Canoe through Florida’s estuaries to the pristine white sand beaches of the Keys. You’ll paddle through a maze of islands and mangroves looking for dolphins, manatees, and pelicans. Spy white ibis, osprey, and possibly even a roseate spoonbill in this paradise where air plants and exotic flowers flourish. Take the Shark Valley Tram Tour of Everglades National Park, and visit a sub tropic wildlife preserve full of endangered birds and alligators. Join us on this trip to Florida’s paradise of uninhabited keys!
ItineraryExpand All Fields
Day 1: Welcome to Everglades National Park! Explore the Shark Valley Nature Preserve.
Your trip starts in the morning at the Shark Valley Nature Preserve. Take a National Park tram tour where endangered birds and alligators live. Learn about the freshwater sawgrass ecosystem. After the nature tour, set up camp, review personal gear, repack into dry bags, and review canoeing skills. Enjoy the evening with the group around a campfire.
Day 2: Spot dolphins, manatees, and pelicans on your 12 mile paddle into the Gulf of Mexico.
Start the day with great coffee at Collier Seminole State Park, the launching point to the Blackwater River. Travel about 12 miles out into Gullivan Bay in the Gulf of Mexico. Look for dolphins, manatees, and pelicans on the way to your island campsite. Set up camp on the sandy beaches as you recount the day's paddle.
Day 3: Paddle to Whitehorse Key and explore the mangroves.
After a hearty breakfast, pack up and paddle to set up camp out at Whitehorse Key. Here there are wonderful opportunities for day trips further into the mangroves. Whitehorse Key has panoramic views of the wide open Gulf of Mexico. Enjoy a world-class sunset from the beach after dinner!
Day 4: Search for White Ibis and osprey as you paddle to beautiful Buttonwood Bay.
Travel up Fish Hawk Creek to Gator Bay and on toward beautiful Buttonwood Bay. Here you will see White Ibis, osprey, and possibly even a Roseate Spoonbill. Return to your campsite on Whitehorse Key in the evening for dinner, s'mores, and games.
Day 5: Paddle through calm channels toward Shell Key before setting up camp near Gullivan Bay.
Pack up camp and paddle through the channels towards Shell Key. Enjoy a beautiful view of the Gulf during lunch. Paddle onward to setup camp near Gullivan Bay, preparing for the final day’s paddle.
Day 6: Enjoy one last day of paddling before saying farewell to your trip mates.
Paddle back through Gullivan Bay to the mouth of the Blackwater River. Arrive back at Collier Seminole State Park in the late afternoon. Those who use WI's van transportation can expect to return to Fort Myers that evening.
Dates & Fees
What to Expect
TERRAIN/ROUTE CHOICES: The 10,000 Islands offers a wide range of daily route options. Traveling will consist of paddling among the low-lying islands, bays, beaches, canals, and lakes in the Gulf of Mexico.
TYPE OF TRAVEL/DISTANCE: You will travel in 17-foot Wenonah Champlain canoes, which hold two to three paddlers and all necessary gear. An average day’s travel will consist of 4-6 hours of paddling depending on the tides and weather. Travel distances will vary from 4-12 miles per day. No previous experience is needed to complete this trip.
WEATHER: Temperatures between January and March can range from 35 F at night to 90 F during the day. Rainfall can vary, but you should expect at least a day of rain.
YOUR GROUP: The group size ranges from 10 to 12 participants, plus two or more Wilderness Inquiry staff. Each group consists of people of various ages, backgrounds, and abilities, including people with disabilities. Our trips are cooperative in nature. WI staff will assist you in whatever areas you need, however most people pitch in where they can.
ACCOMMODATIONS: We will set up camp in the keys. At night you will sleep in a comfortable 4-person tent with 2-3 people (although other arrangements can be made). Bathroom facilities consist of a foldable commode chair set up in a privacy tent. We make every effort to ensure privacy and cleanliness.
MEALS: Enjoy preparing meals together using fresh, healthy ingredients for bountiful dishes. Rise to the smell of freshly brewed coffee to enjoy with your breakfast and pack trail lunches with hearty snacks before heading off to explore. In the evening, we’ll prepare our dinner together over stoves and campfires and then finish the day with s’mores. If you have special dietary restrictions, be sure to list them on your registration.
EQUIPMENT AND CLOTHING: Wilderness Inquiry will provide all group equipment. You will need to provide your personal gear as outlined in the packing list. If you are new to outdoor activities, you do not need to spend a lot of money. Wilderness Inquiry can usually arrange for you to borrow most items.
FISHING: Fishing is good in the 10,000 Islands, but you must get a valid Florida saltwater license. To get a 7-day non resident license, about $30, call 1-888-347-4356, or go on-line to: http://myfwc.com. Also, you may want to get a permit for Snook or Spiny Lobster.
COVID POLICY: We continue to monitor and update our COVID-19 policies. Wilderness Inquiry strongly encourages everyone to be fully up to date with their COVID-19 vaccination and take other necessary steps for the health and wellness of all. We ask you to self-screen for any signs of illness prior to your trip’s departure. Please contact Wilderness Inquiry if you are exhibiting signs of illness. We will also continue to follow all guidance and requirements of locations that we travel, keeping in mind some international destinations do require vaccinations and/or negative covid tests. We will update this policy as new information and guidance becomes available.
SAFETY WHILE ON TRAIL: Though not required some individuals may choose to wear a mask and we expect all participants to respect this choice. Please ensure proper hygiene including, but not limited to, hand-washing and/or sanitizing before eating and after using the restroom. Individuals who become ill or test positive for COVID-19 during a Wilderness Inquiry experience will be isolated to the best of the group’s ability and are responsible for their own transportation and expenses to depart the trip.Read more »
Frequently Asked Questions:
Where do we meet?
Standard Meeting Places and Times
Start: Shark Valley Visitor Center at 9:00 AM (local time)
End: Collier-Seminole State Park at 5:00 PM (local time)
The trip officially begins at Shark Valley Nature Preserve in Everglades National Park the morning of the first day of the trip. Your trip will end in the evening of your last day. Shark Valley is 2.5 hours south of Ft. Myers. You can take your own transportation or use WI’s van transportation from Fort Myers. Most people meet us at a designated hotel in Ft. Myers early in the morning on the first day of the trip. Booking a Flight? We recommend flying in to the Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) the night before your trip, and flying out after 8:30 PM.
About the AreaEverglades National Park, the largest subtropical wilderness in the United States, boasts many rare and endangered species. As measures of its special nature, the park has received designations as a World Heritage Site, an International Biosphere Reserve, and a Wetland of International Importance, significant to all people of the world. The Everglades are a wildlife lover’s dream, and one of the premier nature destinations in the United States.
There are three primary ecosystems in the area, freshwater, transitional or brackish water, and marine or saltwater. You will experience all three on your Wilderness Inquiry trip, although the bulk of the trip takes place in the saltwater ecosystem.
American Indians in the region referred to this vast landscape as “Pa-hay-okee.” meaning “Grassy Water.” The Spanish called the area “El Laguno del Espiritu Santo,” or “The Lagoon of the Holy Spirit.” Following the exploration of the area by Europeans, the name appeared in several forms including: “Ever Glades,” “ever glades” and “River Glades.” It wasn’t until the 1823 Turner Maps that the name appeared as Everglades. This is the freshwater ecosystem.
Today, the name “Everglades” commonly refers to both the national park and the ecosystem that contains the park. The broader ecosystem covers over 7 million acres, from the southern lip of Lake Okeechobee to the Gulf of Mexico. Everglades National Park covers over 1.5 million acres in the southern portion of the ecosystem. Congress designated nearly 1.3 million acres of the National Park as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Wilderness after the noted conservationist who worked for decades to protect the Everglades and its wilderness, the largest wilderness in the United States east of the Rockies.
Southern Florida is relatively young when compared to most of earth’s land-masses. Once an ancient seabed, the underlying rock consists predominantly of limestone. Its deepest and oldest deposits, Tamiami limestone, are only around six million years old. They formed as silt and calcium sifted downward to form layers of muck at the bottom of the placid sea. Time and pressure eventually changed the layers of muck into the limestone bedrock underlying the northwest corner of the park. The park also contains another type of limestone that is especially important because of its sponge-like nature. In the course of the wet season it absorbs tremendous amounts of water, which it slowly releases during the dry season, to the benefit of the flora and fauna of the area.
The natural environment of the Everglades revolves around the yearly spill from Lake Okeechobee. Over thousands of years, the complex ecosystem in the Everglades developed in response to the regular cycle of flooding rains that gather in Okeechobee, and then flow south in a placid river over 50 miles wide and 100 miles long. Water from the lake takes about a year to reach southern Florida, during which time it nourishes a variety of plant and animal life on its southward journey.
Don’t be fooled by the river’s placid nature, though, for this land contains indescribable wonder. Scaly alligators share the marshes with flamingos, roseate spoonbills, egrets and herons, pelicans, cranes, hawks, ibis, storks, frigate birds, kites, skimmers, and hundreds of other colorful birds.
The shallow waters of Florida Bay constitute about one-third of the park. Most of the bay’s tiny keys serve as nesting sites for birds, and the salt water teems with fish, bottle-nosed dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, and manatees. Visitors need a boat to access Florida Bay and the fascinating Wilderness Waterway, a 99-mile marine trail that takes you from Everglades City and the Ten Thousand Islands on the north to Flamingo on the south.
The Everglades lie in the temperate zone, though its flora and fauna in many ways duplicate those found in the tropical West Indies. Due to effects of the Gulf Stream, tropical trade winds and latitude, ecologists refer to it as subtropical.
The Everglades experiences just two seasons – wet and dry – rather than the four seasons common in more northern climates. Around 80% of the annual 60 inches of rainfall occurs between May and October, with very hot and humid weather. November through April brings drier weather and slightly cooler temperatures, with daytime highs between 60 and 75 degrees.
The Everglades has a rich and varied Native American heritage. Groups such as Tequesta, Calusa, Seminole, and Miccosukees have lived in the area. The earliest people came to the area around 11,000 years ago. The Calusas harvested the abundant shellfish in the area, leaving behind huge shell mounds that can still be seen today. Some of the mounds, believed to be for burial and ceremonial purposes, grew quite large, measuring up to 40 feet high and covering several acres.Read more »