Wilderness Trip Planner

Plan Your Wilderness Trip Here!

Safely exploring a wilderness by water requires careful preparation and planning. Use this page as a guide to camping in the coastal portions of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness! If you require assistance planning your trip, call or stop by the Gulf Coast (Everglades City) or Flamingo Visitor Centers.

 
Canoeing in the backcountry
Safely exploring a wilderness by water requires careful preparation and planning. Plan at least two routes before arriving at the park in case your first choice is already filled. If you require assistance planning your trip, call or stop by the Gulf Coast (Everglades City) or Flamingo Visitor Centers.

Seasons

Because of the heat, severe storms, and intolerable numbers of mosquitoes, summer (June – October) is not the best time of year for a wilderness trip. The winter months (December – April) tend to be more pleasant.

Obtain Charts

Nautical charts are necessary for finding your way in the wilderness and are useful in planning your trip. Charts may be purchased at the Coe and Gulf Coast Visitor Centers, Flamingo Adventures (Marina Store), and Everglades National Park Boat Tours (UNTIL APRIL 30, 2019), or ordered from the Florida National Parks Association. Some sites are not indicated with a tent symbol on nautical charts. Consult visitor center maps before departure.

Routes

Possibilities are unlimited for overnight wilderness trip routes from Flamingo or Gulf Coast. Refer to maps, nautical charts, and guide books.

The 99-mile Wilderness Waterway attracts interest because it connects Flamingo and Everglades City. Most paddlers allow at least eight days to complete the trip. This route is recommended for experienced paddlers only. Arrange in advance for a vehicle shuttle. There are many areas of very shallow water that may be encountered along the Wilderness Waterway. Powerboats over 18' long may have to detour around Alligator and Plate Creeks. The “Nightmare” and Broad Creek are passable only to paddlers at high tide. To prevent prop dredging, which results in increased turbidity and the destruction of sub-merged natural features, boats with drafts of two feet or more, including the propellor, should not use the waterway.

Be Realistic

Tides and winds can make paddling difficult. Most experienced paddlers plan to travel between 8 and 12 miles per day. Adverse conditions may reduce your speed to one mile an hour or less. Boaters are expected to know their own abilities, be able to use charts, understand tides and weather, and make appropriate decisions in selecting an itinerary. This is a wilderness.

The wilderness of Everglades National Park is very different from other places you may have boated, paddled, or camped. It can be confusing and difficult to navigate as the mazes of mangrove–lined creeks and bays all begin to look the same. With proper planning, you can avoid the frustration and hours wasted from getting lost.

If this is your first wilderness trip in the Everglades, ease into it with a one or two night trip instead of jumping into a several night Wilderness Waterway excursion.

From the Flamingo area, camp along the marked Hell's Bay Canoe Trail at either the Pearl Bay or Hell's Bay Chickees. Or follow the shore of Florida Bay to camp on the beach at East Cape Sable.

From the Gulf Coast area, follow the marked channel through Indian Key Pass to Picnic Key or Tiger Key, for an opportunity to experience camping on the beaches.
Wilderness permits are required for all overnight camping, except in drive-in campgrounds or when sleeping aboard boats. There is a $15 fee for processing permits, as well as a $2 per person/per day camping fee. Fees are subject to change. Permits may only be obtained in person on the day before or the day your trip begins. Insect conditions can be severe during summer months and wilderness use is minimal; permits are free, and permit-writing desks may not be staffed.

Permits are still required - Follow self-registration instructions at the Flamingo or Gulf Coast Visitor Centers (late April to mid-November). Wilderness users originating from the Florida Keys can also obtain permits by phone for North Nest Key, Little Rabbit Key, Johnson Key, Shark Point Chickee, and Cape Sable. Call the Flamingo Visitor Center at (239) 695-2945, no more than 24 hours prior to the start of your trip. A credit card is required in winter.

You may call (239) 695-3311 for these sites only if no one is available at Flamingo in summer.
Flamingo Visitor Center:
8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily;
(239) 695-2945

Gulf Coast Visitor Center:
8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily;
(239) 695-3311
The limit for number of nights at a campsite applies to the peak use season from mid-November through late April. Campsite capacities applies year-round, and are subject to change. Campsites must be vacated by noon. Specific details on campsites can be found in the chart on the bottom of the page.

  • All beach sites have shallow water approach; motor boats use caution.
  • At all beach sites, camp on the sand along the shoreline only. No clearing of vegetation or camping in the interior.
  • Nails and stakes are not allowed to be driven into any chickees or the Lostman’s Five platform. Use a freestanding tent.
  • Some ground sites may have a picnic table.

Types of Sites

  1. Chickee Sites: Chickees are located along rivers and bays where dry land is inaccessible. They are elevated 10' x 12' wooden platforms with roofs. A walkway leads to a self-contained toilet. You'll need a free-standing tent, since stakes or nails are not allowed. No campfires are allowed on chickees. Some paddlers have difficulty accessing chickees from their boats. A loop of heavy rope may be helpful.
  2. Ground Sites: Ground sites are mounds of earth a few feet higher than the surrounding mangroves, located along interior bays and rivers. They tend to have more insects than chickees or beach sites. No campfires are allowed on ground sites. Use gas grills or stoves. Wood, charcoal, or coal-fueled grills or stoves are not permitted.
  3. Beach Sites: Beach sites are located on the coast. During ideal conditions, insects may be scarce, but always be prepared for mosquitoes and no-see-ums (tiny biting insects), especially at sunrise and sunset. Gulf waters at beach sites can become rough; seas can exceed 3 feet. Low tides often expose large mud flats, which may make beach access difficult. Campfires must be below high-tide line. Sand beaches are often stabilized by tall, grassy plants called sea oats. Take care not to damage them. Sea turtles and crocodiles nest on beaches in late spring and summer. Avoid camping or building a fire where nesting evidence exists. Many beach sites have no toilets. Bury human waste at least six inches below the surface, away from shorelines and tent sites. Urinate directly in the water.
Looking for Solitude?
Choose a single chickee, a campsite with a smaller capacity, or camp far from others on the long stretches of Cape Sable beaches. You can often experience solitude at a beach site. But be prepared for a primitive camping experience—there are no toilets or tables at most beach sites in the wilderness of Everglades National Park.

Paddlers: remember that motorboats are allowed in most areas of the wilderness, including the Wilderness Waterway.
  • Inside Everglades National Park: Everglades National Park Boat Tours, located at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City: (239) 695-2591 or www.evergladesnationalparkboattoursgulfcoast.com. (Everglades National Park Boat Tours rentals will be available only through April 30, 2019). Rentals are also available at the southern end of the park at the Flamingo Marina: www.flamingoeverglades.com.
  • Outside Everglades National Park: Local guide, outfitter, and shuttle services are available. Search the internet for companies.
  • Florida National Parks Association: You may find it helpful to purchase the charts you will need in advance, in addition to other trip planning literature. These items can be purchased by phone, on-line, or mail from the Florida National Parks Association. Proceeds from sales support educational programs in Everglades National Park. Learn more: https://floridanationalparksassociation.com/.
  • Protected Resources : All artifacts, plants, and animals (including sea-shells) are protected in Everglades National Park; it is prohibited to collect or disturb them.
  • Pets: Pets are not permitted at backcountry campsites, beaches, or ashore anywhere in the wilderness. Pets can disrupt feeding, nesting, and mating activities of wildlife.
  • Wildlife: Do not feed any animals, regardless of whether they have feet, fins, or feathers. It is illegal. Do not approach wildlife so closely that it interrupts their natural behavior. Enjoy the diverse wildlife, but from a safe distance. Do not leave food unattended. Store food & trash in a secure compartment aboard a vessel or in a hard–sided cooler (not foam). Raccoons and rodents are aggressive and may chew through plastic water jugs, tents, dry bags, etc.
  • Water : There is no fresh water available anywhere along the coastal portions of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness. You must bring all of your drinking and cooking water. As a minimum, plan on bringing one gallon of water per person, per day. Hard-sided containers should be used, as raccoons often chew through soft-sided containers (such as “milk jugs”) to get to your drinking water. In addition to ruining your trip, when raccoons get your drinking water, it allows artificially large numbers of them to survive in a given area. In the summer, sea turtles nesting on these same remote Everglades beaches lay their eggs, only to have over 90% of the nests destroyed by the hungry raccoons. Don’t upset the balance of nature. Keep all water and food away from park wildlife.
  • Fires : Fires are not permitted at ground sites or chickees. Fires are only allowed at designated “beach” sites. Build fires below the highest tide line. Use only dead and downed wood. No cutting of standing dead trees. Remove all traces of fires before leaving site.
  • Stove/Cooking : With the exception of fires on designated “beach” sites (Campsite Information Section), all cooking, heating, etc. must be done with devices that will not produce any ash or a spark or ember that is capable of igniting vegetation. Wood, charcoal, or coal-fueled grills, stoves or devices are not permitted.
  • Weapons and Fireworks : Possession of firearms in Everglades National Park follows State of Florida regulations. Fireworks are prohibited.
  • Portable Motors :Generators, chain saws and other portable motors are prohibited at all backcountry sites.
  • Human Waste : Use toilets where provided. Do not dispose of moist towelettes in toilets. If there is no toilet, dig a hole at least six inches deep and cover it after use. Pack out toilet paper. At beach and coastal ground sites, urinate directly in the water. To avoid soap pollution, wash dishes (and yourself) away from waterways and sprinkle the gray water over the ground to soak in.
  • Trash : Carry out all your trash; do not bury, burn, or dispose of it in toilets. Use toilets where provided, for human waste only. Do not throw baby wipes, disposable wet/wash cloths, or insect repellent cloths in toilets. International laws prohibit dumping trash at sea.
  • Fishing Regulations : Park fishing regulations are available from visitor centers or on the park’s website. A state fishing license is required; purchase one before you come to the park from area bait and marine supply stores. You may also obtain a fishing license by calling 1-888-347-4356.
  • Closed Areas : All keys (islands) in Florida Bay are closed to landing, except Bradley Key (open sunrise to sunset), and those designated as campsites. In Florida Bay, the mainland from Terrapin Point to U.S. 1 is closed to landing. Other areas may close temporarily to protect wildlife.
  • Sleeping on Board : If you sleep aboard a vessel, anchor out of sight of chickees and ¼ mile from other sites.
  • Vessels : All vessels must conform to Coast Guard regulations. Air boats and personal watercraft (jet skis) are prohibited.
Planning ahead is extremely important while visiting the backcountry. Be sure to review the paddler's checklist as well to help you be prepared.

  • Important Supplies : Carry fresh water (1 gallon/person/day), compass, nautical charts, anchor, sunscreen, sunglasses, rain gear, mosquito repellent or bug jacket, and tent (with insect netting).
  • Float Plan : File a float plan with a friend or relative before leaving home, and call that person when you finish your trip. If you do not call by the pre-determined time, that person should notify the park’s 24-hour dispatch at (305) 242-7740.
  • Tides : Beware of swift currents and tides when securing vessels overnight; tidal ranges can exceed four feet in some locations. Beach canoes above high tide line and tie down or anchor from three points at landings/docks. Use tides to your advantage in travel. Tide tables are available at the Flamingo and Gulf Coast Visitor Centers or on-line.
  • Winds & Weather : Numerous canoes, kayaks, and boats have been swamped by rough seas on windy days. Thunderstorms occur frequently in summer. Hurricane season is June through November. Be prepared for sudden wind and weather changes at any time.
  • Boating Safely : Paddlers will encounter powerboats. If you are in a narrow river or pass, and a boat approaches, pull as far to the side as possible, point the bow of your canoe or kayak into the boat’s wake, and stop paddling until the boat passes. Powerboaters: reduce speed in narrow channels; Idle past paddlers and give them plenty of space; approach last 100 yards of any backcountry campsite at idle speed to avoid prop dredging and excessive wave action.
  • If You’re In Trouble: Stay with your vessel near a navigational marker or campsite. Set anchor immediately. Try to attract the attention of other boaters. If you have a marine radio, transmit on channel 16. Try calling (305) 242-7740 on your cell phone, but do not count on cell phone coverage.

Learn more about boating safely in the backcountry of Everglades National Park.

  • Manatees : Manatees frequent many of the waterways in Everglades National Park. Because they are slow-moving and feed in shallow water, many manatees are killed each year by boats. Be especially careful in areas posted with manatee signs. If you see an injured or dead manatee, please report it to park dispatch at (305) 242-7740.
  • What’s back there? : Remember to secure everything in your boat before heading home. Valuable items including fishing poles, life vests, seat cushions, coolers, and clothing often blow out of boats and are found along the roads. Garbage left in boats also finds its way to the roadsides. Please help keep south Florida national parks litter–free!
  • Boat Wisely : Boating in Florida Bay and the Everglades backcountry can be a challenge. Much of the water is quite shallow, and you can ground your boat quickly. In addition to damaging your boat, groundings destroy precious seagrasses and benthic communities that provide food and shelter to creatures inhabiting these waters. Always refer to nautical charts and tide charts for a safe boating excursion. When in doubt, go with someone familiar with the area. For information on boating in Florida Bay, see the Florida Bay Map & Guide.
  • Keep Track of Where You Are : A nautical chart and compass are your best equipment for staying on route, finding your designated campsite, and returning safely. GPS (global positioning systems) and cell phones are also helpful, but do not rely primarily on this technology to navigate in the backcountry. Batteries may die, equipment may get lost or malfunction, and satellite and cell phone coverage may be spotty at best.
"Wilderness is an anchor to windward. Knowing it is there, we can also know that we are stilla rich nation, tending our resources as we should—not a people in despair searching every last nook and cranny of our land for a board of lumber, a barrel of oil, a blade of grass, or a tank of water."
Senator Clinton P. Anderson, 1963

Wilderness in Everglades National Park
Everglades National Park contains the largest designated wilderness east of the Rocky Mountains. A wilderness is defined as an area “where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain.” Established in 1978 and named for the Everglades’ most famous champion, the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness is comprised of 1,296,500 acres—most of Everglades National Park!

Leave No Trace
Wilderness ethics dictate that visitors to the area try to leave no trace of their passage. The seven Leave No Trace principles will help you get the most out of your wilderness experience, and help you to preserve the park’s unique values for other visitors, both today and in the future.
  1. Plan Ahead and Prepare
  2. Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
  3. Dispose of Waste Properly
  4. Leave What You Find
  5. Minimize Campfire Impacts
  6. Respect Wildlife
  7. Be Considerate of Other Visitors
Learn more at: www.LNT.org.
 
Backcountry Campsite Map
Wilderness Trip Planner Map & Key

Wilderness Waterway Map

Distances are in statute miles miles and will vary according to the route you choose. DO NOT use this map for navigation. Use Nautical charts.


To view in more detail, right click the image and open the image in a new tab.

 

Backcountry Campsite Details

The limit for number of nights at a campsite applies to the peak use season from mid-November through late April. Campsite capacities applies year-round, and are subject to change. Campsites must be vacated by noon.

  • All beach sites have shallow water approach; motor boats use caution.
  • At all beach sites, camp on the sand along the shoreline only. No clearing of vegetation or camping in the interior.
  • Nails and stakes are not allowed to be driven into any chickees or the Lostman’s Five platform. Use a free standing tent.
  • Some ground sites may have a picnic table.

* = Facility provided
(I) = May be accessible by foot. Check with the Flamingo Visitor Center on trail status.
(2) = Camping is allowed on backsand spit by toilet. No Gulf side camping

Campsite Name

Type of
Site

No. of
People

No. of
Parties

No. of
Nights

Toilets

Campfire

Dock

Alligator Creek Ground 8 3 2
Broad River Ground 10 3 2 * *
Camp Lonesome Ground 10 3 3 * *
Canepatch Ground 12 4 3 * *

Cape Sable

East Cape Sable Beach 60 15 7 *
Middle Cape Sable Beach 60 15 7 *
Northwest Cape Sable Beach 36 9 7 *
Clubhouse Beach (1) Beach 24 4 3 *
Crooked Creek Chickee 6/6 1/1 1 * *
Darwin's Place Ground 8 2 3 * *
East Clubhouse Beach Beach 24 4 3 *
Graveyard Creek Ground 8 2 3 *
Harney River Chickee 6/6 1/1 1 * *
Hell's Bay Chickee 6/6 1/1 1 * *
Highland Beach Beach 24 4 3 *
Hog Key Beach 8 2 2 *
Jewel Key (2) Beach 8 2 2 * *
Joe River Chickee 6/6 1/1 1 * *
Johnson Key Chickee 6/6 1/1 1 * *
Lane Bay Chickee 6 1 1 * *
Lard Can Ground 10 4 2 * *
Little Rabbit Key Ground 12 4 2 * *
Lopez River Ground 12 3 2 * *
Lostman's Five Ground 10 2 3 * *
Mormon Key Beach 12 2 3 *
New Turkey Key Beach 10 2 2 * *
North Nest Key Ground 25 7 7 * *
North River Chickee 6 1 1 * *
Oyster Bay Chickee 6/6 1/1 1 * *
Pavilion Beach 24 5 3 * *
Pearl Bay Chickee 6/6 1/1 1 * *
Picnic Key Beach 16 3 3 * *
Plate Creek Chickee 6 1 1 * *
Rabbit Key Beach 24 5 3 * *
Roberts River Chickee 6/6 1/1 1 * *
Rodgers River Chickee 6/6 1/1 1 * *
Shark Point Chickee 6/6 1/1 1 * *
Shark River Chickee 6 1 1 * *
South Joe River Chickee 6/6 1/1 1 * *
Sweetwater Chickee 6/6 1/1 1 * *
Tiger Key Beach 12 3 3 *
Turkey Key Beach 12 3 3 *
Watson's Place Ground 20 5 2 * *
Watson River Chickee 6 1 1 * *
Willy Willy Ground 10 3 3 * *

Last updated: April 3, 2019

Contact the Park

Mailing Address:

40001 State Road 9336
Homestead, FL 33034

Phone:

(305) 242-7700

Contact Us