Spring Paddle Trips: The Everglades

Hundreds of miles of paddle trails await in this swampy wilderness

Although a popular winter destination, the Everglades has some excellent paddling in the spring. The watery wilderness of mangrove tunnels and cypress domes, reedy rivers and the 10,000 Islands, is so abundant with scenery and wildlife—think gators, manatees, bears and birds—even a half-day guided tour is one of the most rewarding paddle trips you can take.

Everglades City-based Everglades Adventures, in the northwest corner of the national park’s 1.5-million acres, leads early morning canoe outings year-round, as well as dry-season afternoon tours (November through April) through mangrove tunnels, and twilight “sunset tours” to the sawgrass prairie. The excursions, open to beginners and children over seven, run for $124 ($99 if you stay at the Ivey House Bed & Breakfast), rentals included.

For full day kayak trips out to the mangrove islands, Shurr Adventure Company offers 6-hour packages for $150 (ages 12 and over). Expect to see dolphins and flying fish, and you may even be treated to a manatee or the rare American crocodile.

Or, for the truly ambitious, the Wilderness Waterway, a 99-mile water trail from Everglades City to Flamingo, Florida, is a multi-day paddle trip through flat, marshy river, lake and sea that’s about as backcountry as you can get east of the Appalachians. The season for this trip ends with the arrival of the rains in May, but the amount of planning involved for a successful solo (or duo) trek through this wild expanse should put it on your list for next spring. If you want to do it now, Backcountry Cowboy will take care of all the logistics and equipment, and guide you by kayak through this meandering maze for up to six days and $795. You’ll camp on beaches, banks and the water itself, on raised wooden platforms called chickees.

Image credit: Flickr / thepollen