Everglades National Park: Ten Thousand Islands

Dolphins, ospreys, and beaches highlight this 3-day coastal meander.
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Dolphins, ospreys, and beaches highlight this 3-day coastal meander.

This 3-day loop threads through Gulf of Mexico islands along the park’s northwest corner in what may be the world’s osprey capital. The feel is decidedly oceanic, with liquid horizons, crushed-shell beaches, big tides, and excellent fishing for sea trout, tarpon, jack, and snook. There are long crossings of bays and channels exposed to wind and waves, but most of the route is sheltered. Mazelike channels and endless green shorelines make navigation challenging, but shallow gaps through peninsulas and between islets let you avoid powerboat traffic.
Start by paddling northwest across shallow Chokoloskee Bay, threading between mangrove peninsulas to find West Pass Channel, the gateway to fine beach camping on Tiger or Picnic Keys. Paddling southeast to Rabbit Key involves a stout 11.7-mile push that hugs the outer isles to minimize wind exposure, yet often requires paddling hard and long against crosswinds and quartering waves. Day 3 is a 4-mile open-water crossing to the expansive beaches of Pavilion Key; in bad weather, it’s for experts only. From there, it’s a 12-mile return to your starting point. Store all food and water securely against raccoons.
Mapped by Steve Howe

Trail Facts

  • Distance: 57.5

Waypoints

TTI001

Location: 25.845455, -81.387266

Launch boat at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center. Head northwest toward Lane Cove

TTI002

Location: 25.855965, -81.418396

Paddle through slot A

TTI003

Location: 25.859349, -81.443861

Paddle through slot B

TTI004

Location: 25.859488, -81.458977

East end of West Pass Channel; head SSW through the channel

TTI005

Location: 25.827944, -81.491459

Fine campsite on Tiger Key

TTI006

Location: 25.800238, -81.43824

Jack Daniels Key

TTI007

Location: 25.750705, -81.380056

Rabbit Key

TTI008

Location: 25.704766, -81.354854

Pavilion Key; large beach campsite on isolated island

TTI009

Location: 25.781725, -81.363689

From Rabbit Key Pass, swing NW at this point

TTI010

Location: 25.787731, -81.364861

Continue NE

TTI011

Location: 25.790647, -81.363207

Stay NNE

TTI012

Location: 25.794651, -81.361592

Back into open water

TTI013

Location: 25.818701, -81.359566

Alternate takeout. Hug shoreline back to Gulf Coast Visitor Center