look the same. On overnight trips that require a permit, you must state when you will return, and a rescue team won’t come looking for you until 24 hours after your return time.

During the dry season, many of the river and creek trails barely have enough water to be navigable, if they have water at all. Low water problems start up around late February and continue until the rains return in June. Check with the Rangers for water level reports.

For those without a canoe or kayak, Ranger-led trips are held on various days from December through April. Trips leave from both the Gulf Coast and Flamingo Visitor Centers. Destinations vary depending on weather and water levels. See the Everglades’ official Calendar for a schedule.


WILDERNESSS WATERWAY

Canoeing the Wilderness Waterway

Guest Services, the concessionaire now operating the campgrounds and boat tours in Everglades National Park, offers a shuttle service from the Gulf Coast area to Flamingo for those paddling the entire Wilderness Waterway. It ain’t cheap—$450 for two passengers—but if you are on your own, it may be the only way back to your starting point.


GULF COAST AREA PADDLING TRIPS

Paddling in Chokoloskee Bay

Paddling in Chokoloskee Bay

The Gulf Coast Area offers open water trips on Chokoloskee Bay and backcountry trips through the mangroves on Halfway Creek and Turner River. This is also the northern launch point for the Wilderness Waterway. Before setting off on a paddling trip, ask the Rangers at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center what the forecast is for the day and what their recommendations are. If anyone knows how the weather will affect your trip, they do.

Canoes and kayaks can be rented from the concessionaire at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. See the Everglades Florida Adventures website for pricing.

The following are three popular trips in the area, though you are free to paddle anywhere you like in Chokoloskee Bay. There are a number of beach-front campsites on the islands farthest from the mainland, so many people leaving from this area are heading to the beach. With very few exceptions, all other islands are lined with impenetrable mangrove forests, so there is no place to land and get out of your boat. Fishing in the bay from a canoe or kayak is also a popular activity.

Sandfly Key Canoe Trip
5-mile loop across Chokoloskee Bay

Halfway Creek
7.3 miles, one-way, from the Gulf Coast Visitor Center to the dock at the Big Cypress Swamp Welcome Center in Big Cypress National Preserve. (Note: this link takes you to the Big Cypress National Preserve web pages here on National Park Planner.)

Turner River Canoe Trail
11.5-mile, one-way trip from the Gulf Coast Visitor Center to the Turner River Boat Launch on Hwy 41 in Big Cypress National Preserve. Three miles of the trail is on Chokoloskee Bay. (Note: this link takes you to the Big Cypress National Preserve web pages here on National Park Planner.)


FLAMINGO AREA PADDLING TRIPS

Hell's Bay Canoe Trail in Everglades National Park

Hell’s Bay Canoe Trail in Everglades National Park

The Flamingo area of Everglades National Park has the most designated backcountry canoe trails, some with camping opportunities along the way. This is also the southern launch point for the Wilderness Waterway. In addition to backcountry paddling trips, the Florida Bay is a popular destination. Canoes and kayaks can be rented at the Flamingo Marina.

Hells Bay Canoe Trail
13-miles, round-trip with backcountry camping opportunities

Mud Lake Canoe Trail
7-mile loop that crosses two large lakes and follows two canals

Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail
6-mile loop that can be impassible from late February until the rains start in June.

Noble Hammock Canoe Trail
2.3-mile loop through very narrow mangrove-lined creeks

Paurotis Pond
Small pond for fishing or bird watching

West Lake Canoe Trail
9 miles, one-way to the Alligator Creek backcountry campsite.

Paddling in Florida Bay near Flamingo

Paddling in Florida Bay near Flamingo

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Last updated on February 23, 2021
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