Florida Everglades Expedition 2014

In Jan 2014, I set out to do a solo expedition that would take me through the full length of the Everglades in southern Florida. I began just outside the north eastern entrance of Everglade city and paddled 230km to the southern tip and exited at Flamingo, head of the Florida Keys. The planned 200km route was extended to capture some of the route's more elusive subjects like the Roseate Spoonbill. 

 One of the many alligators to be found sunning on the few available banks . The young alligators tend to posture more aggressively but all of them use a body language that allows you to understand your boundaries. 

One of the many alligators to be found sunning on the few available banks . The young alligators tend to posture more aggressively but all of them use a body language that allows you to understand your boundaries. 

  It's the wonder of what might be around the next bend in the mangrove mazes thats exciting. The mangrove passages make up part of the route but there is just as much open water paddling, each comes with it's own offerings and challenges.  This is a young section trying to fill in. Their height changes depending where you are in the everglades.

 It's the wonder of what might be around the next bend in the mangrove mazes thats exciting. The mangrove passages make up part of the route but there is just as much open water paddling, each comes with it's own offerings and challenges.  This is a young section trying to fill in. Their height changes depending where you are in the everglades.

 

There is a lot to consider when planning your route through the Everglades. Tidal currents, the timing of the tides, fluctuating water levels, wind, and available camping areas. In the everglades the camp sites are limited, as land is limited and if you do not consider properly the fore mentioned hurdles you may spend the evening in your canoe, which offers little protection to the night feeding insects.

The images below are of the beautiful Gulf of Mexico campsite I chose six days paddle in. I had just finished a day of the hardest paddling I have ever done. Twelve hours of non stop paddling against strong ocean tidal currents and a twenty mile an hour face wind. It was well worth it as I enjoyed the company of no less than a half dozen Barred owls as the sun set. Later in the evening I was to be joined by hundreds of egg laying horse shoe crabs that came ashore to surround my tent. They brought with them large fish possibly small sharks or stingrays that seemed to be feeding on them.  As you can see with the tidal line just in front of my tent the action took place all night just feet from where I lay.  What I loved most about this site was the dozen or so thunderstorm cells that hung in the air above the gulf. They exploded with lightning and seemed separate from each other. It allowed me to get a real perspective of the vast size of this ocean inlet. 

 

 The Gulf coast campsite was a little slice of heaven. Tranquil nature packed and very solitary. View to the south.

The Gulf coast campsite was a little slice of heaven. Tranquil nature packed and very solitary. View to the south.

 View to the north west.

View to the north west.

 

The next leg of the paddle took place twenty kms south of the gulf campsite. A small, nearly unrecognizable indent and small whole in the mangrove forest edge is all that signified the entrance to a passage known as the Nightmare. Twenty to twenty-five kms,depending on your chosen route, of large overhanging closed in mangrove forest. It had a running current of about six knots and you had to be accurate with the aim of your vessel. If you jammed the front and you were twisted sideways, you'd quickly be pinned tree side, with a hull tipped and filling with water, while your gear went the way of the gators.  The bottom was a mud like layer that you could near disappear into in places. If you didn't want to be stuck in the muddy bottom of the Nightmare, due to returning tides and lowering water levels, you had about three and a half to four hours to navigate it to arrive at the permanently flowing waters of Harney river south east of the forest. The overhanging forest had a maze like character but between my map and keeping a close eye on the fastest floating leaves I made the right decisions and arrived on the other side in the heart of Harney River.I had four more days paddle left and many more memories, some far to crazy to mention. Loved it all and made it out in the end far better for it. 

The trip takes on average 14 days in a canoe. With extended days paddling I managed to do it in ten and still had time to fill some memory cards with memories and some fantastic subjects for future art . With all the really fantastic sightings like sharks, dolphins exploding on the water while hunting in large groups, birds birds and birds, I recommend this paddle to any serious and prepared lover of adventure. 

 The gulf shore at high tide early evening.

The gulf shore at high tide early evening.

 A startled brown pelican on my route to the Roseate Spoonbill waters.

A startled brown pelican on my route to the Roseate Spoonbill waters.