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Lost to Hurricanes, the Flamingo Lodge at Everglades National Park Will be Hard to Replace


White eyed vireo at Eco Pond near Flamingo. Photo by ianqui via Wikipedia.

Flamingo Lodge, the only major lodging facility in Everglades National Park, closed in 2005 after being trashed by two powerful hurricanes in 2005. It’ll be demolished now, and assuming that enough funds can be rounded up, it’ll be replaced with a hurricane-resistant lodging complex featuring a small hotel, cottages, and eco-tents.

For nearly half a century, an eclectic collection of boaters, fishermen, birders, nature photographers, hikers, swamp-trompers, canoeists, campers, and adventuresome people (including a smattering of Europeans) has driven 38 miles southwest into Everglades National Park from the park’s main entrance, ending up at the remote community of Flamingo on Florida Bay (see the map at this site). It’s as far south as you can drive in the park.

There is an amazing variety of fun things to do at Flamingo -- even backcountry boat rides and schooner sailing cruises.

Until a few years ago, lodging was available at the two story hotel, 24 cabins, and a campground. The venerable 103-room lodge (opened in 1959) and cabins were far from luxurious, but they were affordable and served their purpose. The rooms had air conditioning, which was perhaps luxury enough in the prevailingly hot and humid summer months. Most visitors came in the cooler months, of course, to avoid the worst heat and mosquitoes.

In 2005, Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Wilma -- the most intense hurricane ever recorded in the Atlantic basin, and the third-costliest storm in U.S. history -- ravaged Flamingo with powerful winds and a nearly ten-foot storm surge. The hotel and cabins were damaged beyond repair. The cabins are already gone, and the lodge is scheduled for demolition.

This is not to say that Flamingo lacks visitor services. Camping is available, and Flamingo’s Mission 66 visitor center, marina/boat ramp, marina store, and gas station are all open for business. Xanterra Parks & Resorts operates the Flamingo Marina and provides associated services, including canoe, kayak, and motorboat rentals.

The National Park Service is eager to restore family-style hospitality services at Flamingo. Park attendance has declined significantly since 2005, and as you can well imagine, area businesses and governments are upset about the losses of income and tax revenues associated with reduced park visitation. Sport fishermen and birders lament the loss of convenient access to some of the best angling and birding in the southern states.

Unfortunately, putting a lodging complex and related amenities in place at Flamingo can’t be done easily or quickly.

Planning for a “new and improved” Flamingo has been going on for three years now. The result is a blueprint for a major makeover designed to make the Flamingo complex smaller, greener, and more hurricane-resistant. The key elements of Plan C (the full makeover) are a 30-room hotel, two dozen cottages, and 40 “eco-tents” for use in the cooler months.

Solar power will supply most of the complex’s electrical needs, and all of the structures will be elevated (stilt-mounted) above the reach of storm surges.

It all sounds pretty good, but there’s a rub. Executing this plan will cost an estimated $20 million, including $9 million for the hotel and cottages alone. Where will all this money come from? It’s been more than 30 years now since a national park lodge was built solely with federal funds.

Park planners and the advocacy NGOs working with them are well aware that they must think creatively, forge public-private partnership, and tap private sector funding if they are to follow through with the ambitious plans for a Flamingo makeover. Some Everglades advocates hope the park will be able to tap the National Park Centennial Fund.

Assuming that a deal can be worked out soon, even the rosiest scenarios don’t have a completed lodging complex in place at Flamingo for at least three to five years.


We have stayed at Flamingo Lodge on two occasions in the past. Both times were in the early spring and we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. Sorry to hear about the lodge's destruction but perhaps a newer, better place will be the result. Best of luck to them.

Why only 30 rooms? We need 103, like before, at least.

People should camp more. Everglades Flamingo has showers so a tent and thermarests is all you need. Stove is nice but optional. Mosquito are the only issue. NPS needs do spray often, a fraction of the cost of building a hurricane proof lodge.

Flamingo is one of the most magical and wonderful places on earth. People should be able to go there and live there for a few days, regardless of age, disability or inclination to camp. The Lodge served that purpose. I agree it should be larger, but I also want it to have a minimal impact on the fragile ecology of Florida Bay. The more people who experience the magic of the Everglades, the more who will want to help save this incomparable and irreplaceable paradise.

I know Flamingo well. I lived there for several years in the 1980s. Hidden behind the resort is the tiny offbeat village where sturdy people have lived for nearly a century at the "end of the road." Today they are all employees of the National Park Service or the hotel / marina company and their families. It is still a close knit and loving community and the Lodge is the engine that keeps it in business. I'd hate to see the NPS close down Flamingo or make it "day use only," as a unique community would then be lost, and the Everglades has lost quite enough already.

To hear a song about Flamingo cut and paste:

I so miss being able to come and stay in the Lodge. The Everglades is magical. I enjoyed bringing my children there in years past and have taken many good memories home with me: the prairie warblers and other birds, the bobcat sitings, and the moonflowers which opened at dusk.

My wife and I stayed at the lodge in December 2000 and had a great time despite unusually cold weather. The birding was fantastic. It's sad that nothing has been put in place to allow people who cannot camp to experience this special place. Camping wouldn't bother us but it is not feasible to bring the necessary equipment from home (England). Why couldn't the National Park Service provide some fixed tents for rent? They do that in The Gambia, West Africa in remote areas with great success. Hope something is done before too long.

My heart breaks everytime I read an article about the Flamingo Lodge, as the Sales & Marketing Manager for a few years and park resident for 5 years, this was home...mosquitoes and all. I just can't imagine I will never be able to take my children there, heck I always planned to work there again during my retirement years..

April, I'm sure you're not the only one feeling a deep sense of loss over the demise of Flamingo Lodge. Despite the various and sundry complaints (usually involving mosquitoes and sticky heat), the Flamingo Lodge was part and parcel of a fondly remembered place and time. Like loved ones who've passed, the Flamingo Lodge is kept alive in our minds and in our hearts.

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