Canoe-camping in the Everglades

May 5, 2004
Outside Magazine
Week of July 10-16, 1997
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Canoe-camping in the Everglades
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Canoe-camping in the Everglades
Question: I would like to take a canoe trip through the Everglades this year. How does one find a good guide? Is it possible for novices to attempt it on their own?

Brad Meinck
Dunedin, FL
[email protected]

Alligators may join you on a canoe
trip through the Everglades

Adventure Adviser: Guided canoe trips through the national park are limited to two- to three-hour excursions with an interpretive guide, and these only run from January to March. Besides, you have to enter a lottery to earn a precious spot on these tours. There are, however, private companies that offer trips of varying lengths and difficulty.

If you want to combine luxury with roughing it, consider North American Canoe Tours. The Everglades City-based company offers a three- or five-night trip that combines a stay in their 1920s-era Ivey House Bed and Breakfast with canoeing and camping in the Everglades. On camping nights, you’ll stay at a beach site or on an elevated wooden platform called a "chickee." There’s also an extended option so you can spend more time exploring such popular places as Corkscrew Swamp. NACT offers their trips from November 1 through mid-April. Prices range from $450 to $700 per person and include everything you’ll need except the clothes on your back. In the summer, call 860-739-0791, and in the winter, call 941-695-4666.

Reflections Nature Tours in Big Pine Key also offers trips for novice and experienced paddlers. Call 305-872-2896 for more details.

According to the rangers at the park office, people of all skill levels can paddle without a guide in the Everglades, however you need to be aware of the obvious dangers such as crocodiles, alligators, and the typical safety concerns associated with water and canoeing. All the canoe trails are accessible from the main park road and range in length from a few hundred yards to 99 miles. If you’re planning to camp overnight, you’ll need a free backcountry permit and to make arrangements in advance for pickup and canoe transport. The park concessionaire (941-695-3101) offers canoe rentals, maps, permits, and all the other information you’ll need.

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