If you're good with a paddle or like to tool around Florida Bay in your motorboat, here's some good news: Everglades National Park has opened two new campsites for the bay's backcountry travelers. The sites are at Shark Point and Johnson Key Chickees.
"These new camping facilities will enhance opportunities for visitors to camp overnight in the park's backcountry areas," said Everglades Superintendent Dan Kimball.
Shark Point Chickee is located 7.5 miles east of Flamingo (50 miles southwest of Homestead), between Shark Point and Umbrella Key. Johnson Key Chickee is 6.25 miles south of Flamingo, to the west of Johnson Key; it is visible on a clear day from the Flamingo Visitor Center breezeway.
These campsites expand recreational experiences for canoeists, kayakers, and motor boaters in Florida Bay, according to park officials. Both sites provide opportunities to camp in remote areas of the bay, to view bird life, and to access excellent fishing areas.
Each chickee consists of two elevated, covered platforms with an "outhouse" restroom in between. Two camping parties, limited to six people per party, are permitted on the chickees. As with all chickees in the park, there is a one-night camping limit. A backcountry permit is required for camping at the chickees. Permits may be obtained at the Flamingo Visitor Center or the Gulf Coast Visitor Center in Everglades City, in person, no more than a day in advance of a trip’s departure. The basic permit fee is $10, plus $2 per person per night.
Boaters must travel over miles of shallow, open water to access the new chickees. A nautical chart is recommended to help determine the best routes.
Environmental considerations required the chickees to be elevated several feet above water level and for the platforms’ floor boards to be widely spaced, allowing sunlight to reach sea grass and other marine vegetation below. Ladders have been provided on the chickees to give campers easier access to the platforms. Campers should keep their equipment lightweight and may consider bringing ropes to help lift equipment onto the chickees.
Anyone planning a backcountry camping trip in Everglades National Park should consult the attached Wilderness Trip Planner.