Kayaking and canoeing through the Florida Everglades is a popular activity for the more adventurous individual. There are many different opportunities to explore various areas of the park in canoes and kayaks, including the ever-popular Ten Thousand Islands area. This area is a maze of water and mangroves, where there is abundant life and beauty to be found. While access to the area is limited by cars and other large vessels, it is the perfect trail for any kayaking tour of the area. Be mindful that you might often run ashore in this tour, though, because there are an abundance of shallows throughout the Ten Thousand Islands.
Traversing the 10,000 Islands can seem like a huge challenge, which is why it should only be done by experienced kayakers, and travelers should reference NOAA Charts #11430 and #11432 for assistance in navigation of this tricky area. Some popular destinations for exploring and visiting in the area include:
- Turner River
- Halfway Creek
- Sandfly Island
- East River
Turner River is a popular trip, and launches right off of US-41, 6 miles east of State Route 29. From here, kayakers can launch into the Turner River and head south to Chokoloskee or the Ranger Station, either of which will take from 4 ½ to 7 hours, depending on the paths that are taken.
Sandfly Island is less of a swamp tour because most of the kayaking is done through open water in the Chokoloskee Bay and into the 10,000 Islands area. Of course, there are no marked trails in the area, so a compass and nautical maps are always recommended for travelers. The Sandfly Island Loop kayaking trial takes about 2 ½ hours to complete, plus an hour to walk the trail on the island itself if you so choose.
Halfway Creek is part of the Turner River Kayaking trip, and takes about an hour or two of the total trip to traverse. This creek is located just off the Left Hand Turner River, which is the alternate path for the Turner River Trip. In total, this tour will take 6 to 7 hours. However, from the Ranger station, you can go kayaking down Halfway Creek and back in a matter of just a couple of hours if you choose.
East River flows through the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, which is located to the West of Everglades National Park. This creek passes through many small lakes and mangrove tunnels, and then becomes a larger tidal river as you pass upstream. Alligators and a variety of birds will be seen in the upper river. The route through East River is not marked, so nautical maps and a compass are recommended. If you see markers, tape, or spray paint, disregard them as they are not reliable. The launch is off of US-41, and the trip to Big Lake and back takes about 4-6 hours. Camping can be found on Fakahatchee Island or one of the many islands that front the Gulf of Mexico as part of the Ten Thousand Islands.
And remember, if you are kayaking, camping, or enjoying any other activity in the Florida Everglades, you need to remember to “take nothing but pictures and leave with nothing but memories”!