Trip Report. Me and my wife did the trip. Entrance fees to the park were $10 for the vehicle and $3 for each kayak (boat launch fee) for a total of $16. We then drove the 41 miles to Flamingo, at the extreme Southern end of the park. There we registered for an overnight camping permit for the Hell's Bay chickee which cost $14. We then drove back North about 9 miles and parked at the trailhead. The trail winds through a mangrove habitat and is marked with close to 175 white PVC markers. It is very narrow and winding, especially the first few miles, with some overhead branches. I would recommend using a spare canoe paddle to make it easier to get through this section. Definitely not for beginners, and quite a challenge for more experienced paddlers. The water is shallow, and fairly clear, with a reddish tint. We could see the bottom most of the way. Current was almost non-existent. After about three miles the trail opens into series of bays connected by small channels. There is one ground campsite(Lard Can) and one chickee(Pearl Bay) along the way. We stopped for lunch at Pearl Bay, then continued on. Trail descriptions say the route is 5.5 miles but my GPS measured over 6.5 miles. The chickees are 2 covered roof 12 x12 platforms that sit about three feet above the water and are connected by docks with a port a potty in between them. They sit in a little cove and are somewhat protected by the wind by a bank of mangroves. We had just the right amount of space for our tent, two camp chairs, and a small grill, (campfires are not allowed) and some gear. With the help of some mosquito repellent, he had an awesome steak dinner and a peaceful evening. At night we had the light of a beautiful moon at night and thousands of stars to gaze upon. After a good night's rest, and bowl of breakfast, we headed back. Passing back through Pearl Bay, we were treated to the highlight of the trip! A school of dolphin trawling through bay in search of snack, their dorsal fins glistening and their blowholes punctuating the drizzle-filled morning air. This awesome sight and a energy bar pit stop fueled our return trip back through the mangrove maze to our car, 16 minutes faster than the paddle out.
All in all an awesome trip, but not for beginners. I hope this report is helpful. If you are considering this trip, You can get more info at the NPS.GOV website. Happy Trails, Craig and Lucy
Kayaker: Are we there yet?
Mirage Owner: Who cares? This is way too much fun!