Lots of Everglades visitors comes for the fauna, but this kayak trail is for those who love the flora.
Halfway Creek Canoe and Kayak Trail, located on the Tamiami Trail near Everglades City, is lined with trees so full of airplants, you almost expect the branches to sag.
On a late March trip on Halfway Creek, many were blooming with brilliant scarlet spikes. What we commonly call airplants (technically, epiphytes) includes three types of plants, all of which are found along Halfway Creek — bromeliads (tillandsia), orchids and ferns.
As a kayak trail, Halfway Creek has a lot going for it.
It is very well marked, with an excellent trail map available from nearby Big Cypress Welcome Center and corresponding sign posts along the way. It is pristine – you’ll find no litter and no buildings. It has among the most scenic mangrove tunnels you’ll find. And the trail offers great flexibility: You can do Halfway Creek as an afternoon paddle, or add a loop that includes the Barron River for an all-day outing, or arrange with an outfitter to make a one-way paddle to Everglades City.
But there are downsides to Halfway Creek, too. It’s not known for birds or wildlife. In hours of paddling, we saw perhaps three birds. (We saw far more on the drive along the Tamiami Trail to get there.)
The biggest negative? The drone of airboats. While you probably will not see an airboat on Halfway Creek, for the first hour or two of our paddle, airboats in the distance were as loud as a lawn mower in your backyard. When the airboat traffic got quieter, and eventually disappeared, this outing became the peaceful immersion in nature it should have been all along.
We ended up paddling Halfway Creek because the water level was too low at nearby Turner River, the most popular kayak and canoe trail in the region, served by many outfitters. That’s another advantage of Halfway Creek – it’s deep enough to be passable even in the dry days of late spring.
Planning your kayak trip on Halfway Creek
Put in location: There is an easy free launch site with lots of parking at the boat dock behind the Big Cypress Welcome Center, 33000 Tamiami Trail East, Ochopee. (It’s just a few miles east of Highway 29.) Watch for Seagrape Drive and go to the boat dock at the end.
Be sure to pick up a Halfway Creek Canoe Trail Map. Here is some paddle trip information, but a more detailed trail map is available at the visitor center.
Choose a route: There are several possible trips you can take from this kayak launch. The first mile of the trail is a straight man-made canal. But there are a number of connected waterways, allowing you to choose and combine these choices:
- The longest route requires arranging for livery service with an outfitter, such as Ivey House Bed and Breakfast, which runs a shuttle to Halfway Creek. This way, you you start at the Seagrape Drive dock and paddle one way to Everglades City. It’s about 6.5 miles and takes five or six hours. Ivey House also can rent you kayaks or canoes, so this is a good option for those without boats.
- Make a loop, paddling down Halfway Creek and coming back on the Barron River. This is a seven mile paddle and the Big Cypress ranger described it as an all-day trip. The ranger station had a map of this trail too. We decided not to tackle this because we were starting in the afternoon and once on the Barron Loop, you are committed to finishing.
- We chose the most flexible of option: Paddle Halfway Creek for a few hours and turn around. The creek is tidal, but the tides only have a strong effect as you near Everglades City. We paddled about three miles out and back and didn’t experience any tidal currents. Along the way, you have the opportunity to explore several rivers and an old airboat trail. On your left, while you’re still in the Seagrape Canal, an old airboat trail takes you into marshes and lakes where folks are said to see birds. On your right, you’ll see the trail that takes you on the Barron River. With either option you can paddle a ways and come back to Halfway Creek.
Logistics: This is a trail for November to April; the bugs will be bad in the summer. Many sections of the trail are in full sun, so prepare with hats, sunscreen and water. Some of the mangrove tunnels are tight, trail information discourages kayaks longer than 16 feet. (A shorter paddle or one that can be separated in two might come in handy for the tightest tunnels.) There are no places to get out of the water and picnic. All shores are thick mangroves.
Halfway Creek is a beautiful river, and I loved the airplants. But if you have to choose, the best kayal trail in the area is the nearby Turner River, which begins with fresh water and cypress trees and then continues into saltwater and mangrove tunnels.
Nevertheless, Halfway Creek was a fine spring day on the water.
Things to do near Halfway Creek
- Tour Everglades City and have stone crabss in a town devoted to catching crabs and fish.
- Visit historic Smallwood Store on Chokoloskee. (One of our favorite, off-the-beaten-track stops.)
- We’ve stayed at Ivey House Bed and Breakfast in Everglades City, which also operates a kayaking outfitter.
- Everglades National Park Gulf Coast Visitor Center: A good place to take boat tours into the Ten Thousand Island NWR and get information about kayaking and hiking in the area.
- Everglades City is a great place for kayaking into the Ten Thousand Islands. We’ve written about a “tame” kayak trip from Everglades City and a more ambitious kayak camping trip to one of those islands, Indian Key.
- Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge
- If it’s a nice day, wade on over to a hidden beach that is nearby: Tigertail Beach on Marco Island.
Along the Tamiami Trail:
- Nearby Ochopee Post Office is the smallest in the US. And cute.
- Scenic drive across Florida via Tamiami Trail.
- Shark Valley area of Everglades National Park: Excellent trail for bicycling and wildlife viewing in Everglades National Park.
- Clyde Butcher’s Big Cypress Gallery: It’s always a thrill to view his large-format black-and-white photos of Florida’s wilds.
- Big Cypress National Preserve
- Big Cypress Bend Boardwalk
- Fakahatchee Strand Preserve State Park: Big and wild for hiking, paddling
Notes from the editor:
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The author, Bonnie Gross, travels with her husband David Blasco, discovering off-the-beaten path places to hike, kayak, bike, swim and explore. Florida Rambler was founded in 2010 by Bonnie and fellow journalist Bob Rountree, two long-time Florida residents who have spent decades exploring the Florida outdoors. Their articles have been published in the Sun Sentinel, the Miami Herald, the Orlando Sentinel, The Guardian and Visit Florida.