An Everglades Escape

Day 5: Pavilion Key

The next morning we continued northward on the Wilderness Waterway, alternately passing through large bays connected by small creeks. A light breeze kept us cool, despite a bright sun overhead.

We saw no alligators on Alligator Creek. The difficulty of paddling here is the complete lack of places to stop. There is no dry ground around. The shorelines are primarily mangrove with some other trees such as poisonwood. Therefore we were grateful to arrive at Possum Key, which is a Calusa shell mound where Darwin's Place campsite is located. The clearing here is much smaller than it was when it was farmed for bananas by the last man to reside in the park, Arthur Darwin.

Possum Key did offer a place to walk as we explored the forest behind the Darwin's place campsites. The woods are thick here, unfortunately with exotic plants such as Brazilian pepper. The park service tries to keep the pepper tree, along with other exotics such as melaleuca, from crowding out the native vegetation.

Regi and I continued north on the Wilderness Waterway just a short distance to the Chatham River where we headed west back into the wide-open Gulf. A strong tide pushed us out towards Gun Rock Point. There was a lot of ocean located between us and Pavilion Key. Once again we stroked it hard before the afternoon winds kicked in. The sandy spit of the island's northern end was already populated with campers, mostly sea kayakers.

After setting up camp Regi went beachcombing while I cast for snook, which are known to cruise the shoreline on a rising tide. We looked across at the small smattering of sandbars that made up a Little Pavilion Key. The shoals were once home to a small clamming industry. Clammers lived in shacks on stilts and dug for clams with their feet, which were covered in burlap. Our biggest challenge was making sure we had our food properly stowed away from the persistent raccoons that roam this campsite and many other beach campsites in Everglades. We enjoyed a magnificent sunset before retiring to a beach fire.

While sipping morning coffee I walked over to the canoe and could see sandy raccoon tracks all over the boat. Our supplies were safe, though. Regi and I paddled north past Rabbit Key, where pelicans were roosting in the trees, and took one final break before making our way to the Gulf Coast Ranger Station in the Everglades City. We took a welcome shower at the Ivey House before they shuttled us back around the Everglades and down to our starting point at Flamingo.

Published: 30 Apr 2002 | Last Updated: 15 Sep 2010
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication


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