Paddling out Indian Key Pass

Paddling out Indian Key Pass

Warren (left) and Kathy encountered dozens of playful dolphin as they paddled out Indian Key Pass in the Ten Thousand Islands. (Photo by Bob Rountree)
Related story: Beach Camping in the Ten Thousand Islands


  1. Chris Tucker says:

    My name is Chris Tucker, we recently moved to FL from NC and I am looking into boat camping in the Ten Thousand Island area and found your posting. I was curious, as I can’t seem to find it documented anywhere…can you have campfires and/or is it a managed scenario or just open camping and first come first served so to speak? Also, what kind of water depths are typical in those channels etc?
    Any insight you can offer me would be much appreciated.
    Thank you,

    • Hi Chris,
      Campfires are permitted on the beaches both inside and outside Everglades National Park. The usual rules apply: dead wood (there’s plenty), contain and control the fire, etc. Within the park, you have a managed scenario. You have to get a back-country permit at the ranger station in Everglades City up to 24 hours in advance of your departure. First come, first served. Outside the park (north of Tiger Key), you can camp anywhere without a permit. First time out, I recommend Panther Key. Plenty of depth in the marked channels, but exercise caution elsewhere. Once you get out in open water of the Gulf, give wide berth to the islands. The shallows and shoals go out 200 to 300 yards in places. Bring a chart. I’ve lost a couple of props on coral sticking up out of the sand while taking shortcuts. You are fine in a canoe or kayak, although you still may have to portage over sandbars close to the islands and in unmarked channels. Have fun! :-)

      • One other note: The bay on the north side of Panther Key has plenty of depth, although exercise caution going in. The marked channel on the south side of Panther goes to Port of the Islands, another launch point. Generally speaking, the leeward side of Panther is on the north side, making it a better place to anchor your boat and camp.

        • Chris Tucker says:

          Thank you for the reply and insight. We have a 28′ Pursuit fishing boat and draft about 3′ 6″ so I’ll have to look into that more closely. We are excited as it looks like a fantastic place to camp.

      • Chris Tucker says:

        Sorry one more quick question…do you have any experience with White Horse or Gullivan Key for boat camping and how bad are the bugs…really? :o)

        Thanks again…

        • I have no personal experience with White Horse or Gullivan, although I’ve paddled around them in a kayak. According to my charts, Dismal Key Pass, between the two islands, appears deep enough for your boat (6-8 feet), but I would be wary of the tidal flats around both islands. I leave my motorboat and explore by kayak, so I don’t really have too many depth issues. As for the mosquitoes, it depends on the time of year. During the summer rainy season, expect plenty. They breed in pools of fresh water on the islands. Late fall, winter and spring, they are not usually a big problem. A little pesky at dusk, maybe, but that’s about it. And they are easily knocked back from the outer islands by the dominant onshore breezes. You also might want to read this from Florida Sportsman:

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