Everglades Exploration Network

Inland Route - Flamingo / Cape Sable

Before Hurricane Andrew the preferred paddle route between Flamingo and
Cape Sable was the Homestead Canal. Avoiding the open bay provided a
wind protected route and separated paddle craft from power boats. It also
guaranteed solitude and remoteness by staying in the back country wilderness.
The 1992 hurricane damaged Homestead Canal with downed trees making passage
very difficult. As it became less traveled, foliage growth accelerated and
the 2005 storms made the canal impassable. After Hurricane Wilma a plan was
created to reopen the canal and a volunteer group headed by Tom Rahill and
Jim Brack took on the project. They cleared the canal to Bear Lake and
reopened the Bear Lake Trail which loops through Mud Lake and comes back
down Buttonwood Canal to the Bear Lake parking lot. The section of
Homestead Canal between Bear Lake and Gator Lake remained impassable,
cutting off the inland route to Cape Sable.

Sue Cocking, Bill Evans, Terry Helmers and Jay Thomas devised a plan to
survey the damage to the canal west of Bear Lake and search for an alternative
passage through a body of land between the waters of Bear Lake to the east
and open water to the west. Previous trips by Thomas had identified
the narrowest section of land between these two waters which was called 64M
but there was another slightly wider area of land that warranted
investigation. If a navigable route could be established through these two
bodies of water the entire stretch of Homestead Canal between West Lake and
Gator Lake could be abandoned. It would also establish a natural route from
Coot Bay Pond to Cape Sable - the ultimate trophy. The group also had heard
reports of a route that went into Bear Lake with a portage over the narrowest
piece of land between the canal and the lake.

On 18 January 2014 the four set out in 3 canoes from Bear Lake parking lot
and went directly to the narrow area between the lake and canal. The last
time Helmers had paddled the canal was 28 years ago when there was nothing
at this narrow spot. This time, the explorers found ruins of what appeared
to be a dock that could have been built to assist portaging. It's assumed
that shortly after Hurricane Andrew an attempt was made to keep the
Inland Route open by using as much of the lake as possible to shorten the
length traveled in the canal. Today there's a small break in the narrow spot,
making it easier to slide a canoe through this slot and back into the canal.
After doing this, the group continued west through near impassable
"jack straws" (a sawyer term for criss-cross piled trees) but after making
headway of only a couple hundred yards in an hour the effort was abandoned
and the canoe party returned to the lake to continue west in Bear Lake and
then across the lake to its' west. Since Thomas had already examined the
narrowest portion of land barrier between the east and west the decision was
made to continue directly to the other narrow spot just south of 64M. After
negotiating mud bars a small creek-like opening was spotted. Although there
was a 3 foot mat of pneumatophore roots to be portaged, the creek continued
west with a hard twist to the north then west again to the open water of the
"other side". After the search party spooked a spoonbill at the west mouth
of the creek it was quickly dubbed Spoonbill Pass. Knowing "this was it" all
agreed to ignore 64M and paddle the shallow but open water to Gator Lake.
How ironic that paddlers spent decades paddling back and forth in a straight
as an arrow canal, how ironic that a large dock was built to go over the
narrow spot between Bear Lake and the canal, how ironic spending the effort to
keep trying to push through the canal between Bear Lake and Gator Lake when
there was a beautiful natural creek waiting for paddlers at Spoonbill Pass.

On 20 January 2014 Terry Helmers launched at Coot Bay Pond to
specifically survey and map the Spoonbill Pass area. Although launching at the
pond meant it took 2 and a half hours to get to the pass, it reduced the
paddle distance in the canal to just 200 yards between Bear Lake Trail and
Bear Lake. Two additional non-portage creeks were mapped with the optimal
route going from 09.858'N and 59.397'W to 09.857'N and 59.447'W. After two
rewarding explorations, a natural route from Coot Bay Pond to Lake Ingraham,
Cape Sable has been established.

To use the Inland Route, study and printout or download maps of the area.
Carry a spare GPS unit. There's a lot of shallow water throughout the trip
but it's all open paddling.

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Homestead Canal is good easy paddling except for lots of skeeters (LOTS!!).

We just paddled this section during the Florida Paddlers' Rendezvous two weeks ago:

https://kayakfari.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/a-short-tale-about-the-2...



Joseph Schmidt said:

Cool, thanks. How's the Homestead Canal between Bear Lake and Buttonwood Canal?

Awesome, thanks again for the update. I was thinking about launching from Flamingo and completing a loop via East Cape or Clubhouse Beach and Johnson Key with a detour to Carl Ross. It all really depends on what the winds are doing though. 

I had a similar experience - eaten alive - while traversing the short Coot Bay tunnel and loading up my car last September. Have you tried using permethrin? I want to give it a try on the next trip.

https://sawyer.com/products/permethrin-premium-insect-repellent/ 


Flex Kayakfari.com said:

Homestead Canal is good easy paddling except for lots of skeeters (LOTS!!).

We just paddled this section during the Florida Paddlers' Rendezvous two weeks ago:

https://kayakfari.wordpress.com/2016/12/15/a-short-tale-about-the-2...



Joseph Schmidt said:

Cool, thanks. How's the Homestead Canal between Bear Lake and Buttonwood Canal?

There's not much left of Carl Ross Key after Hurricane Wilma cut it in half in 2005. Because of that it's officially off limits to camping so it's not really worth the time to paddle out there. I took an aerial photo of Carl Ross and Sandy Key two years ago and most of Carl Ross is gone.

It's better to get eaten alive by mosquitoes than die a lingering death later in life from permethrin.

Suggest you time it with the moon and tide. BLCT is clear and the gates were open. If you call you will be told jts impassable, thats incorrect . Scott and I paddled that area the Friday of the rendezvous. Started at Coot and spkut the group at Bear Lake. He and ran out of water near Gator lake. I headed back via BLCT. It was a new moon. The gauge at BLCT would not have predicted the low water and I am uncertain of his route as we split at Bear Lake. So watch the water levels.

10-4

I use the barrier method~

So no chemistry!

I do carry it, but almost never actually use it.



Roger Hammer said:

It's better to get eaten alive by mosquitoes than die a lingering death later in life from permethrin.

Well I got done treating my camp clothes, bandana, camp hat, socks with the sawyer permethrin spray. Also did my camp chair, tent door, inside tent roof dome and corners. One trick a fellow camping buddy taught me was after spraying your outfits, put them in a trash bag for a couple of hours to let them get more of the solution. Hang them to dry. I do this about once a season especially before a long trip.

I use the multi-layer barrier method as well. Mosquitoes can still pierce through these woven fabrics especially when they become pressed against your skin. A Tyvek suit would probably work well but then you run the risk of getting heat stroke. Permethrin, which is only 0.50% by volume, seems more appealing than the 98% by volume DEET I've used in the past.

I don't use any of that stuff, ever. The only places mosquitoes are bad are in the mangrove creeks so I just deal with them and get to open water as soon as possible. Permethrin is extremely toxic to fish so at least try to avoid having your clothes come into contact with the water. I just find it difficult to justify covering my clothes with an insecticide, no matter what concentration. They once said that DDT was safe, too.

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