Paddling in The Everglades - Chokoloskee Bay at Everglades City
Everglades City is gateway to the Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge, and 100-mile Wilderness Waterway with many miles of paddling available from day trips to week-long expeditions. Located at the mouth of the Barron River at Chokoloskee Bay, the city of about 400 people is a throwback to Old Florida. No chain hotels or stores, just as we like it. Dubbed as the "Stone Crab Capital of the World," there are several good restaurants - serving of course stone crabs, but also some of the best grouper sandwiches we've had. (Detailed map and photos below.)
Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge extends north to Marco Island. It includes the largest mangrove forest in North America, and many of the "islands" are actually no more than clumps of mangrove. There are no navigational markers and preparation is important, the mangrove islands can all look alike and it's easy to get lost. When padding, good navigational skills, charts, compass and GPS are important.
The 100-mile Wilderness Waterway extends south from Everglades City to Flamingo. This is literally a wilderness and recommended for experienced paddlers only. There are several routes, along the beach and backcountry - plan for at least 8 days to complete this trip. There are channel markers along the way, but nautical charts, compass, and GPS are recommended to avoid getting lost. Permits are required for camping and dependent on availability. See the National Parks Service Wilderness Trip Planner for details on obtaining permits and planning your trip.
The 5-mile Sandfly Island Loop is a good mini-excursion for beginners, leaving from the Gulf Coast Visitor Center, across Chokoloskee Bay, through the mangrove islands and return. Other padding trips include Barron River, Halfway Creek, and Turner River.
Due to this area facing directly onto the Gulf of Mexico, paddling is subject to changing weather conditions. The tides are strong, so checking a good tide chart is recommended. Check with the rangers at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center for information.
Also visit us here: Bicycling in The Everglades
More information on paddling in The Everglades (opens in a new window):
National Park Service - Gulf Coast Visitor Center
Paddling in Florida - Kayak, Canoe
Everglades Adventures at the Ivey House
Everglades National Park Boat Tours
Support and AdvocacyNational Park Foundation
South Florida National Parks Trust
Friends of The Everglades