FL - Everglades Wilderness Waterway Day 9 - Watson River chickee to Pearl Bay chickee - 22.3 miles



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Hells Bay - it sounds bad; it looks bad. But if you pay close attention, you can navigate through this tangle of mangroves with only a map and a compass.




by Julio Perez and Hank McComas

This day had been anxiously and eagerly anticipated since our first day of planning. This day was all adventure. We would start our day’s journey in an ESE direction to find the North River and follow it NE as far as we could go. Our goal: to enter the marshes of the Everglades (the sea of grass.)


Up a channel in North River
Up a channel in North River
Photo by Julio Perez



Unfortunately we ran out of river about one mile after the North River narrows and only saw glimpses of grass behind the thinning mangroves. We turned around and headed for the Roberts River using a narrow waterway NE of ‘The Cutoff’ that joins the North and Roberts Rivers farther south. I was surprised how few birds we saw in this part of the Everglades. When I had paddled in the Turner River up near Everglades City in similar surroundings, there had been birds everywhere. Perhaps the cooler temperatures and strong winds had all the birds in another area.

I was interested in what the chickees were like in this area so I was taking pictures of every one we came across for reference in planning any future trips. ( North River Chickee Roberts River Chickee Lane Bay Chickee Pearl Bay Chickee )

The Roberts River took us south to the branch in the Lane River. Once we reached Lane Bay, it was backwoods navigation in the general direction of Pearl Bay. We stopped at Lane Bay chickee, right before the beginning of Hells Bay, for a light lunch snack.

Julio had been carrying two GPS devices for the whole trip. We hardly needed them. One had died from low batteries several days ago. Then just as we could actually use it to navigate in the intricate channels of Hells Bay, we didn't have a working GPS. The other one had taken on water during the crossing of Ponce de Leon Bay and was quite dead. With care and constant checking of bearings and reference to our chart we picked our way through the maze of mangrove islands and channels. Finally near Hells Bay Chickee we picked up the white stakes marking the canoe trail through Hells Bay.


Final channel to Pearl Bay
Final channel to Pearl Bay
Photo by Julio Perez



Thanks to the skill of my navigator, we only had to back track and search for channels on a few occasions. We traveled narrow corridors and small bays for a few hours before we came to Hell’s Bay and located markers that lead us into Pearl Bay.




The Pearl Bay Chickee is an accessible double chickee so much larger and better equipped than the others. It felt like a luxury condo. We used one side for housing and the other for kitchen and rec. room. The chickee is also handicap accessible with a convenient step down platform and a railing system. It made getting out onto the chickee a breeze.


Last sunset in Pearl Bay
Last sunset in Pearl Bay
Photo by Julio Perez



This was of course the evening of mixed emotions. We had completed a great trip but it was back to a different reality tomorrow. A nice sunset, a good meal, a recap of the trips high points and time to rest for the trip to Flamingo.

On to the final Day 10 .........


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