Last updated on January 14th, 2020 at 09:55 pm

Kayak through Everglades for quiet beauty and wildlife

The view along Everglades National Park Nine Mile Pond canoe trail
The view along Everglades National Park Nine Mile Pond canoe trail. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

An Everglades kayak trail is a perfect way to surround yourself with the sights, sounds and creatures of Everglades National Park. Even on a busy, sunny Sunday afternoon in January, you can be alone in the wild on these trails and hear nothing but the swish of the reeds against your boat.

Crocodile along Everglades National Park Nine Mile Pond canoe trail
Crocodile, estimated to be 14 feet long, on Nine Mile Pond canoe trail. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Nine Mile Pond canoe trail is one of a half-dozen Everglades kayak trails in the national park. It’s about eight miles short of Flamingo, the end of the main road in the park. It’s a 5-mile loop that will take four or five hours to paddle.

The scenery is serene and lovely — a vast shallow marsh spiked with mangrove islands, sawgrass and the occasional tree island. Some tight mangrove tunnels provide a fun challenge — long kayak paddles will barely fit.

Thank goodness the trail is well-marked with white PVC-pipe markers. One mangrove island looks a lot like the next and the scenery goes on as far as you can see. I don’t believe you’d find your way back without those markers.

The sky reflected along Everglades National Park Nine Mile Pond canoe trail
The sky reflected along Nine Mile Pond canoe trail. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

Seeing wildlife at Nine Mile Pond trail

On our paddle, we spotted a few wading birds, but, actually, we saw more birds up close in 15 minutes on the Anhinga Trail.

The truly exceptional sighting was a huge crocodile lounging on the shoreline five minutes from the end of the trail. Crocodiles, whose range and numbers have been expanding, are still rare in Everglades National Park. We gave the croc a wide berth, but were thrilled to observe him. (We’ve heard guides call this guy Croczilla.)

If you go on the Nine Mile Pond trail, keep a few things in mind:

  • It’s very shallow and impassable during the driest part of the year, late February and March in many years. Check at the visitor’s center if in doubt. It’s likely to be very buggy in summer.
  • There is absolutely no dry land on the trail, so you’ll be picnicking in your boat if you bring food. (We did and loved drifting in the sawgrass, absorbing the stillness.)
  • Use a restroom in the park before going to the trail. While there are picnic tables at the Nine Mile Pond trailhead, there are no other facilities and, obviously, none along the trail itself.
  • Print out a copy of the trail brochure; it offers some interesting observations.

Paddling Nine Mile Pond if you don’t have a kayak or canoe 

  • If you don’t bring your own, you can rent canoes and kayaks from the Flamingo marina . (You won’t see this mentioned on their website, but I confirmed with the Flamingo Visitor Center that you can rent canoes of kayaks at the Flamingo Marina. You are given paddles and a key to unlock a canoe at the pond.) 
  • An excellent opportunity is to go on a free ranger-led canoe outing at Nine Mile Pond. Rangers guide groups on this canoe trail in the “Canoe the Wilderness” program, offered at 8 a.m. daily Dec.15 to March 31. Reservations are required and can be made up to seven days in advance. Canoes are provided at no charge. Participants meet at Nine Mile Pond at 7:30 a.m. Rangers guide participants on a 3-mile section of the trail. For more information (including age restrictions and group-size limits) and to sign up for a trip, call the Flamingo Visitor Center at (239) 695-2945. 
Mangrove tunnel along Everglades National Park Nine Mile Pond canoe trail
Mangrove tunnel along Everglades National Park Nine Mile Pond canoe trail. (Photos: Bonnie Gross)

Other canoe and kayak trails in Everglades National Park include:

  • Mud Lake/Coot Bay Trail: an out-and-back paddle  through thick mangroves and through wide Coot Bay.
  • Hell’s Bay Canoe Trail: Famously: “Hell to get into and Hell to get out of.” Through mangrove creeks and ponds.
  • Noble Hammock: a 1.9 mile loop through a maze of mangrove tunnels and small ponds.

Planning your visit to the Everglades:

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Updated November. 2019

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