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Everglades kayak trail: Exploring Nine Mile Pond

Kayak through Everglades for quiet beauty and wildlife

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.

Kayak Everglades National Park: The view along Nine Mile Pond kayak and canoe trail (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
Kayak Everglades National Park: The view along Nine Mile Pond kayak and 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. Spotting the next marker becomes a bit of a game as you navigate your way along the trail.

Nine Mile Pond nine mile pond shortcut Everglades kayak trail: Exploring Nine Mile Pond
The “shortcut” marker on Nine Mile Pond kayak trail. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)

We’ve paddled this trail a few times and on the most recent occasion, my husband and I decided to take the designated shortcut and make it a 3.5 mile loop. For many, this will be the best alternative. The first half of the trail is the prettiest, with mangrove tunnels and aquarium-clear water through which you view the profuse plant life on the bottom and the occasional fish.

To take the short-cut, bear left at trail marker 44A. You’ll soon see two markers that say “shortcut” and you will cross an open marsh area to marker 82.

After the shortcut, the trail is a bit of a slog as it follows an old airboat trail that has degraded the vegetation.

But the payoff for us was in the last pond before Nine Mile Pond, where we spotted Croczilla!

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

Seeing wildlife at Nine Mile Pond trail

We didn’t see many birds or other wildlife, but the truly exceptional experience was a huge crocodile lounging on the shoreline five minutes from the end of the trail. Crocodiles’ range and numbers have been expanding. They are now spotted frequently in the Flamingo area of Everglades National Park. Nevertheless, this guy is remarkable because of its enormous size. We gave the croc a wide berth and recommend you do the same.

When we first saw this crocodile about a decade ago, we learned it has been nicknamed Croczilla. We’ve seen this croc three times paddling Nine Mile Pond, and we’ve never gotten a decent photo! We’ve either stayed too far back, the sun is too intense for good color or the croc is obscured by vegetation.

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

The sky reflected along Nine Mile Pond canoe trail. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
The sky reflected along Nine Mile Pond canoe trail. (Photo: Bonnie Gross)
  • 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. The nearest restroom is at West Lake, about three miles south. West Lake is a good place to visit: There are also covered picnic tables and a half-mile boardwalk through the mangroves out to a view of hurricane damaged trees along the West Lake shoreline.
  • Print out a copy of the trail brochure; or pick up a copy at the visitor center. It offers a trail map and some interesting observations that will enhance your paddle.

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

Mangrove tunnel along Everglades National Park Nine Mile Pond canoe trail. (Photos: Bonnie Gross)
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.
  • West Lake Kayak Trail: 7.7 miles one way to Alligator Creek through a series of large open lakes connected by narrow creeks lined with mangroves. West Lake is one of the largest lakes in the area and it can be windy and choppy.
  • Park brochure covers trails listed above.
  • Flamingo Marina does not rent kayaks at these trails, so they are best for people who bring their own kayak. (There are additional outfitters who serve Everglades National Park but their services tend to be be guided all-day tours.

Planning your visit to the Everglades:

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Jennifer Politsch

Wednesday 18th of October 2023

we are heading out 3rd weekend of November this year. would you recommend renting the canoes 8-12 or 1-4? what are the benefits with morning vs afternoon this time of year? I prefer a later start in the morning but can set an alarm. :)

Bob Rountree

Thursday 19th of October 2023

Morning is always better in the Everglades. Simply put, it's the coolest part of the day.

Dave K.

Wednesday 31st of May 2023

Overnight Kayak Camping Tours

Come kayak, explore and truly experience the REAL Everglades! We offer fully outfitted and guided 3-5-8-day overnight kayak camping tours in the backcountry of Everglades National Park. You can find complete details at http://www.floutdooradventures.com. Feel free to contact me if you have any questions.

Dave K. Florida Outdoor Adventures, Everglades Kayak Tours http://www.floutdooradventures.com [email protected] 386-295-1850

Wendy Norton

Saturday 30th of May 2020

We did this trail in December on a nice day The wind was just enough to keep the mosquitoes at bay. The amount of bird life is amazing!! If you want to photograph wildlife this would be an ideal tour. The ranger-led tours gave good insights especially about the plants in the park.

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