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Naples park has camping, kayak trails, lovable historic dredge

Collier-Seminole Park: Kayak trail, camping near Naples

As you head into the southwest corner of Florida, the world gets wilder and wetter. Vast stretches look like thickly forested land, but they’re actually mangrove swamps, impenetrable except by boat.

Collier-Seminole State Park preserves 7,271 acres of this Florida wilderness.

It’s mostly mangroves, but is also home to an original rare stand of royal palms.

Mangrove canopy on kayak trail at Collier-Seminole State Park near Naples. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Mangrove canopy on kayak trail at Collier-Seminole State Park near Naples. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The park is 17 miles south of Naples right on the Tamiami Trail (SR 41.)  The only cities down here are beach-front Marco Island and the outposts of Everglades City and Chokoloskee, which are literally at the end of the road.

Collier-Seminole State Park draws people who love the natural Florida for camping, hiking and paddling.

It’s also home to the 1924 Bay City Walking Dredge, and how often do you get to visit a “National Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark”?  The hulking dredge was used to build the first road across the Everglades, a feat many doubted was possible.

Blockhouse at Collier-Seminole State Park near Naples
The visitor center at Collier-Seminole State Park near Naples is a replica of a blockhouse from the Seminole War. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The Naples park has plenty going for it. Folks love the picnic grounds and playground across from the river and boat ramp. The riverfront is a great place to hang out; on sunny winter Saturday, we saw people fishing, reading, napping, paddling canoes and enjoying this slice of natural Florida.

Canoe and kayak trail at Collier-Seminole State Park

The canoe and kayak trail on the Blackwater River is another draw. It’s easy to explore: The park concessionaire rents canoes, kayaks, stand up paddleboards and motor boats. You must reserve ahead.

Kayakers at Collier-Seminole State Park near Naples
Kayakers at Collier-Seminole State Park near Naples. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Plenty of never-before-paddlers were giving it a try the day we visited. We spent three hours on the river in our own kayak and paddled under a twisting, deep-green mangrove canopy to Mud Bay, which was big and windy. Here we turned around and paddled back.

If you are looking for a longer paddle, you can do the whole 13.6 mile round-trip, which generally requires camping at a primitive camp site on one of the rare strips of higher ground called Grocery Place.  (To register to camp or rent a canoe, register at the ranger station.)

Our kayak trip was pretty and pleasant, but the scenery is unvarying and, to our surprise, wildlife was scarce. The 13.6 mile trail might be good for those looking for a wilderness experience and the challenge of a longer paddle.

Visitors in kayaks and canoes should check the tides by calling the park office at 239-394-3397. Mud Bay becomes an impassable mud bay at low tide.

The Friends of Collier-Seminole State Park offer guided sunset canoe trips during season (December – March). Space is limited, call 1-239-394-3397 for reservations for daytime trips and moonlight trips for ages 12 years and up.

Renting motor boats at Collier Seminole

Collier-Seminole State Park collier seminole go cats Naples park has camping, kayak trails, lovable historic dredge

You also can rent a motorized two-person catamaran from the concessionaire. Groups take it on a 2.5-hour islands guided tour that goes out to the Gulf, where the group stops at a beach good for shelling and swimming.

We passed them as we kayaked, and participants told us it was a blast. It’s expensive — $145 per person. A 1.5 hour tour is $95.

Personal boats up to 24 feet can launch from the boat basin and access the Blackwater River, the Ten Thousand Islands or the Gulf of Mexico. 

Coral bean plant blooming at Collier-Seminole State Park near Naples
Coral bean plant blooming along the nature trail at Collier-Seminole State Park near Naples.(Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Hiking trails and biking trails at Collier-Seminole State Park

There’s a short nature trail in the park directly across from the boat dock. (It’s just under a mile.) It includes a boardwalk and observation platform overlooking the salt marsh. You’ll pass some of the famous royal palms and see plenty of beautiful native plants, trees and butterflies.

For a longer hike, try the park’s 6.5-mile trail through pine flatwoods and cypress swamp. (The trailhead is on the Tamiami Trail outside the park’s entrance.) There’s a primitive campsite for backpackers along the way; register at the park ranger station.

Off-road biking or hiking is also available on the Historic Marco Road along a 3.5 mile course along marsh, hammock and pine flatwood. When we visited, this trail was closed because of nesting bald eagles.

Here’s a trip report with a long video about this trail.  Some good advice from this hiker: Bug repellent is a good idea; expect water on the trail from May to November.

Camping at Collier-Seminole State Park

Campsite at at Collier-Seminole State Park near Naples
Campsite at at Collier-Seminole State Park near Naples. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

The 120 campsites ($22 a night) book up early for winter dates.

Some of the campsites are shaded and beautifully situated. Sites are close together, however, particularly for large RVs. The smaller camping loop for 19 tent campers provides a pleasant, wooded alternative for the non-RV crowd. The park offers full-facility camp sites with water, electricity and restrooms.

Past campers warn about mosquitoes in the park, although we experienced few during a March day-time visit, which included a canoe trip and a few hours hiking and exploring in the park. Mosquitos are sure to be an issue May to October.

At the ranger station where you pay your entry fee, there is a gauge that shows you the level of mosquitos in the park. The highest level is labeled “donor.” Even winter visitors should be prepared.

The historic Bay City Walking Dredge

The huge monster-like walking dredge is on display in the park, testimony to one of Old Florida’s great stories: How Baron Collier built the first road across the Everglades. Begun in 1915, the Tamiami Trail was completed in 1928, thanks in part to the Bay City Walking Dredge.

Historic Bay City Walking Dredge at Collier-Seminole State Park near Naples
Historic Bay City Walking Dredge at Collier-Seminole State Park near Naples. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

I’m not the kind of person who is a likely fan of a dredge. But there’s something about Bay City Walking Dredge #489 that won we over.

I think it’s the way the signs explained that Meece Ellis and Earl Ivey (can’t you just hear a banjo-accompanied folk song with those names?) operated this machine six days a week in sweltering, mosquito-infested Florida heat, digging the Tamiami Trail. (Never mind that the road was a very bad idea for the plumbing of the river of grass; Meece and Earl couldn’t know that.) The dredge is the last of its kind in existence.

Fishing at Collier-Seminole State Park

There are both saltwater and freshwater fish in the brackish Blackwater River. To keep freshwater fish, you need a freshwater license; to keep saltwater fish, you need a saltwater license.

Map of Collier-Seminole State Park in Naples.
Map of Collier-Seminole State Park in Naples.

Collier-Seminole State Park
20200 E. Tamiami Trail
Naples, Florida 34114
(239) 394-3397

For campground reservations, call 800-326-3521

Things to do nearby, in Naples and Everglades City

Interesting Everglades City places to stay and eat: 

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James Jordan

Sunday 17th of March 2024

3.15.24: Kayaked from the launch, south for 2 miles; lazy fun day. Trail markers are easy to follow; get map when you pay fee. River is influenced by tides, so stick to the center of the trail, as the water is dark and branches protrude just below the surface. Little wildlife, few bugs, 1 bored gator.

2 Cat boat tours per day appear without much notice, given the twisty trail, so be prepared for inexperienced tourists and to gently fend them off if they get too close. Rest rooms, water, and rentals available.

James Jordan

Monday 18th of March 2024

@Bonnie Gross, happy to be a small part of your great site. Keep Old Florida old!

Bonnie Gross

Sunday 17th of March 2024

Thanks again for the helpful trip report! We always appreciate your contributions.


Sunday 26th of February 2023

How well was the paddling trail marked? Wondering since I know there was significant damage in the area from hurricane Ian.

Bonnie Gross

Monday 27th of February 2023

In my experience, the paddling trail doesn't require a lot of marking for the first hour or two, which is how far we went. Looking at a map, it appears pretty straightforward. I tried to call the park office to see if there are any obstructions from the storm, but I see the park phone is down and I cannot get through. Also: he kayak rental concession is not open at this time, according to the park website. Thank you for visiting our site and I'd love to have feedback if you go.

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