An Everglades Escape
The Harney River chickee was our jumping off point for entering The Nightmare. We joined the Wilderness Waterway here. The Wilderness Waterway is the 100-mile marked route connecting Flamingo and Everglades City.
Overnight, the temperatures dropped to the mid-40s, a cool snap by Everglades standards. The Nightmare is a maze of small sheltered creeks that are pungent with salt and decaying plant matter. Overhead are mangroves, forming a canopy. Luckily for paddlers, the Nightmare is fairly well marked by small, brown Park Service signs. Its name comes from the fact that when the tides are down, boaters have been stuck in the shallow waters. Make sure you paddle The Nightmare on a rising or high tide.
Along with the cool weather came a strong north wind. We were lucky to be paddling sheltered waters. At The Nightmare's end Regi and I emerged onto the Broad River. The Broad at this point is several hundred feet across, contrasting with the narrow Nightmare. Just a few hundred yards to the east was our destination, Broad River campsite. It is a ground campsite, known for mosquitoes and no-see-ums. Ground campsites are generally buggier than other campsites. While sitting on the small dock, Regi saw two sea kayakers approaching camp. We learned they were heading south from Everglades City. The evening became chilled and all of us retired to our tents for the night.
After some warm beverages, Regi and I headed into the morning sun on the Broad River. I soon found a small, unnamed creek that the nautical charts indicated headed to Cabbage Island on the south side of Rodgers River Bay. This intimate creek, known as the Cabbage Island Shortcut, is one of the Everglades finest paddles. The sky clouded overhead and a light rain was falling by the time we reached the Rodgers River chickee. Rainfall averages only one and a half inches per month during the paddling season.
The rain falling on the tin roof of the chickee drummed us into an afternoon nap. A gray evening followed a gray afternoon. We made a quick supper and retired back to the tent for more snoozing. Next morning Regi and I left the two-party chickee and paddled northwesterly from Rodgers River Bay into Toms Creek, which is full of sharp twists and turns. We rejoined the Wilderness Waterway near marker 52 and pushed northward into Onion Key Bay. The paddle was kept interesting while navigating the open and closed waters and many islands.
A final creek led us into Lostmans Five Bay, where the Lostmans Five campsite lay at the mouth of Lostmans Five Creek. This ground campsite is low and often wet. However, it is a favorite of mine, since it offers exploration opportunities up Lostmans Five Creek. The wooden dock here is great for catching a nice breeze off the bay.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication