Everglades Exploration Network

First-time to the Everglades, Solo Camping, Tips/Help/Advice?

Hi All - 

First off, this website has been a great resource as I research all things Everglades. I've spent hours reading through threads and trying to get an idea of what I should do/bring/consider/etc. It's been fun and exciting to begin planning all of this and am looking forward to hearing some direct feedback from the community.

I'm planning a 2 night trip the weekend of 12/11 (leaving on Friday 11/1 and coming back on Sunday). I plan to paddle out Indian Key Pass with the outgoing tide around 2p and heading straight to Tiger Key or Picnic Key. I'm thinking to just camp at one of those two sites for both nights and just fish around the area on Saturday before packing up and paddling back w/the incoming tide (low tide at 8a) on Sunday morning.

My questions are:

  • What safety gear do I absolutely need to bring?
    • I have all the basics like pfd, whistle, first aid, extra paddle, etc. But I'm thinking more like "Do I need a GPS? Marine Radio? Other?"
  • How concerned should I be about doing a solo trip for my first time to the area? I'm most concerned about getting lost. That's why I'm choosing a pretty basic route.
    • FYI I'm 32 and in decent-to-good shape. Been kayak fishing in Florida (originally from Jacksonville) for the last 2.5 years on my WS Ride 115. Basically, I'm not a total newb to the outdoors but I'm not a "survivalist" either.
  • What would be other options for a similar trip if Tiger Key and Picnic are both full?
    • What do you think the odds of this happening are?
  • Any tips for fishing around that area?
  • Anything else I should know?

Please share your collective wisdom with the new guy! I'm open to all suggestions and advice....Thanks in advance!


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Welcome David!

One thing that I noticed is that the tide station you are looking at for coming back is not correct. You need to be using the Indian Key station and that low tide is at 8:47 am and the water will not start flowing into the pass for another hour or so afterwards. If you want to ride the current in, wait until 10 am.

Picnic Key is closer but at low tide you have to walk your boat out to the edge of the flat to load up or wait for water to come in. Same deal on the western shoreline of Tiger.

Fishing is good from both but let the wind dictate where you will be fishing as each offers protection based on wind direction. And that is the other point, wind can get so strong in the winter that it will mess up your tide schedule and you won't be using the currents as planned. Wind trumps the tides.

Yes, bring a GPS there are at least 6 ways to get out to the area you want to get to and it does not include Indian key pass to avoid motor boat traffic.

Avoid Honky-Tonk City and powerboat traffic: 

Start at East River, camp at Picnic / Tiger, exit at Collier Seminole.

Better yet, start at East River and come back up Faka Union River ( not the canal ) end at Bridge 030058,

Faka Union is wide open just do what looks right on GoggleEarth, better than East River.

Or, avoid the crowds at Tiger /Picnic, come down on one of those rivers and camp at

Fakahatchee, go back on the other river.   Jay can advise about camping at Fakahatchee.

How about Turner River to anyone of those beach campsites and come back

to Seagrape?

I just re read and you are planning to leave by 2 pm? Tide will be coming into that pass until 3-4 pm so you will be paddling in the dark and setting up in the dark. You can't leave earlier? If not then definately bring a GPS and a some good lights.

Vivian -

Thanks for all the feedback, very helpful. And good point on the tides...I was looking at the Indian Key stations on a few sites and didn't take into consideration the fact that it will take longer for it to come all the way in to EC. I can leave earlier on Friday to ride the outgoing and leave a little later to ride the incoming on Sunday. 

Terry - 

Since this is my first time, I was trying to keep the route relatively simple. Just looking at Google maps, the Turner River looks long and potentially enclosed by mangroves in some areas. Same w/Faka Union River. I know things change quickly down there, so how is it at the ground level in those waterways? I have a feeling I'd be a little more comfortable with a route that's easier to navigate for my maiden voyage. 

David, paddling will take up your time so there is little time to work areas until you get out to the gulf. I usually have a trolling rod rigged with a 1/4 oz cottee jig head and attach a strike king or saltwater assassin paddle tail in pearl. Crushing the barb makes releasing the fish easier and avoids injuries out there. Make sure your rod is leashed. My other rod usually has a mirrolure catch Jr to work shorelines. I also bring my fly rod but don't use it until after I set up camp and head out again.

If you can't get picnic or tiger, there are other islands close by. Lastly, camp lulu us just outside the park boundaries and no permit is needed to camp there,

Thanks Vivian, I can always use more fishing tips!

My plan is to just get to camp and set up on Friday, although given your tide advice I will most likely leave earlier and have some time to get out in the afternoon after I get set up. As for the other islands, are there ones you recommend if I can't get on Tiger/Picnic? Also, what's the protocol for camping at non-designated sites w/in the park (e.g. Kingston Key)? Is it allowed? Do I still need to buy a permit? Is it first-come-first-served at those sites? And any feedback on camping at Lulu?? How is it there?

You have to get a permit at the ranger station first and they open at 8 am. The campsites are on this wilderness planner and can be  permitted 24 hours in advance. It is first come first served:


If you are camping within ENP you must camp at designated sites for the days you  have permitted. The fishing is good around Jewel and Rabbit as well but if staying two nights, Picnic and Tiger are much bigger islands and really better for camping.  Picture on front of that wilderness planner is Picnic Key.  Although, I do like Rabbit Key alot.  Once you get more experience and can handle longer mileage I suggest a couple of nights on Pavillion Key.

Aagh.. Paddling out Indian Key Pass is never a good idea . At best its the main powerboat channel. At worst the tide really moves so if you are paddling against it you may be stationary.

Yes on the GPS. Yes on a marine radio with weather channels. Things change quickly and afternoon paddling is always windy.  Best to leave in the morning.

Personally I would use Collier Seminole but you have to get your permit before. That's a fair bit of running around in the car

I have had poor luck with official tide tables as the wind is such a factor. Sometimes a low is just the same height  or not much different than the high. Look at the amplitudes . And be aware that the current does not change direction at the same time as the tide. There is always a delay.  I use smaller channels when the tide is moving . That's cause there is less water moving. But there is greater chance of grounding sometime.  It could take you from 3 to 7 hours to reach Picnic..

David, if you can get to the Rangers station early, you can ride out Indian key pass with the outgoing. Get to the launch in time to load your boat and then grab your permit at 8 am and go. Once out of the pass, spend your time fishing on your way to Picnic or Tiger. Set up camp, eat lunch and go back out on the water. Two full days of fishing and exploring, and the tides with you.

I love both campsites and the time you are going, you should not have a permitting problem. Have fun!


Don't do it - it's a trap!

Before you know it, you'll find yourself addicted.

Like a drug, the urge to experience the darkness in nature will draw you back - in. Every time you think you kicked the habit!

Best not to start, while you still have friends and family! After that, only other addicts will be your 'friends' !!

Oh, by the way, this is sampler from Camp LuLu : https://kayakfari.wordpress.com/trips-sea-stories-pics/random-galle...

If so.

I need a 12 step program.


I don't WANT a

12 step program

Thanks everyone for taking time out to share your thoughts. 

So Kim, you are suggesting leaving from Collier-Seminole State Park and coming out Blackwater Bay? That may be a better option. Then I could just camp around that area, like Gullivan, White Horse, or Panther key without needing to get a permit and it's a closer drive from Ft. Myers, which is where I'm coming from. What do you think of that float plan?

Connie - Looks like the destination may have shifted to Whitehorse Key or somewhere similar, we'll see!

Flex - It's too late! I'm already hooked!! I've had a serious kayaking/fishing problem for several years now and the overnight camping is just a natural progression. The kayak truly is a gateway....to all things outdoors and to loads of amazing places you'd never see otherwise. But thanks for sharing the link to your Camp Lulu trip. I've spent time on your blog and it's probably the one website that's got me most excited about the trip just b/c of all the great pics you've posted, specifically the aerial ones. How are you getting those angles? Drone? Tree-climbing? Really, really long selfie-stick?

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