Everglades National Park | MUD LAKE CANOE TRAIL

Mud Lake Canoe Trail map (click to enlarge)

Mud Lake Canoe Trail map (click to enlarge)


See the Paddling web page for an interactive location map.


Length: approximately 7 miles
Time: 4 hours (estimated)

I did not paddle the Mud Lake Canoe Trail, but I traveled by boat and by foot along much of the route and can thus provide some insight into the trip.

THE ROUTE

The Mud Lake Canoe Trail at Everglades National Park starts at Coot Bay Pond. There are two canoe launches and the area is full of mosquitoes, so while you won’t come across many of the pests once you get out on the water, you need to be prepared when beginning your trip.

One of the Coot Bay canoe launches

One of the Coot Bay canoe launches

Paddle straight across the pond to a narrow channel that leads to Coot Bay. From there, travel west to your 9 o’clock position until you reach the shore. You will pass the mouth of the Buttonwood Canal along the way. Follow the shoreline until you reach a second channel, this one connecting to Mud Lake. You must paddle the entire length of Mud Lake to reach the next destination, the Homestead Canal. Take the canal east to connect with the Buttonwood Canal. There is a 350-yard portage between the two. Once on Buttonwood Canal, paddle north back to Coot Bay, then paddle east to the channel that connects to Coot Bay Pond. Round trip is about 7 miles.

COOT BAY POND

Coot Bay Pond is half-moon shaped and only a 150 yards long. When departing, hug the left shoreline and you will find a narrow channel at the end that connects with Coot Bay. Total distance to the bay from the launch point is .25 mile.

One of two canoe launches at Coot Bay Pond

One of two canoe launches at Coot Bay Pond

COOT BAY

Flock of Coots on Coot Bay is spooked by the tour boat

Flock of Coots on Coot Bay is spooked by the tour boat

I took a boat tour on Coot Bay and can tell you that it is a sizable lake. Wind on the open water can kick up waves big enough to capsize your boat, so check at the Flamingo Visitor Center for the weather report before departing.

Canoeing across Coot Bay

Canoeing across Coot Bay

The trip across Coot Bay is about 1.5 miles. Once you enter the lake you will travel nearly due west until you come close to the shore. This will initially put you out in the middle of the lake, subject to waves, wind, and motor boats. Once you get near the shore, be on the lookout for the channel that connects to Mud Lake. I did not see it, but the tour guide on my boat trip said it is no wider than two canoes. You can see the Buttonwood Canal mouth on a satellite image, but not the channel to Mud Lake, so it’s going to be tough to spot if you are far from the shore.

MUD LAKE

I did not see Mud Lake, but I am sure that it is similar to Coot Bay—subject to waves and wind, but no motor boats since they are not allowed. At the far end of the lake is a channel that connects to the Homestead Canal. The trip across Mud Lake is approximately 2 miles.

HOMESTEAD CANAL

I hiked the Bear Lake Trail, and it follows directly along the Homestead Canal, so I know what it looks like. This canal is overgrown in places, but you can still get through. If you want to check out Bear Lake, take a right when you enter the canal. To get back to Coot Bay Pond, take a left and travel east. The next destination is the Buttonwood Canal, but there is a 350-yard portage between the two. The total distance of the trip down the Homestead Canal to the Buttonwood Canal is about 1.6 miles.

Homestead Canal canoe launch

Homestead Canal canoe launch

Buttonwood Canal canoe launch

Buttonwood Canal canoe launch

BUTTONWOOD CANAL

The Buttonwood Canal is a world away from the Homestead Canal. It is as wide as a river and is used by all boats traveling from the Flamingo Marina to Coot Bay, so hug the shoreline to avoid being run over. Be on the lookout for American Crocodiles. I saw two on my boat trip. Travel north for a little less than a mile to reconnect with Coot Bay.

In the past it was possible to drive your car to the portage site and start the trip on the Buttonwood Canal. However, fishermen trashed the place and now the road is closed. You could start the trip at the Flamingo Marina, but that adds about three miles to the overall length. Thus, the best place to start is Coot Bay Pond.

Buttonwood Canal

Buttonwood Canal

Baby crocodile

Baby crocodile

Entering Coot Bay from the Buttonwood Canal

Entering Coot Bay from the Buttonwood Canal

COOT BAY BACK TO COOT BAY POND

Once you reenter Coot Bay, turn right and be on the lookout for the channel that connects to Coot Bay Pond. The trip back to the starting point is right around a mile.

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Last updated on January 1, 2020
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