The Everglades is the largest and most important freshwater, subtropical peat wetland in North America. The Everglades consists of sawgrass prairies, mangrove and cypress swamps, pinelands, and hardwood hammocks, as well as marine and estuarine environments. The varying water depths, diverse habitat types, and abundant food across the Everglades attract large populations of wading birds and threatened and endangered species, including wood storks, snail kites, bald eagles, Florida panthers, and American crocodiles. Over 50% of the historical Everglades ecosystem has been lost to farming, development, pollution, and poor management. There are many groups and agencies such as the Friends of the Everglades fighting to help protect the Everglades and need your support.

One way to support the Everglades and gain further appreciation and knowledge is to go there yourself. The best way to experience the Everglades is by canoe, kayak, or other boats. The canoe is more intimate and direct, you can move in as silently and as close as you want and it allows you to see the Everglades in a far more engaging manner than the relatively superficial glimpse that you get from the various parks walkways and structures.

The Wilderness Waterway is a popular canoe route once only traveled by the hardiest pioneers and Native Americans. If you’ve got a week or more for paddling, the Wilderness Waterway is well–marked inland water route that stretches from Flamingo to Everglades City. Sequentially numbered markers guide you along its 99 miles (160 kilometers). Boats more than 18 feet (6 meters) long or with high cabins and windshields should not attempt the route because of narrow channels and overhanging foliage in some areas. The route takes a minimum of six hours with an outboard motor or seven days by canoe. One-day round trips are not advised. Campsites are available on the route; backcountry permits are required.

If you are thinking of going check out the excellent book by Johnny Molloy Paddler’s Guide to Everglades National Park Sept 2009 Many people consider this book an indispensable guide for planning and conducting an Everglades backcountry canoe expedition.

The Everglades feature the most extensive warm water paddling area in the United States. Outings can range from two hours to two weeks. Settings range from the ultra-narrow Hells Bay Canoe Trail to miles-wide Florida Bay and even more the open Gulf of Mexico. There are so many backcountry sites that you could canoe for years without repeating yourself. There are several excellent designated routes for day trips in the canoe that will give people with more limited time a wonderful overview of what the Everglades can offer. The Everglades Diary website is an excellent resource of information that goes into canoeing the wilderness waterway in the Everglades in depth. The Everglades Area Tours site has various guided tours for kayaking and canoe eco-tours that you may want to consider as well.

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