Everglades National Park
To access official park information, call 305-242-7700 and ask for a Wilderness Trip Planner. Or, visit their site at http://www.nps.gov/ever.
You can sketch out a trip with the trip planner. But that's all you can do from home. Wilderness permits, required for all overnight camping, are available only in person at Flamingo and Gulf Coast ranger stations and may be obtained up to 24 hours in advance of a trip.
Head to the permit desk at Flamingo or Gulf Coast ranger stations and make a backcountry trip request with park staff. Have alternate trips planned once at the permit desk; this way, if campsites are already reserved, you have an alternate route ready. Once your permit is issued and park regulations explained to you, you must pay a permit fee.
HEAVY USE PERIODS
The general paddling season in Everglades National Park runs from November through April. Insects, thunderstorms, and occasional hurricanes conspire to keep the Everglades backcountry nearly deserted May through October. When the first north breezes cool and clear the air, reducing insects, paddlers turn their eye southward for the Everglades. A few campsites begin to fill on weekends. But the crowds really come around Christmas. The period between Christmas and New Years is the Everglades' busiest. Expect full campsites and plan alternative trips. After this, weekends can be busy, yet you can almost always get into the general vicinity of where you want to go. Plan your trip during the week for the most solitude. The next big crowds come around President's Day weekend in February. The last big hits come mid-March, when college students flock to the Glades for overnight trips. Again, get to the ranger stations early and you can secure a campsite. In April as the weather warms, visitation tapers off, dying by the end of the month.
NOAA chart #11430, 11432, 11433
Waterproof Chart #39, 41
North American Canoe Tours, Inc.
Post Office Box 5038
Everglades City, FL 34139
These folks rent canoes, kayaks, and gear, lead tours, and provide shuttles. They also offer showers and overnight lodging at their Ivey House, which is located adjacent to North American Canoe Tours in Everglades City.
A Paddler's Guide to Everglades National Park and Beach and Coastal Camping in Florida are just two of 12 outdoor guide books written by Johnny Molloy. To order these books or learn more about Johnny, please visit www.johnnymolloy.com.
Visitors coming from the Miami area and points north may take the Florida Turnpike (Route 821) south until it ends, merging with U.S. 1 at Florida City. Turn right at the first traffic light onto Palm Drive (State Road 9336/SW 344th St.) and follow the signs to the park.
Visitors driving north from the Florida Keys should turn left on Palm Drive (344th Street) in Florida City and follow the signs to the park.
Visitors to Shark Valley may take the Florida Turnpike to the exit for SW 8th Street (also known as U.S. 41 and Tamiami Trail). Travel 25 miles west on U.S. 41 to signs marked Shark Valley. From the Naples area, take U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) east to signs marked Shark Valley.
Visitors to the Gulf Coast Visitor Center should take U.S. 41 west from the Miami area to the intersection of U.S. 29, then take U.S. 29 south three miles into Everglades City and follow the signs to the park visitor center. From the Naples area, take U.S. 41 east and turn south on U.S. 29.
Visitors to Chekika should take Krome Avenue (State Road 9336/SW 177th Ave.) north from Homestead or south from U.S. 41. Go west on SW 168th Street and follow the signs to the park.
Miami and Fort Myers are serviced by international airports, buses, and numerous car rental agencies. Miami has an Amtrak station.The park may be explored by personal vehicle, commercial tour bus, bicycle, motorboat, or canoe. There is NO public transportation in the park.
The Everglades is mild and pleasant from December through April, though rare cold fronts may create near-freezing conditions. Summers are hot and humid, with temperatures around 90 degrees F (32 degrees C) and humidity over 90 percent. Afternoon thunderstorms are common and mosquitoes are abundant. Wear comfortable sportswear in winter: loose-fitting, long-sleeve shirts and pants. Insect repellent—lots of it, is recommended in the summer.
Insects can make a visit unbearable during the summer months if you are not prepared. Information on mosquito levels during the summer is available at 305-242-7700 (8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. EST).
Ernest F. Coe Visitor Center: Located at the main park entrance west of Homestead and Florida City, the Coe Visitor Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Educational displays, orientation films, brochures, and information are available. Books, film, postcards, and insect repellent may be purchased in the bookstore. No trails start from this visitor center. The Long Pine Key Campground and Picnic Area is six miles farther west, and is surrounded by an abundance of hiking trails.
Royal Palm Visitor Center: Located four miles west of the main entrance station, the Royal Palm Visitor Center is open daily from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. It has displays with recorded messages that interpret the park's unique ecosystems. Books, film, postcards, and insect repellent are available for sale, and vending machines dispense snacks and soft drinks. (No food or drink is permitted on the interpretive trails.) The Anhinga and Gumbo Limbo trails begin here.
Flamingo Visitor Center: Flamingo is 38 miles (61 km) southwest from the main entrance at the southern end of the park. The visitor center, open November through April from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., offers natural history exhibits and information. A restaurant, gift shop, lodge, and campground are nearby. Boat tours and canoe rentals are available at the marina. The marina also sells gas and general supplies. A post office is located in the lobby of the lodge. Several hiking and canoeing trails begin at Flamingo or nearby, including the south end of the Wilderness Waterway. Abundant wildlife may be found here year-round.
Gulf Coast Visitor Center: The Gulf Coast Visitor Center is located in Everglades City, in the northwest corner of the park. The visitor center has natural history exhibits, park information, and issues backcountry permits and park passes. It is open daily from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. November to April, and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. May to November. Gulf Coast is the gateway for exploring the Ten Thousand Islands, a maze of mangrove islands and waterways that extends south to Flamingo and Florida Bay.
Shark Valley Visitor Center: Shark Valley is located along U.S. 41 (Tamiami Trail) on the northern border of the park. The visitor center is open daily from 8:30 a.m. to 5:15 p.m., and features exhibits, information, and book sales. Shark Valley lies in the heart of the "river of grass" that stretches 100 miles (160 km) from Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico.
CAMPING & LODGING
Campgrounds are located at three places in the park, with tent and RV sites, restrooms, and water. There are no hookups in the park. All three campgrounds are open year-round. Reservations may be made at the Long Pine Key and Flamingo campgrounds through the National Park Reservation Service at 800-365-2267 (United States), 301-722-1257 (outside the United States), or 888-530-9796 with a TDD for the hearing-impaired.
The Flamingo Lodge is the only lodging available in the park. It is open year-round, has 103 rooms, and 24 cottages with kitchen facilities. A restaurant and cafe are open during winter. For additional information and reservations, contact Flamingo Lodge, Marina, and Outpost Resort at 800-600-3813 or 941-695-3101.
Backcountry camping is also available. Reservations for designated campsites may be made in person up to 24 hours before entering the backcountry. There are three sites accessible by foot and 43 additional sites available in Florida Bay, along the Gulf Coast, and inland, accessible by canoe or boat. All supplies must be carried in and out of the backcountry, including water.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication