All wilderness (backcountry) campsites except beach sites are closed until further notice. The closure includes all chickees and ground sites. Portable toilets are also closed. Permits are temporarily suspended. Visitors should adhere to CDC guidelines for social distancing at beach sites.
Campers can obtain permits at the Flamingo Visitor Center and the Gulf Coast Visitor Contact Station daily. During the summer season (mid-April through mid-November) permits are free, but are still required. They are available 24 hours 7 days per week. Follow self-registration instructions at either visitor center. Campers must register in person. Permits are currently free and obtainable no more than a day in advance of the start of a trip.
Practice Leave No Trace principles and plan to pack in and pack out all waste. Be aware that many sites do not have restrooms and those that do are not able to serviced regularly.
Permits are required for ALL backcountry campsites. Permits may obtained from either the Gulf Coast Visitor Contact Station or the Flamingo Visitor Center prior to backcountry camping.
Reminder: All backcountry campsites are only accessible by water.
Updates on Backcountry Sites
Broad Creek and "The Nightmare" between the Broad River Chickee and Harney River Chickee are now passable. Watson River Chickee and Roberts River Chickee are closed indefinitely for repairs. Hazard cleanup and repairs are ongoing in the backcountry. Please use caution when navigating in the backcountry as there are underwater hazards and missing or damaged navigational markers. Check conditions at the Flamingo or Gulf Coast Visitor Centers before departing for your trip.
Best Times to Camp
Winter is the best season to go. Summers are hot, muggy, and mosquitoes are plentiful.
Feeding wildlife anywhere in the park is prohibited. Use caution around campsites where alligators or other wildlife may have been fed or gained access to human food. If wildlife associate humans with food, they may exhibit more assertive behaviors.
Call either the Gulf Coast (239-695-3311) or the Flamingo (239-695-2945) Visitor Centers for detailed information to help with your trip planning.
Reservations are not accepted for any backcountry site.
Fees and Permits
A backcountry permit is required for all wilderness campsites and issued the day before or the day of your trip.
During the winter season (mid-November through mid-April) backcountry permits must be obtained in person at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center or at the Flamingo Visitor Center between the hours of 8:00 AM - 4:30 PM. A permit processing fee of $15 will be charged as well as a $2 per person per day camping fee.
During the summer season (mid-April through mid-November) permits are free but are still required. They are available 24 hours 7 days per week. Follow self-registration instructions at either visitor center.
Permits are not issued over the telephone except for visitors coming in from the Florida Keys to camp at North Nest Key, Little Rabbit Key, Shark Point Chickee, Johnson Key Chickee and Cape Sable. Please call 239-695-2945 or 239-695-3311.
Note: The maximum backcountry stay is 14 days.
A few tips on getting backcountry permits:
For sites where only one or two campers are allowed, people should arrive at the ranger station a day in advance to secure permits on busy weekends. If you seek a permit for the day you arrive, plan to be flexible and have alternative sites in mind.
There are a high number of permits allowed for beach camping along Cape Sable, so it's generally possible to obtain a permit for these on the morning of your departure.
A few backcountry sites are accessed via the Florida Keys and you can reserve these by phone the day before.