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Share the wild coast with shorebirds and marine life on this 50-mile loop. Park at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center, pick up permits, and file a trip plan (you should have intermediate paddling and navigation skills). Launch from the boat ramp and head southeast along the shore on a three-mile paddle to the town of Chokoloskee. Continue southeast 3.5 miles to Wilderness Waterway marker 127, then turn Gulfward to pick your way through the mangrove maze of Rabbit Key Pass. Go past the white-sand paradise of Turtle Key before the .3-mile crossing to Rabbit Key. Lunch on shellcovered shores before heading southeast for the 3.7-mile crossing to Pavilion Key’s long, sweeping beach. Make camp on the island’s northeastern side.
The next day, head southeast between two mangrove-covered islands, then it’s an 8.2-mile open ocean crossing to Mormon Key. Follow the shoreline to the mouth of the Chatham River, then snake up sandbar-lined waterways to the upland campsite at Watson Place. (Tip: Gather wood for a fire to ward off bugs.) Continue .6 mile up the river on day three and veer left at the major fork. Continue until the water opens into Last Huston Bay and the Wilderness Waterway. Paddle northwest, reaching Sunday Bay in 3.2 miles, then turn north to the Sunday Bay Chickee, an elevated tent platform (with outhouse!).
On the final day, head east-northeast to the Wilderness Waterway marker 125. Paddle across Cross Bay, Shoal Mud Bay, and Hurdles Creek, then head west to the Turner River and Chokoloskee. Take the canal for a lazy two-mile cruise toward Everglades City, then turn under the causeway bridge to reach the ranger station.
Permits: Reserve campsites 24 hours in advance (November-April). (239) 695-3311; nps.gov/ever
Gear Up: Rent kayaks, paddles, spray skirt, PFDs, and pumps from Saltwater Sports: (239) 262-6149; saltwatersportsflorida.com.
Water: Pack one gallon per person per day
-Mapped by Casey Lyons
- Distance: 80.0
Location: 25.845762, -81.38709
Launch from the boat ramp and head southeast along the shoreline on 3-mile paddle to Chokoloskee. Continue southeast to Wilderness Waterway marker 127.
Location: 25.78501, -81.338573
Turn southwest at Wilderness Waterway marker 127 to weave through Rabbit Key Pass.
Location: 25.767175, -81.379638
Pass the mini paradise of Turtle Key and head south for 1.2-mile crossing to Rabbit Key.
Location: 25.751478, -81.378168
Rabbit Key’s sandy area is on the northeast side of the island. Continue south for 3.5 miles to Pavilion Key.
Location: 25.708585, -81.350929
Camp on Pavilion Key’s long sweeping beach, then head southeast for 4.4 miles to Mormon Key.
Location: 25.671618, -81.289831
Land at the southern tip of Mormon Key, then paddle northeast to the island-dotted mouth of the Chatham River.
Location: 25.695726, -81.272341
Head ENE around islands and over sandbars on the way to the Watson Place.
Location: 25.709073, -81.245666
Dock your kayak and camp in the high ground of the Watson Place. Continue upstream, and head left at the fork.
Location: 25.748794, -81.252712
Join the Wilderness Water Way in Last Huston Bay and continue NNW to Sunday Bay and then onto Sunday Bay Chickee.
Location: 25.800535, -81.276629
Camp at this floating platform, then curve around the shorline, heading west to Wilderness Waterway Marker 125.
Location: 25.802093, -81.293756
At marker 125 continue WNW through Cross Bay, Shoal Mud Bay, Hurdles Creek.
Location: 25.831261, -81.335821
Turn WSW to join the Turner River which leads back to Chokoloskee.
Location: 25.821449, -81.359081
Enter the causeway canal to the northeast of Chokoloskee and paddle WNW 3 miles to the causeway bridge.
Location: 25.839295, -81.381483
Turn west under the causeway bridge, being mindful of currents. Then follow the shoreline to the ranger station.
Location: 25.845723, -81.386975
Pull out at the NPS dock.
Sunday Bay Chickee
Location: 25.800046, -81.27677
Campsite at the Watson Place
Location: 25.708904, -81.245291
Campsite at Rabbit Key
Location: 25.751478, -81.378227
Landing on Pavilion Key
Location: 25.708556, -81.35112
View towards the Gulf
Location: 25.695389, -81.275986