There is a canoe trail which will take you across from Flamingo to the western end of the Everglades. It takes 7 days to do this trip in a canoe. Permits are reqired to camp in the back country.
The National Park Service website says:
"There are 47 designated wilderness campsites. They provide ample opportunities for solitude. The majority of the sites are accessible only by canoe, kayak, and motorboat. A few sites are accessible by foot. None are accessible by car.
"A backcountry permit is required for all wilderness campsites. Permits are only issued the day before or the day of the start of your camping trip. Permits are not issued over the telephone. Wilderness permits are written from the Ernest Coe Visitor Center only for two land sites in the Long Pine Key area: Ernest Coe and Ingraham Highway. For all other campsites, permits may be obtained at the Flamingo and Gulf Coast Visitor Centers. Winter wilderness users whose trips originate from the Florida Keys can obtain permits by phone by calling 239-695-2945 for the following locations only: North Nest Key, Little Rabbit Key, Carl Ross Key, and the Cape Sable Beaches."
$10 per permit plus $2 per person per night
Please obey all warning signs. They are there for your safety and the safety and preservation of the wildlife. There are dangerous animals here like alligators, crocodiles, various snakes, spider and scorpions and also poisonous plants. There are also fire ants and mosquitoes.
the everglades is home to alligators and the florida crocodile. give these reptiles a wide bearth when watching or photographing them. alligators can run very fast for short distances so keep your distance when you encounter one on land. feeding alligators and crocodiles is illegal and if caught the fine is $5000.
the everglades is the habitat of a number of types of biting insects. mosquitoes are the most annoying insect in the everglades. also you will encounter deer flies which produce a painful bite and "no see ums" a tiny gnat found near the coast. besure to bring bug repellant on a trip to the everglades. also when parked at trails and campsites never leave your car windows open or you may find your car full of mosquitoes when you return.
the everglades is the habitat of the eastern coral snake, the florida cotton mouth, and the eastern diamond back rattler. the everglades is also home to scores of non venomous snakes. to be on the safe side you should not handle or step on any snake you encounter in the everglades.
Air boats that are not operated by responsible operators can cause a lot of damage to the ecosystem. In the hands of the pros air boats have little impact.... You will need to make your own assessment.
Alligators like freshwater but tend to avoid salty... enter crocodiles who love salty water!
There are many gators but I think I'm pretty safe to say that they will pretty much not bother you... unless you do something that they deem as threatening, particularly if there is a Mummy gator with her babies.... If you hear an alligator hiss.... go away and fast!
There are apparently only a few hundred crocodiles remaining in the USA (they are one of the endangered) and the chances are you wont see any. However they are much more aggressive than the alligators.
Our guide told us a (true) story about a family who were cycling through the Everglades. The little girl lost control of her bike and it splashed into the water onto a baby alligator enjoying its mother's company. The mother of the little girl jumper in to rescue the daughter..... This is real worst case scenario but still a real possibility - jusdt be sensible and safe!
Poisonwood is related to poison sumac and poison oak, all members of the cashew or sumac (Anacardiaceae) family. This example with the warning sign was along one ot the trails - probably the Mahogany Hammock.
The sap contains alkaloids that cause serious skin and mucus irritations after skin contact. Any part of the tree may carry the sap so handling any part of the poisonwood should be avoided. Learn to recognize the glossy leaves and yellow midvein ending in a drip tip. The deep green leaves are compound and usually have from five to nine leaflets--always an odd number. These are almost always blotted with the telltale signs of the tree's toxicity--small black spots of the poisonous sap that blemish the leaves.
The Poisonwood produces abundant and sweet nectar from its sprays of creamy flowers. The nectar is greedily consumed by nectar-loving birds and insects such as the Bananaquit and many species of butterfly with apparently few ill effects. The fruit of the poisonwood is a favorite food source for the rare white-crowned pigeon. Other birds and animals also enjoy the fruit.
The sap is not water-soluble and cannot be washed off with simple soap. So when you scratch, the toxins are transported on your fingertips to any other part of your body--or somebody else's--that you happen to come into contact with.
From an article called "The Bark that Bites", "An island remedy for this unfortunate situation is to immediately spray the affected area with WD 40. While this may seem to be an extreme measure, it does work. Any other oil dissolving substance will probably work as well. Just remember to clean the area before you scratch, or you'll be very sorry."
Due in part to the hurricanes in 2005, much of the area around Flamingo is in pretty bad shape. The dining/lodging/fuel stations were all closed, as was the trail to Eco Pond. The Visitor Center itself was open, but there was little to see and do other than use the restroom. If you're planning on going to the Everglades, be sure to find out the status of the facilities here before counting on them. It's about 45 miles back to civilization once you make it as far as Flamingo!
I couldn't believe they needed to post a sign like this. Who in their right mind wants to mess with the gators? Apparently, people do. Anyway, it should go without saying that generally, you shouldn't mess with the animals living in the Everglades. They deserve respect for having to put up with the weather, they don't need to deal with the visitors (other than posing for some pictures, of course.)
Due to 2005 Hurricanes (Katrina and Wilma), overnight Accommodations (Lodge & Cottages) are closed indefinitely. No date for resumption of services. Restaurants are also closed. The marina is closed for dredging and so there are no houseboat rentals. This is what the website says:
The Florida Bay Boat Ramps and the entire Florida Bay side of the Marina are closed for dredging. Estimate completion date is mid-July. Boaters cannot access Flamingo Marina from Florida Bay. The back country boat ramps are open.
* Marina Store: Open 7:00 am to 7:00 pm Mondays thru Fridays and 6:00 am to 8:00 pm on Saturdays and Sundays.
* Fuel Service for Vehicles and Vessels: Unleaded, Premium Unleaded, and Diesel are available for purchase 7:00 am to 7:00 pm daily. Please note that fuel is not available for boaters on the Florida Bay side of the marina due to closure for the dredging project.
* Backcountry Boat Cruise: Tours depart at 10:30 am, 1:30 pm, and 4:00 pm Thursdays thru Mondays. Tours are not available on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
* Canoe & Motorboat Rentals: Available daily from 7:00 am to 5:00 pm. Last rentals are at 4:00 pm and all rentals must be returned to the marina by 5:00 pm.
* Attention: The Backcountry Boat Cruise and Marina rentals are contingent upon favorable weather conditions in the summer months. Tour boat cancellations due to weather are not made until departure time. Marina rentals are subject to wind/weather conditions.
* Overnight Dockage: The Florida Bay side of the marina is closed for overnight dockage due to the dredging project. Dockage will be available when the Florida Bay side reopens. No overnight dockage is available on the backcountry side of the marina due to dock damage.
* Restaurant/Buttonwood Cage and Lounges: Closed indefinitely. No date for resumption of services.
* Houseboat Rentals: Closed indefinitely. No date for resumption of services.
* Florida Bay Boat Cruise: Available early November 2006.
Basically, there isn't any phone service - even though the lodge says they have phones and voice mail it is a moot point.
I took this picture of the campground shore from a tour boat because of the flock of white birds along the shore. But it also shows a cell tower. Even though this tower should have been close enough for service, I had only one or at the most two bars on my cell phone - I had to shout for people to hear me.
Flamingo is 38 miles from the entrance on the east at Florida City, and a seven day canoe trip to the west entrance in Everglades City. All calls to off the park property are long distance. All calls from the Flamingo Lodge to outside the park using land lines are charged an extra percentage unless they are to 800 numbers.
There are NO local internet numbers in the park. Even 800 numbers are 50 cents a call, and the connection is not very good. I tried to get email, and three or four times the call was dropped.
Phone service was disrupted by Katrina, and was totally destroyed by Wilma, but has been restored.
These pesky biting insects can be a real nusance during certain times of the year. They are the worse in July and August with the time frame of May-October being the period when they are around in some numbers. Best time is December to April. Insect repellent is handy during anytime since the glades are sub-tropical and biting insects can be encountered at any time. you dont want them to ruin your visit.
Be careful driving through the close area of the park. Unfortunately I had the not so great pleasure of seeing a dead alligator at the side of the road, hit by a car and it broke my heart. The employees for the tour boat company said that the gators do come out of the water and try to cross the road. To add to the disappointment, if a car can kill a gator at 30 mph, imagine what their tough skin will do to your tires!!
Make sure you wear bug spray as the mosquitoes are on the prowl.
But furthermost, do NOT leave your hands/arms hanging out of an airboat. Alligators come very close and don't put it past them to take a bite! For the most part, they may rely on you to feed them but if you don't have anythig for them to eat, they will rely on YOU to be the food!!!