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Everglades N.P.

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This former fishing village, situated on Florida Bay, was isolated from the rest of Florida (except by boat) until the park road was constructed in the late 1940s. Most park visitors base their vacations here, staying in the lodge's motel units or in housekeeping cabins. The Coastal Prairie Trail is a former road, now for hikers only, which threads along the coast of the bay for 7.5 miles (one-way) to Clubhouse Beach, where there is a remote campsite. A short nature trail is found north of the Flamingo Campground.

Park Attractions

Park Trails | Cycling in the Park | Wilderness Waterway | Hotels

Flamingo Lodge

After checking in at the Lodge, visit the boat tour desk to confirm your advance reservations, or to make a reservation. The concession operates a variety of tours that cruise the bay, or through the Buttonwood Canal to Whitewater Bay, plus an overland tram tour on the Snake Bight Trail. You can also rent a skiff, canoe, houseboat, or bicycle from the concessionaire. Gasoline, propane, and a limited selection of groceries and camping supplies are sold at the Marina Store. Fishing charters are available at the marina. Three meals a day are served in the Flamingo Restaurant, and the adjacent lounge offers potables. For lodging reservations, call the Flamingo Lodge, Outpost and Marina Resort, at 800-600-3813.

Exploring the Western Everglades

Located 40 miles southwest of Naples, on the Gulf Coast, Everglades City is the entrance point to the western section of the park. Here is a park ranger station, concession operations, and places to stay in this town just outside the park boundary. The most popular activity here is taking a boat tour through the mangrove estuary. The tours last 1.5 hours, taking visitors through the Ten Thousand Islands. For reservations, call 800-445-7724 (Florida only), or (941) 695-2591. You may wish to rent a canoe here to explore the islands, or the Wilderness Waterway which has its northwestern terminus at Everglades City.

Canoes are available on the lower level of the visitor center, where you'll find a snack bar and gift shop. A canoe shuttle service is also available for those making the one-way trip to Flamingo. Overnight lodging, plus a private campground and RV park, are found in Everglades City.

Another private campground, overnight accommodations, a boat ramp, and gas station are found on Chokoloskee Island. The historic Rod and Gun Club, now only a place to eat, was originally the estate of William S. Allen, the original pioneer settler of Everglades City, and then a grandiose resort operated by banker and developer Barron Collier (the namesake of Collier-Seminole State Park). Hurricane Donna (1960) and a fire in 1973 destroyed much of the resort, including the motel unit. All that is left is the artifact-filled dining facility, in the original resort building.


Hiking & Walking Trails

At Royal Palm Hammock

Two short nature trails provide a fine look at wildlife, in addition to a walk through a real tropical jungle. The Anhinga Trail, only one-half mile long, offers the park's best points from which to see wildlife close-up. The year-round water supply in this area keeps Taylor Slough flowing during the driest winter months, and you'll see many water birds including herons, egrets, and moorhens. The anhinga, or water turkey, is a member of the darter family, and is shaped and acts much like a cormorant, except that the anhinga's long neck has a decided twist. The female has a buff-colored neck. It soars high and dives into the water, often swimming while submerged, looking for its catch of the day.

The second trail (Gumbo Limbo) is only one-third mile long, but takes you through the grove of royal palms, and into a jungle environment where you'll see at least 150 species of plants, including orchids, ferns, several types of air plants, wild coffee, and gumbo-limbo.

At Long Pine Key

Located south of the main park road, this recreation site includes a campground, as well as the 7-mile Long Pine Key Trail. The hike begins at the Long Pine entrance road, and runs west to the main park road, after passing Pine Glades Lake. This is quite a dry walk, using old roadways. Much of the trail leads through groves of pine, with saw palmetto providing most of the undergrowth. You'll also see a lot of marlberry, plus acacia, coco plum, and dahoon.

Another trail (3.6 miles) leads from a trailhead reached from one of the entrances to the campground (Gate 3). Walk east 0.7 mile from the gate to reach the beginning of the trail, then walk through the pine forest and then turn right at Research Center Road, past a Boy Scout camp property. Then turn right again at Gate 2B, and in a half-mile you return to the campground.

As with all of the other trails in this flat park, there are no arduous ups and downs, making the experience enjoyable for children and seniors who find most wilderness trails hard to manage because of elevation changes.

Pinelands Trail

The trailhead is located two miles down the main park road from the junction with the Long Pine Key access road. Less than a half-mile long, this trail is a good place to see the famed coontie, or Florida arrowroot, growing on the limestone. Coontie was treasured by the Colusa natives. The walk leads through another part of the pine forest that covers this section of the park.

At Pa-hay-okee Overlook

Another short trail leads to an observation deck, for a view of the wide expanse of sawgrass, and several other basic plants of the glades. This is an interpretive trail with signs pointing out the significant elements of this typical Everglades environment.

At Mahogany Hammock

The primary vegetation changes from pine to mahogany. A boardwalk trail reaches the hammock and runs through the grove of large mahogany trees, festooned with seed capsules.

At Noble Hammock

This is primarily a place to put in your canoe for the short canoe route, but there is a short trail with water views.

At West Lake

Another canoe route starting point and boat ramp are at this site, located farther south along the main park road. A short boardwalk trail is located here. This trail takes you near different types of mangroves.

Snake Bight Trail

Near West Lake, this trail leads south from the park road for 1.6 miles through a hammock. A canal left over from earlier days runs beside the trail, providing a habitat for many birds. Vegetation along the route includes cacti of the climbing type, and air plants, along with hardwood trees. The trail runs to mudflats along Florida Bay and a fine view from the boardwalk. This is more of a roadway than a rough trail, connecting with the Rowdy Bend Trail. It is also used by cyclists and tour buses.

Rowdy Bend Trail

This 2.6-mile trail leads through a thick, dank buttonwood forest. You'll have to duck to miss hitting tree branches. Those who avoid mosquitoes at all costs should not even think about walking this trail.

Christian Point Trail

Just over a mile in length, this trail leads from the park road (walk south) across a sliver of coastal prairie to meet Florida Bay. Here, you can view the islands in the bay as from the end of Snake Bight Trail, but from a different angle.

Bear Lake Trail

To reach the trailhead for this 1.2-mile walking trail, drive off the park road along a gravel access road that parallels the Buttonwood Canal. This is also a portage route between the canal and Bear Lake. The trail leads beside the canal, through hardwoods and black mangroves, to its end at the point where the canal meets Bear Lake. The entrance road to this trail is very close to Flamingo.

Eco Pond Trail

At Flamingo, this half-mile trail is found to the north of the park campground. The small pond attracts hundreds of birds, particularly during the sunset hours. Look for egrets and ibis.

Coastal Prairie Trail

This trail was carved when Flamingo was a fishing village. Originally a road, it extends 7.5 miles (one-way) to the Clubhouse Beach campsite. The trail is also used by cyclists. During the wetter months, it pays to inquire at the ranger station as to the state of this trail. After rains, it is often muddy and critters become more of a problem than at dryer times. It leads through buttonwoods, with figs, poisonwood, a variety of grasses, and sedges.

At Shark Valley

Two short trails are available at the Shark Valley information center, just off the Tamiami Trail (Highway 41), at the northern edge of the national park. The Bobcat Boardwalk Trail leads one-third mile across small islands covered with wax myrtle and willows, plus the magnificent leather fern, North America's largest fern. The even shorter Otter Trail offers an interpretive route to several limestone depressions.

Cycling in the Park

Shark Valley

The Shark Valley Tram Tour Road is open to cycling, and bicycles may be rented from the tour operator. The visitor center is at the junction of Highway 41 (Tamiami Trail) and the tram road. The tram makes a 14-mile loop from the visitor center. At the halfway point, riders get off the open-sided busses to visit an observation tower. The platform at the top of the tower provides a spectacular panorama of the sawgrass river as it slowly flows through Shark Valley Slough. Birds and alligators are also in view. Cyclists may choose to do the route on their own or rented bikes.

Snake Bight Trail

This old roadway provides an excellent bike route, leading from the main park road just above Flamingo, to the mudflats on Florida Bay. At the end is a boardwalk observation point. The trail extends 1.6 miles.

Coastal Prairie Trail

Another old road from the days when egret hunters lived in Flamingo village and almost decimated the species, the trail leads 7.5 miles to an overnight camping spot on Clubhouse Beach.

At Long Pine Key

This site, near the western park entrance, provides several opportunities for biking, including the Long Pine Key Trail (7 miles, one-way), along old rough roads. This trail offers a loop ride, with the return trip on the main park road and the Long Pine Key entrance road. A short trail from the campground leads to Research Center Road, a paved route that leads west to the Daniel Beard Center and the South Florida Research Center.

Canoe Routes

Canoeing is the only way to fully explore the wonders of the Everglades, and the park is a canoeists paradise. One could spend more than a month paddling through the glades, including the 100-mile Wilderness Waterway, which stretches in a winding route from Flamingo to Everglades City, along the western reaches of the park. Shorter canoe routes, including several loops, are also available. Remote campsites and open-sided wooden chickees provide places to stay during your canoeing adventures. We begin this list of the canoe routes, starting with the put-in points along the main park road.

Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail

Two-thirds of the way along the park road is the starting point for this loop route, which begins and ends in the sawgrass waterway between Taylor Slough and Shark River Slough. This is a mucky environment, with mangrove islands along the way. The trail can be paddled in a long day.

Noble Hammock Canoe Loop

This circular route starts and ends along the main park road, two miles past the Nine Mile Pond access point. This route is only two miles long, perfect for novice canoeists or those who have to worry about time. The route is taken over creeks and ponds ringed with mangroves.

Hells Bay Canoe Trail

This route, found just beyond Noble Hammock, can be done as a day trip or as the start of as many days' canoeing as you wish to do. The actual Hells Bay route leads 5.5 miles (one-way) through mangrove swamps, creeks and ponds. A third of the way along the route is the Lard Can chickee, and the Hells Bay Chickee is at the end of the formal route. The Pearl Bay Chickee is just north of the main route, from the halfway point. You may wish to continue west from Hells Bay into Whitewater Bay and paddle south to Flamingo, but nautical charts should be consulted before proceeding farther. In fact, charts should be obtained before attempting any of the longer canoe trails, including this one.

West Lake Canoe Trail

This 7.7-mile route leads in a southeast direction to a primitive campsite at Garfield Bight, on Florida Bay. From the put-in point, off the main park road above Flamingo, the early part of the route leads east beside the south shore of West Lake, and then through a channel into Long Lake. The route continues through smaller lakes before curving south through creeks lined with mangroves, and then makes a long curve west to reach Garfield Bight. Evening views of Florida Bay and its keys are simply magnificent.

Mud Lake Canoe Trail

Flamingo is a prime venturing point for canoeists and this route provides one of the most popular day trips in the Flamingo area. This is a long day's paddle, 8.4 miles, starting at the Flamingo dock, into the Buttonwood Canal. After two miles you approach the Homestead Canal. After a portage of 300 feet, paddle west. The Mud Lake Canoe Trail turns right (north) through a narrow channel, crosses Mud Lake, then passes through another narrow channel leading to Coot Bay. The route turns east after reaching the bay. If you keep close to the southern end of the bay and continue in a clockwise direction, you'll arrive at the northern end of the Buttonwood Canal for your return to Flamingo. Coot Bay is well-named. You'll see coots as well as ibis along the shore, and on Mud Lake. Frogs are heard croaking along the route.

Bear Lake Canoe Trail

As with the Mud Lake route, this one starts at the Flamingo dock, goes up the Buttonwood Canal, with the same 300-foot portage to the Homestead Canal. Instead of turning right after reaching Bear Lake, continue west on the Homestead Canal around the north shore of Bear Lake. The canal joins Florida Bay at the East Cape campsite, after a total distance of 15.4 miles. The canoe trail is marked with numbered markers. Gator Lake campsite is located between markers 10 and 11. Another campsite, at Raulerson's Marsh, is at marker 17. The route then turns into East Cape Canal (at marker 18) for the final southward portion of the trip to Florida Bay. The campsite is 1.1 miles west of the end of the canal. Wildlife is plentiful along this route during the winter months: herons, snowy egrets, white ibis, coots, wigeons, and many other water birds. You may also see one or more Florida water snakes on the canals in the Flamingo area, particularly in the eastern end of the Homestead Canal.

Turner River Canoe Trail

This canoe route is in the northwestern corner of the park, near Everglades City. Put-in points are at Chokoloskee Island (at the south end of State Route 29, south of the town), and on the Tamiami Trail (U.S. 41). This northern entrance is found just east of, and across the highway from, the junction with Road 839 in the Big Cypress National Preserve. The best way to do this easy day-trip is to put-in at the Tamiami Trail and paddle down the river to its mouth in the national park. From there, it's a short distance to the park's western headquarters.

Wilderness Waterway

The 99 miles of paddling or cruising between Everglades City and Flamingo are among the nation's finest water journeys, and the best route for exploration of the remote areas of the park. Canoeing parties should plan to spend up to ten days (a minimum of seven) on the waterway, while those with motorboats can do the trip in one long day or two easy days, but this doesn't allow much time for relaxed wildlife viewing. Obviously, with so much territory to cover, planning is essential. Navigation charts should be purchased in advance (a few days before your trip, if possible) at one of the visitor centers (at the eastern park entrance, Flamingo, or Everglades City).

Then, there is food to think about, as well as the right clothing to take along, and where to make your overnight stays along the route. Campsites are located on land, on old Indian mounds, along beaches, in forested areas, and on single or double chickees built over the water. Permits are required. They are free, and available at the ranger stations in Everglades City and Flamingo.

You may wish to explore the channels off the main waterway route, and to stay at one of more than a dozen remote campsites and chickees in the park interior. During the heavily-traveled season (December through March), canoeists may wish to escape the main waterway to find the serene silence of the park at one of these more remote locations. A useful guide to these campsites and chickees is the colorful chart listing all of the canoe routes and land trails in the southern part of the park, including the areas around Whitewater Bay.

Park rangers and visitors who have traveled the waterway suggest that the trip is most enjoyable if canoes travel in pairs. This not only provides company during the long paddle, but offers a measure of security that is not available if you are one canoe, alone. An option is to rent a motorized canoe, preferably an 18-footer with the square stern made to take an outboard motor (preferably six-horsepower). This takes a lot of the physical stress out of reaching the more remote campsites and chickees. This method of travel also cuts down the days necessary to navigate the entire route. The park concessionaire at Everglades City has a canoe shuttle service to return the canoe from the end of the route at Flamingo.

Except in one or two hard-to-spot locations, all entrances to channels are easy to spot, thanks to a series of signs placed along the route, by the park (along the northern part of the route), and by the Coast Guard (from Oyster Bay to Flamingo). Consult the ranger station before you leave from your starting point on possible difficult channels. One location to ask about is the so-called "Nightmare" section north of Oyster Bay, where gauging the tide is important. Low tides sometimes make this section impossible to navigate and an alternate route may be advisable. Otherwise, the trip should cause no such difficulties.

The route leads down rivers, across wide bays, through narrow creeks and channels, and through huge mangrove swamps. Along the way you'll have access to beaches and hammocks. At about the halfway point, the trail leads along the Gulf Coast. North of Flamingo, the waterway leads down the middle of Whitewater Bay.

The preferred direction seems to be from Everglades City to Flamingo. This means that you'll encounter park waterway markers reading from No. 130 (at Everglades City), to No. 1 (at Oyster Bay), and the Coast Guard markers from No. 48 to No. 1. All the marker signs are clearly shown on the navigation charts. I have been told that those who hate to count backwards can take the trip from Flamingo to avoid "Numerical Stress Syndrome."

Everglades City to Chatham River

The start of the trip is at the park ranger station in Chokoloskee Bay. The waterway cuts around the edge of Chokoloskee Island. At marker 1230, you have the choice of two routes around the island. One takes the western shore of the island, the other a more sheltered route, passing under the island causeway. The mouth of the Turner River is at marker 129. The route then passes across open water, sheltered by the Ten Thousand Islands to the west. In just under six miles, the trail reaches the Lopez River. A campsite is located at the nine-mile mark. Continuing up the river, lined with mangroves, the route turns southwest and through a series of bays (Sunday, Oyster, Huston, and Last Huston) before reaching the Chatham River (marker 99), 18.5 miles from the start of the trip. The Sunday Bay Chickee is located on the east side of the bay. Watson Place campsite is located 1.5 miles down the Chatham River, off the main waterway which continues southwest. The Sweetwater chickees are located east of marker 97 (before reaching the Chatham River), two miles off the route.

Chatham River to Rogers River Bay

The main route continues from marker 99, leading through Chevalier Bay (keeping to the left shore), arriving at Darwin's Place campsite. This was the homestead of Arthur Leslie Darwin, a hermit who was said to be a distant relation to the more famous Charles. Darwin stayed here from the late 1930s until 1971. Past the campsite, mangroves are seen in Cannon Bay, with marker 81 at the entrance to Tarpon Bay. This small body of water is joined to Alligator Bay by one of the hard-to-find channels, Alligator Creek (markers No. 77 to No. 75). This shallow, curving creek is flanked by mangroves. The route runs across the eastern side of Alligator Bay, crosses the smaller Dad's Bay, and then runs along Plate Creek to Plate Creek Bay. The Plate Creek Chickee is a particularly scenic place for an overnight stay. One mile past marker No. 63 is the Lostmans Five Bay campsite. The trail cuts through a channel to Two Island Bay, passing Onion Kee at marker No. 58. There was a community on the island, destroyed by a 1926 hurricane. You travel on Lostmans River, reaching Big Lostmans Bay at marker 42. Marker 38 provides an opportunity to veer off the main route, into Lostmans Creek and a two-mile side trip to Rock Creek Bay, where you'll find the Willy Willy campsite. The Rogers River Bay chickee is found by traveling one mile west from marker 32.

Rogers River Bay to Harney River

From marker 32, the route leads three miles to Broad River Bay (marker 26), with the possibility of another meandering side-trip to Camp Lonesome, a campsite on the Broad River (three miles). The main waterway route continues to the Broad River route to the Gulf of Mexico (turn west, into the river, at marker 26). The Broad River campsite is 6.5 miles downriver, and the gulf is another 8.5 miles. This is the trickiest part of the whole canoe route, the narrow channel known as The Nightmare. It is basically a path through a thick mangrove swamp, impassable at low tide, and infested by mosquitoes and other critters. To avoid this bug trap, take the detour that leads south via the Broad River. Then go south along the shore to Harney River (five miles), and then take the Harney River for four miles to marker 12 (Harney River chickee location). The marked main route leads out of The Nightmare, along the coast, and up Broad Creek to reach the Harney River at the chickee.

Harney River Chickee to Oyster Bay

Paddle to marker 11 and then turn east (right) and go via the Harney River to marker 9 (5.5 miles). The main route turns (right) onto the Shark River, and the Shark River chickee (marker 6) is 4.5 miles from the turn. You could choose to take a sidetrip across Tarpon Bay to the Canepatch campground, a distance of four miles. This is an especially rewarding diversion from the main route, paddling into fresh water areas with quite different vegetation from the mangrove swamps.

You'll see many more mangroves along the sides of the Shark River, as the main route continues toward Oyster Bay. Passing the Shark River Chickee, the route offers a real river trip, with numerous fish, including tarpon, sea trout, snapper, and several species of small sharks. The chickee is past marker 6, on the Little Shark River. At marker 5, turn from the river into Shark Cutoff, the channel that leads to Oyster Bay. Marker 2 denotes the end of the park marker system. You'll see the first of the Coast Guard markers (No. 48) just ahead. One set of markers leads you directly to the Gulf, a distance of about six miles. The main waterway route follows the Coast Guard markers from No. 48 to No. 1, at Flamingo.

Oyster Bay to Flamingo

The final 25 miles to Flamingo and Florida Bay is pretty well a straight route starting in Oyster Bay, and then down the middle of Whitewater Bay, using the gap (Midway Cut) between the two large islands in the middle of the bay, on Tarpon Creek, then across Coot Bay, and finally through the Buttonwood Canal to the bay, with the Flamingo dock a few minutes to the west of the canal. The Oyster Bay double chickee is a mile southwest of marker 48. From marker 50, the route covers 18 miles to its end.

Remote chickees are located on the east and west sides of Whitewater Bay. Joe River chickee is on the west side, 4 miles from the Oyster Bay chickee. Another chickee (South Joe) is located at the southwest corner of the bay, a distance of 6 miles from the Joe River chickee. Taking this route enables canoeists to follow the Joe River, on a secluded riparian path. To veer eastward from the main route to explore the other side of Whitewater Bay, there are two chickees in the northeastern section of the bay (Watson River and North River). More remote chickees are located off the eastern shore of the bay, reached through mangrove channels. These (from north to south) are Roberts River chickee, Lane Bay chickee, and Hells Bay chickee. Pearl Bay chickee and Lard Can chickee can be reached by meandering routes from Whitewater Bay, but can also be reached (more easily) by taking the Hells Bay Canoe Trail, with the put-in point along the main park road.

This trip is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, full of natural wonder, with abundant wildlife to be seen. There are several superb (but easy) river jaunts, time spent in thick mangrove swamps, opportunities to stop to climb the mound of a hardwood hammock. Deep water is rarely seen; the average depth of the route is less than seven feet. This means that amphibians and other water-loving animals are found all along the waterway's path: turtles, alligators, lots of snails, frogs, and the sometimes-seen mam

als, including raccoons and bottle-nosed dolphins. The bird life of this region is spectacular. Anhingas plunge into the water, pelicans, terns, and fish crows are joined by the wading birds: egrets, herons, ibis. Sandpipers are found along the shores, and ducks among the mangroves. Because fresh water and salt water mix throughout the journey, birds which frequent both ecosystems converge in the western Everglades. Raptors flying overhead include ospreys and red-shouldered hawks. In addition to the fish already mentioned, anchovy are in good supply, along with striped mullet, snook, and killifish, plus the ten species of small sharks, including hammerheads.

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