FL - Everglades City Ten Thousand Islands - 2003/02/03 to 2003/02/06 - 50 Miles



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Florida's Ten Thousand Islands area lies southeast of Naples and northwest of the Everglades National Park. The many islands form a transition from the freshwater marsh of the "river of grass" to the open salt water of the Gulf of Mexico. Heavily commercialized and visited by novice kayakers and canoeist, this readily accessible piece of Florida is still worth seeing.




Every year Everglades City holds its Seafood Festival on the first weekend of February. This year the festival was held early in February as the first weekend fell on the first of February. This fit in well with my winter trip plans.




I had just finished a day trip on the Myakka River and had spent a day at the Ortona Lock campsite, a US Corps of Engineers sponsored site. I left there after a early morning fog cleared and arrived in Everglades City Friday afternoon along with the vans and semi-tractor trucks of the festival vendors and the behemoth camper motor homes of the early arrivals.

The festival always starts late in the afternoon on the Friday night before the weekend. It primary features are seafood vendors of all description, a large area to consume the fare, vendors booth selling trinkets, collectibles art and the usual fair/farm show items, live music and beer. Lots of beer. Sold in plastic 20 oz cups for $5.00, each year is stenciled on the cup and each year is a different color. Long time attendees wear their mugs from previous years strung on their belts as badges of honor. Some have come every year and their mugs completely surrounded their waist.




Eating area

By late Friday night, many of the participants had had enough beer to become loud and obnoxious. Then the beer starting selling for 2 mugs for $5.00 and the inebriated became the total blitzed. I retired to the lot where we had parked for a $5:00 per night donation to the local Chamber of Commerce. The next day I returned to the festival in the morning and went up and down the aisles of merchandise which was now fully open with all the stalls manned. The sausages, onions and fried seafood smells wafted on the morning air. Indian/Central American flute music came from one of the booths and I recognized the group, Wayra, as the same group I had seen at several festival in Maryland, most recently at Ocean City, MD.

By noon, I was finished with the Festival and I began walking around the town. I stopped by Ivey House. They provide lodging, meals, kayak and canoe rentals and guiding services in the Ten Thousand Island area. They have been doing so for a very long time and they have been grown significantly from the small house they once were.






They have a very nice Bed & Breakfast type lodging with prices typical of such facilities. Prices during the high season are $125.00 a day with off season pricing at $75.00. They also have a restaurant in the main section of the facility where each night there is a special which is very reasonable. Some of them are "all you can eat" and prices are $8.00 to $12.00.

Across the street from the B&B was the kayak shed with 20 kayaks still available and many other empty racks indicating some of the fleet was out on rental. Ivey House kayaks are all plastic kayaks of good performance. Skirts and paddles were basic but in good condition.

I walked north to the upper end of town where there is a campground, which during the Seafood Festival is sold out well in advance. From there I turned east to the river and walked along the seawall where the fishing fleet brings in the catch, Stone crab is the major catch here and the traps were stacked all along the shore. These crabs are trapped and their large fighting claw is twisted off and the crab is thrown back into the sea to grow a new one. Each day the boats go miles out into the Gulf of Mexico to harvest the traps set in 50 to 60 feet of water. The boats leave early in the predawn and return in afternoon to deliver their catch to the seafood packing plant for immediate shipment out the same day.




Some of the seafood packers have small take-out windows or decks where fresh seafood (fish and crabs) can be had. Prices run about $24.00 to $25.00 per pound for stone crab claws and $5.00 to $6.00 per pound for fish. However, across from the Visitor's Center, there is a shop that sells "imperfect" claws for $6.00 per pound. Some of these claws are cracked thus are not sellable to restaurants.

I continued my walk headed south and came across the home of Outward Bound North Carolina. They apparently have an active youth kayak program based here in Everglades City.

I suspect that the economy in Everglades City is difficult as there were many properties listed for sale, close to 10% I would guess. Interestingly, it has always been so. In the past many residents often turned to illegal activities to support their families. From time to time they have smuggled booze, harvested bird plumes for ladies hats, poached alligator meat and smuggled marijuana and cocaine.




I continued my walk south and eventually got down to the Everglades National Park Visitor's Center where there is a kayak and canoe ramp that I planned to use several times during my visit. There is a big grass parking area on the north side of the Visitor Center. A 100 foot alley leads to the back of the Center where the small concrete ramp was located.

I arrived at almost low tide and discovered that the ramp did not extended into the water but ended in a 5 foot section of soft mud before any water was reached. The water off the ramp was very shallow and it was clear that one would need to walk a boat out before getting in. The mud was typical of the entire Everglades area, soft and oozy with a slight sulfurous smell. There was another possible launch site just to the right, but it also was filled with the mud that extended even further than the concrete ramp.




I walked back to the car and with most of the afternoon left decided that I would make the best of it and do some paddling. I packed up the gear and headed back to the Visitors Center where I waded through the mud and launched into Chokoloskee Bay. The water was very shallow and I ran aground several times, so I altered course to follow the boat channel toward Indian Key Pass.

I followed the boat channel markers across the open bay to the mangrove islands. The water was returning through the many channels as the tide rose. The water was clear and warm with a greenish blue cast. There were several sand beaches still exposed by the low tide and sand ripples were formed under the shallow water as the swift current ran in from the Gulf. There were also dark patches of sharp edged oysters that formed bars dangerous to the smooth underside of my fiberglass boat. I carefully avoided being swept down upon them by the current swirling past the sand bars and mangrove roots.

And the current was moving at about 3 knots. Progress up the channel through Indian Key Pass was very difficult. I hugged the shore in order to hide from the worst of the flow, used the indentations of the shore line to ride any reverse eddies and crossed across the channel to shorten the distance and lessen the current that always exists on the inside of a curve in any stream. There were a number of large vessels in the channel, mostly tours boats making the run out to the Gulf with passengers from the Visitors Center and high powered fishing boats returning from a day plying the open waters.

I paddled against the strong current until I reached Russell Pass at about half way to the Gulf. There I turned back to the mainland. The current that had been my enemy was now my friend. I flew back down the channel at four times the effective speed of my outward passage. At the end of Russell Pass, the well defined channel splits into many similar looking passages, not all of which have exits. I concentrated on the shoreline shapes in order to stay oriented on my map. I also selected those passages with the strongest current in them in the expectation that these would be open at the far end.

Soon I was back out in Chokoloskee Bay. Even with the returning tide having raised the water level for the past several hours, there were still many places in the bay where the water was very shallow, or large oyster bars were exposed or only barely covered. I headed back to the Visitors Center, only needing to get out of the kayak to clear a shallow area right at the edge of the boat channel where dredging had deposited a bank of compacted sand at the edge. I pulled into the ramp area and got out of the kayak, sinking into the ooze at the end of the ramp. Fortunately there is a fresh water hose provided right at the ramp, so I was able to ash off the mess and clean up the boat before loading it onto my car. My pre-trip paddle had demonstrated the planning issues for my longer trip that started Monday. Current, shallow water, boat traffic and difficult navigation in the mangrove channels were issues that would need to be considered.

On the next day, Sunday, I paddled down the Turner River. This was a great day trip and I highly recommend it for anyone visiting the area. My overnight trip would begin on Monday when local Florida kayakers would be off the water and back at their jobs, leaving more of the campsites open.

The Ten Thousand Island area lies partly within the Everglades National Park. Anyone staying over night within the boundaries of the park must have a back-country permit. This permit can only be obtained in person and at most 24 hours before the start of the first day of your trip. There is a $10.00 processing fee for the permit for any party of 6 or less. the permit may be obtained at the Visitor's Center. The park publishes a simple pamphlet called Back-country Trip Planner with a schematic map and mileage between campsites, a campsite features list, rental locations, a checklist and regulations. The pamphlet is available at the Visitor's Center.

I arrived at the Visitors' Center to get my permit at 6:45 AM on Sunday, just 15 minutes before the reservation office opened. I stepped smartly to the door in order to beat another paddler who was obviously trying to reach the door first even though he came into the parking lot after I did. I learned he was from London, England and had come over to the US with his son specifically to paddle canoes in the Everglades. The office opened promptly at 7:00 AM and I made my request for Rabbit Key for 2 nights and Tiger Key for one night. there was no problem with those choices. My English competitor was interested in another set of sites altogether so there was no conflict there either. You should be prepared with alternative routes and campsite selections if yours are not available due to being reserved by other parties who have started their trip earlier and are traveling through the area you are interested in. Due to the high interest in the 10,000 Island area and the readily available canoe and kayak rentals in Everglades City, the large numbers of people served by the Ivey House and the operations of Outward Bound North Carolina, some conflicts are likely in the busy winter months.

As I had secured my permits the day before, I could make a leisurely beginning to my trip. I carried my empty kayak down the alley to the ramp and then used the handy plastic cart that the park service provides to ferry my gear to the ramp where I packed my boat. There was no one else at the launch at this time. The water hose at the ramp provides good water but with a slight taste of the hose, so I had filled my water bags earlier. The tide was in the middle of the ebb so there would be no problem with the mud. The wind was from the south at 5-10 knots. the morning was mostly sunny and the temperatures were predicted in the high 70's by late afternoon. Since I had already been out Indian Key Pass on Saturday, I headed south in Chokoloskee Bay to pick up the boat channel out Sand Fly Pass. There I would continue on to Chokoloskee Pass and past Demijohn Key to my destination at Rabbit Key.

Unlike my trip out Indian Key on Saturday afternoon, I had help heading out Sand Fly Pass with a 1 1/2 to 2 knot current. It took only 1 1/2 hours to reach the Gulf at the end of Chokoloskee Pass. The southerly wind was in the low end of its range at about 5 mph. The waves were small even on the open Gulf. They wee no problem at all as I headed into them to reach Rabbit Key just 2 1/2 hours after leaving Everglades City.




Rabbit Key is one of the smaller islands in the area. It is connected to a neighboring unnamed mangrove key by a spit of sand that nearly disappears at high tide yet has only a small opening through much of the tidal cycle and goes completely dry at low tide. I approached from the west side of the key where there is a large and very shallow bar extending out into the Gulf for a distance of more than the width of the island. I rounded this bar and approached the island from the south to look for the campsite.

I landed in a small cove of sand between two points of eroding mangrove soil. The dark firm soil was being eroded by the wave action from the open Gulf waters. the mangrove that had constructed this compacted leaf compost had long since disappeared.

The small waves coming in from the Gulf ran up the long very gradually shallowing shore and reached over my cockpit as I grounded several boat lengths from dry land. the pesky little waves came in quick succession and jumped the rim of the boat as I dragged it over the shallow approach to the beach.

As I pulled the boat onto the beach I immediately noticed the small hand shaped prints all over the sand near the waters edge - raccoons. I made a mental note to prepare for them in this evening's camp. I looked toward the large mangroves and noticed a tent sized clearing among them with its opening pointing west toward the Gulf. I walked across the beach to investigate. There were clear size of prior occupation of the site, even though there was no indication that this was the official campsite. People were not the only residents here. Even though it was the middle of the day and there was a breeze, the mosquitos began to attack me. I retreated away from the mangroves and resume walking around the island.




On the beach were a number of interesting shells, some unusual seaweed and a number of odd creatures I had never seen before. I assembled some of them on the sand for pictures before returning them to their prior locations. The picture on the left shows a conch shell that is currently inhabited by a hermit crab too shy to get his picture taken. The clam shell is occupied with both halves intact and tightly shut. The raspberry colored fist sized thing was very interesting. I don't know what it is. It has markings on it that are the same as some corrals. It is pliable under steady pressure with the consistency of a gel shoe insert. I think it may be some type of soft corral, but if anyone knows what it really is I would very much like to know.

Finally on 10/03/2008: Timothy Morris at http://www.CrystalSeas.com had the answer Click here.




I also found large numbers of these smaller flatter creatures of varying colors. Most had black and white mottled patterns covering both sides of the 1/2 inch thick 2 to 3 inch wide shapes. Slimy and softer than the raspberry object, I have no idea what these are either. If you know, please leave a message in the forum.

When I returned to my kayak, the water which had been several yards from my boat when I had pulled it onto the bar just 20 minutes prior was now half way up the hull of the boat and the waves were once more moving the boat around on the sand. When I left the boat I was not worried about it because the wind was blowing the boat back onto the shore and I was not going very far from it. But it was a good reminder of the speed at which the returning tide can cover and uncover large expanses of the bottom. Had the wind been blowing off shore, my boat might have shifted onto the hard shells or even drifted out to sea.

I launched the kayak into the small waves and continued around the south side of the island, As I turned and headed back up north, a portable rest-room came into view. Clearly here was the designated site. On the beach beyond the facilities a group of about ten people were packing their kayaks getting ready to depart. Not wishing to intrude or hurt their preparations for departure, I continued on around the shore and headed into a mangrove key studded bay named the Rabbit Key Grasses.

After paddling around a nearby key, I headed back to the beach on Rabbit Key. On the nearly high tide I was able to paddle up close to the beach. The previous inhabitant had loaded their kayaks on the north side of the spit and were about to launch into the water. I went over and offered to take a group picture of them. The ten people in 5 kayaks were from Alaska. After the first camera shot about 5 others cameras were proffered for additional pictures. With all the shots being taken, I forgot to get one for myself. they pulled their boats out to deep water, got in and paddled back towards Everglades City. I was alone on Rabbit Key.

To the south of the latrine was a small sand area tucked in close to the mangroves. Due to its proximity to the latrine and the mangroves, I decided to eschew that location and pitch my tent along the edge of the grassy area behind the east facing beach. I checked for racoon prints and soon saw ample evidence of their presence. I unpacked the non-edible portions of my supplies and put them into the tent. I took my food and stove out onto the sand spit where the breeze was strong and came from directly over the water. There the mosquitos were few. I made lunch and ate it while sitting directly on the sand.

After lunch I repacked the edibles and cooking items into the kayak. I kept the water in my boat as well. I launched into the water once more to explore the rest of the bay. The tide was about half out at this time.

Around the back of the closest mangrove key, Crate Key, I saw an amazing sight I had never seen before. Three Atlantic bottle nose porpoise were chasing fish in the shallow 1 foot deep water. Half of their sleek gunmetal grey bodies were out of the water. Their horizontal flukes sent showers of spray 20 feet into the air and they drove their massive bodies across the grass covered marl bottom at 20 knots. They made sharp turns sending even larger sprays and waves across the still water as their desperate prey sought escape. But it was in vain as the dolphins finally caught their dinner and consumed it with a toothy grin. If only I had my camera out.




I paddled around for several hours, finishing out in the Gulf about 2 miles upwind (south) of Rabbit Key. I rode the small waves back to camp. There two new arrivals in a tandem kayak were just unpacking and setting up their tent next door at the end of the beach. They were Heather and Paul from Ontario. their ARLUK tandem kayak was rented from Ivey House. After a brief conversation, it was back to the spit to escape the mosquitos. I did some stretching and took my time cooking dinner as the tide receded and the spit became a land bridge between Rabbit Key and the mangrove island.

I returned to my tent and began arranging some of my gear. I had one of my dry bags of clothes outside the tent. I moved to the side of the tent not three feet away. When I looked back there was a racoon attempting to look into it. He looked in really bad shape. Half his fur was gone with the mange and his tail was only a stump. I yelled and approached, but he would not leave. His extreme aggression and sickly look concerned me as to whether he was perhaps rabid. I got out my spare paddles and shooed him away from the tent and off into the mangroves. It took a lot of pushing to get him out of camp. It looked as if extreme racoon protection would be in order.

My kayak has no bulkheads or hatches, therefore it has no built in protection from racoons. Racoons are extremely persistent and clever. Their little hands are skilled at removing hatch straps and opening hatch covers. Their sharp teeth can also chew through hatch covers. So I carefully prepare my camp for racoon protection whenever I am in 'coon country. First I do not take much attractive smelly food. Most of my kayaking food is dehydrated for weight and space. It is intrinsically less enticing to the racoons. It is also packaged individually. I keep it in additional plastic containers and those I then store inside garbage bags. All this is to reduce the attraction of the racoons to my camp.

To provide flotation in my no bulkhead boat I always carry flotation bags, even when the boat is packed full with gear. This is a safety requirement because when I partially or completely unpack at a camp and then go out to paddle, I must have flotation in the kayak. these bags come in handy when I am defending the kayak against racoons. I place all my food as far into the ends of the kayak as I can. Next I store my water containers. I then place any left over equipment in front of that. Then I place one of the flotation bags in the cockpit, inflate it tight against the edges of the cockpit and then put the cockpit cover over the cockpit. This seals the cockpit fairly well. Then I do the most effective thing of all these measures. I turn the kayak over with the cockpit rim buried in the sand all around. Finally I mound some sand around the cockpit as much as is practical. Then I hope all goes well for I know it is not a perfect defense.

I was driven into the tent at 6:20 PM by the mosquitos. In about 15 minutes, I could hear a racoon walking around the tent and then heard his scratching claws as he climbed on top of the kayak. He walked up and down the hull, looking for a way in for hours. The scratching of the claws on the fiberglass drove me crazy as I was completely sure that the racoon was walking on the kayak or digging at the cockpit. I finally fell asleep, but awoke at 2:30 AM. There was no racoon action. I went outside the tent. It was high tide. The stars were magnificent. The Milky Way formed a sparkling road across the black sky. I stayed out until a horde of mosquitos found me and drove me back into the safety of my screened tent.

The racoons returned in the predawn dawn and once again attacked my kayak, walking up and down, and fighting with each other and making a terrible racket. Apparently they were fighting over the right to fail to get into my food. I heard them several times during the night also working on the kayak of my neighbors. I could hear the fishing boats, both commercial and recreational making the run out the channels and passes into the Gulf and down south to the grass flats in pursuit of bone fish. The drone of the larger boats and the whine of the high powered flats boats disturbed the peace of the early morning. Finally sunrise arrived and I exited the tent to see the beautiful sunrise.



I decided to do a morning paddle up Rabbit Key Pass to Lopez River. I removed my racoon defense and repacked the kayak for paddling, especially the float bags. As the photos above show, it was low tide when I launched. There was a least at hundred feet of mud extending from the beach to the waters edge. I picked the shortest distance to the water from the beach, shouldered my kayak and stepped off into the mud. I immediately sank in up to my ankles and with each step to the water, I sank deeper. Soon I was sinking in to my knees. The sticky ooze clung to my legs and sucked at my shoes. I was wearing sandals with a pair of large and secure straps on them. But even with these sturdy shoes that had served me so well on my 2000 mile hike of the Appalachian trail in 1999, the suction of this mud strip one from my foot. I had to reach way down into the hole quickly filling with muddy sea water and fetch it back out.

A new method of proceeding was needed. I lowered my kayak to the muddy surface and placed both hands and half or more of my weight on cockpit rim. The large surface area of the kayak kept it from sinking much into the mud. I then moved my feet forward toward the water. With the much reduced weight I sank much less than before. I then moved the kayak forward and repeated the process. Shortly I was in enough water to get in the kayak and paddle through the 3 inch deep water to gain a deeper channel along the mangroves.

I paddled east into Rabbit Key Grasses and then between two keys into Rabbit Key Pass. The tide was ebbing strongly with a 2+ knot adverse current. I had noticed that there was at least a 2 hour difference in the tidal peaks between the Visitors Center and the Gulf at Rabbit Key. Apparently the resistance to tidal flows in the shallow multichannel mangroves of the Ten Thousand Islands causes this delay. This makes traveling in and out from the interior rivers to the Gulf very difficult to time for the tides, reducing the window of significant favorable currents for the passage from the usual 4-5 hours to maybe only 2-3 hours. If you are in the interior and wait for the ebb to strongly flow, maybe 2 hours after its start, the ebb has already been underway for 4 hours at the Gulf and is already declining. If you take more than 2 hours getting to the Gulf, you will be paddling against the tidal current. The tidal offset from the interior to the Gulf is even higher on the northern end of the Ten Thousand Islands.

I battled the strong current for 3.5 miles up Rabbit Pass and then gave up and shot back down the channel to Rabbit Key. i fixed a late breakfast, early lunch on the sand spit. My neighbors were up and breaking camp for their paddle down to Mormon Key. I finished my meal and got ready for my days paddle down to Pavilion Key and return. On my return I had landed on the north side of the spit and decided I would keep my boat over there for my launch. Paul and Heather packed up and decided to try the mud even though I told them of my experience that morning. Paul broke the strap on his sandals and also had to retrieve his shoe from the ooze. But they made it out okay.

I paddled around the north side of the island and joined Paul and heather as they paddled to Pavilion Key on their way to Mormon Key. It is about 3 miles to Pavilion island and about half way across, I pulled ahead and pointed toward the gulf side of the island. Paul and Heather went to the inside of the island as it was closer to their route to Mormon Key. I paddled up the west side of Pavilion where the strong wave action on the Gulf side was chipping away at the shore. The large mangroves there were slowly succumbing and falling into the water. There were many bleached hulks along the shore and in the water. The struggling trees had many dead and dying limbs. these limbs were being used as perches for brown pelicans which, after fishing in the Gulf, returned to rest and roost on the convenient perches. Their dropping whitewashed the dark green mangrove leaves.

I rounded the south end of the key and started up the east side. There is a beach there that is just barely above the high tide line and clearly goes underwater during storms. It is not the designated campsite. However it made a nice rest stop.




I continued up the east side to the north end of the key where there is a curved deep water bay, a steep sand beach and the designated camping site. There are two latrines there. On the other side of the bay, facing more into the Gulf is a long white sand beach. This key supports a large camping population and is often used by Outward Bound for just that reason.

It is a very nice campsite and the (relatively) deep water available on both side make it a more pleasant camp than Rabbit Key. I would think that the mosquito problem would be less because the mangroves are much farther away. You could also arrange your camp to obtain a sea breeze to keep the bug population down.

The long beach on the Gulf side was filled with empty triton and tulip shells. there were hundreds of them and most were very large. Few were complete and most were bleached. But I have never seen such a collection of such shells. There were also many of the mystery mounds that I saw on Rabbit.




I paddled back to Rabbit Key for a trip length of about 8 miles. Along with the seven miles in the morning I did about 15 leisurely miles, arriving back at camp at 3:30 PM. There I found my new camp mates, Elke and Chris. They were from Austria. they were setting up camp from their canoe at the south end of the beach and had pitched their tent near the mangroves that completely blocked the softening breeze. They were already slapping at mosquitos and scratching.

They were paddling a new fiberglass canoe that they had rented from Captain Jack's in Everglades City. Their PFDs were minimal Type III's with restricted movement and comfort. Consider bringing your own if at all practical. PFDs degrade quickly in the tropical sun and salt and are often an area in which outfitters cut costs.

Because of the increase bug problem, I retreated to the tent before dark for a long 13 hour "night". I moved my kayak further down the beach away from the tent so that I would not have to listen to the racoons try to get into it all night. I slept much better that night without hearing their efforts to get my food. i did hear a lot of commotion at my neighbors camp so perhaps they moved their attention to their food store, having failed with mine the previous night.

The night was cloudy and the wind was light. The morning broke cloudy and windless. The bugs were out and I did not stir outside the tent until 8:30 AM for a total of 15 hours in the tent. Bring something to read.

Chickee
chickee



The tide was out once again but was not as big a problem this day as I was headed north and a launch on the sandier north side of the key was not only easier but closer too. I paddled away from Rabbit Key headed northwest along the gulf side of the mangrove keys. I cut across the indentation in the coast and headed straight for Kingston Key and its chickee some 6 miles away. In under two hours, I pulled up on the steep slope of a sand bar on the other side of the bay in which Kingston Chickee is located. This site is next to the Indian Key Pass and I am sure that the amount of boat traffic past it is very large. It is open to the west and northwest and sits in very shallow water. At low tide it will be difficult to get to. The mud at low tide comes almost all the way out to the chickee. I would not recommend staying here unless this is your only choice.




I continued across Indian Key Pass and around the inside end of Indian Key itself. There is a beach camp site there and it seemed much better than the chickee site although the boat traffic concerns would still apply. I rounded the island and headed back out to the Gulf and continued up the coast to Picnic Key. There is a long beach here with a steep slope on the end between Picnic and Tiger Key, which was my destination for the night.

There were about 20-25 people at the Picnic Key site, possibly an Outward Bound expedition by the look of them. I continued up the deep channel between Picnic and Tiger with the intention of circumnavigating Tiger Key as I was not sure where the camping sites were.

On the north end of Tiger I came upon a hundred yard long beach about 1 1/2 above high water with a steep beach along the northeast side. It looked like a good spot to camp but I saw no indication that it was an official site. There were neither signs or latrines. I got back in the kayak and continued around the key. The western shore was long with a sand shallow gradual beach all along its edge. About half way down the shore was a sign that said simply "Tiger Key" but I did not see a latrine. The carry from the waters edge to the beach was long but not overly soft. The beach was narrow at high tide and the mangroves were close to the sand. Worst of all the wind was blowing from the trees onto the beach, so the bug problem was probably bad. I decided to continue south along the island and see if there were any other places, which I soon discovered there were not.

I completed my tour of the key and returned to the north end of Tiger where the most promising site was located. I landed and unpacked the kayak and began setting up my tent in the 20 knot breeze, with some difficulty as it was hard to keep my very light warm weather tent from blowing away prior to setting the sand anchors. I tied one corner to the front toggle of the kayak just in case. A few heavy items and my remaining water bag soon kept it stationary long enough to get the sand anchors down in the right positions to keep the tent in one place.

As I was finishing up my setup, three high school to college age guys in kayaks came paddling by, their attitudes and foul language in full display. I suggested that official site appeared to be on the other side of the key and they thankful moved on.




After that minor ordeal, a nap was in order. Hey, its the tropics and I'm supposed to be taking it easy! I was just beginning to enjoy my nap when I heard a motorboat run up on the sand right next to the tent. It was a park ranger, the first I had seen. He wanted to check my permit, which I had fastened to the corner pole of my tent. I handed it over to him and pleasantries were exchanged. He then went over to check the permits of a group that had also decided to stay on this beach also. Since he said nothing about our location I assume that the north end is OK for camping.

My new shore mates were another group of Canadians, Ontarians, in kayaks and canoes. (5 men 1 woman) they had begun their trip in Collier Seminole park up the coast outside of the park. They spent 2 nights camping outside the park and were continuing on to Pavilion Key the next day and to Sunday Bay the day after, returning to their drop car at Everglades City. They were very friendly and polite camp mates and I was glad that they were here instead of the earlier group. They were fishing and had caught some mackerel. The ranger had told them that the fish were biting very well just of the gulf side of the key. We could see several boats working the area.

I watched the sun set over the gulf with the tide well out as the sun set. There was a 2 hour difference between the tidal peaks at Rabbit Key in the morning and at Tiger Key in the evening even though they are only 9 miles apart and on the edge of the Gulf of Mexico. Very curious. I suspect that both orography (land shape) and wind strongly affect tides in this region.

During the night, the wind picked up to 25 mph and the sand anchors shifted enough to loosen the fly which started flapping loudly. I went out twice to adjust it after not being able to stay asleep. Maybe I should not have napped. I spent three hours awake with the noise and motion.

The strong north wind kept the bugs down, but the sun was buried in cloud the next morning. I packed up and launched at 8:30 AM and headed up current and upwind. I picked my way through the mangrove channels and on into Lane Cove where I had paddled on Saturday and was soon back at Everglades City.

The sun came out and the sky cleared just as I reached the ramp at the Visitor's Center, after two days of windy and cloudy weather. Oh well. I used the convenient hose at the ramp to wash off the four days of sand salt and mud on my equipment and spread my gear out in the sun to dry. All was well dried in the strong sun by the time the car arrived.

On a sad note, in the parking lot next to the ranger's office was a carcass of a manatee on a flat bed trailer. Blood from the gashes of a boaters propeller were the obvious cause of this huge but gentle creature's death

More on Everglades Ecosystems...

About Mangroves......

2001 Everglades Trip Report

Turner River Trip Report

Cape Sable Trip Report

2004 Everglades Wilderness Waterway Trip Report


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EVEN THE BEST BOATERS CAN FIND THEMSELVES IN SERIOUS TROUBLE ON THE MILDEST OF DAYS ON THE WATER. PARTICIPATION IN THIS SPORT IS A STRENUOUS ACTIVITY. CONSULT YOUR PHYSICIAN BEFORE UNDERTAKING ANY SUCH ACTIVITY. PLEASE BE AWARE THAT EACH BOATER TAKES FULL RESPONSIBILITY FOR HIS OR HER OWN SAFETY, AND IS TOTALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR ASSESSING THE DANGER LEVEL AND ACCEPTING THE CONSEQUENCES OF PARTICIPATING IN THIS SPORT.


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