Everglades Exploration Network

Shark River Slough

I have done many canoe trips in Everglades National Park
since the early 1970's, a number of routes from Flamingo to
Everglades City, Turner River, and vise-versa as well
as many trips around the Hells Bay/Whitewater Bay/Cape
Sable/Lake Ingraham area. I've canoed the popular trails
and remote ones like Still Creek, Whiskey Creek, Little Sable
Creek and Charley Creek. I like every backcountry site
and even enjoyed nights at sites that are no longer with us like
Onion Key, Wedge Point and Lostmans Key. For an aggressive
adventurer, this latest trip right through the middle of the park
might beat them all, not for the canoeing, frankly canoeing
the Wilderness Waterway is still the best canoeing,
but for the total experience; preliminary reconnaissance,
timing, planning, preparation, execution, navigation
and, of course, some luck.

I thought about canoeing down the Shark River Slough since the
1980's after learning more about Colonel Harney's 1840 trip but
it wasn't until 2002 when my son, Dan, and I probed the slough off
the south side of Tamiami Trail specifically for a future traverse.
I had only briefly discussed the trip over the phone in the 1990's
with someone who was associated with some commercial group (I
think it was Sierra Club) but because of the reticence and lack
of information from the few people who have made this trip I got
only an insignificant amount of information.
For our trip, we probed the only reasonable launch site, L-67
Extension canal at the Francis S. Taylor Wildlife Management Area
parking lot and boat ramp. There is a good launch area on the
south side of Tamiami Trail and the canal runs a good distance
south into the heart of the slough. The canal is good but past a
mile or two south it gets very hard to break out through the
growth on the west side. Up near the highway there are many sites
to push out west and into the sawgrass. The water level was the
problem in 2002, it was in early November and the water was way to
low, the canal was a foot below the sawgrass. It was impossible
to 'float' down the slough, even the airboat trail at the end of
the canal was difficult to canoe. It was the same for a number
of probes between 2002 and 2007. The only useful tid-bid of
wisdom I got from from the other canoer back in the 1990's was:
"It had to be high water to make the trip." This is very true.
It's higher in the summer months but personally I don't canoe
when the bugs and heat are so bad it makes enjoyment impossible.
October is pushing it, since the prime months are November
through March. However, for water levels October is still good
which makes the timing of a slough trip very narrow and that much
harder to execute.

After hearing many reports from hunters and the closing of certain
hunting on the north side of Tamiami Trail due to high water, Dan
and I decided to probe L-67 again on 11 October 2008. Finding
unsuitable conditions so many times before I was not optimistic
that this would be the year but I had some aerial photos that
showed an old airboat trail that I had not checked out in the
past. As soon as we pulled up at the launch site it was clear
this was the highest we had ever seen the water in decades.
It was about 6 inches to a foot above the canal, just for kicks
we canoed on the roadway along side the levee. We went south
looking for breakouts and any kind of canoe-able openness to
the west. We went down to the plug and came back north to the
last clear breakout. Though we had never been able to get
out of the canal before, on this day we paddled right on through
and into open sawgrass with ease and no bugs. At that moment
planning went into high gear, this is the time!

As it turned out University of Miami's fall break was Friday,
17 October 2008, this gave Dan a 3 day weekend. The weather
wasn't cool but at least the summer heat was over. Further
planning showed a low tide at the mouth of Shark River at
11:24 on 18 October, giving the canoer an ebb tide in the
morning while paddling out. As if this wasn't convincing
enough, a 94% full moonrise was before midnight on 17 October
and setting in late morning on 18 October. This meant the
almost full moon would be highest in the early morning hours
before dawn allowing for early morning starts. The weather
forecast: Clear and calm for the same two days.
Again, this was the weekend!

The plan was to breakout of the canal about a mile south of
Tamiami Trail and head south-southwest down the slough to
Rookery Branch on Friday, 17 October. Not wanting to spend
the night in the canoe, we planned to make it to Canepatch,
leaving Saturday and Sunday to make our way down to Flamingo.
A Special Use Permit ($100 and 2 weeks processing) is required
for camping outside of designated camping areas, so it's make it
in one day or spend a miserable night trying to sleep in a canoe.
The water drops fast out there when it's that high and it had
dropped about 4 inches during the week.
We launched our 17-foot aluminum canoe before dawn. The moon was
plenty bright to guide us down the canal but did not provide
enough light for us to find our way in the grass. The grass is
thicker and thinner, shorter and taller and of varying types -
the trick is to navigate through the best pass. We got stuck
a number of times, hitting thick areas in the dark but as soon
as the sun came up we made good progress by constantly
zig-zagging and being able to see ahead. We made it to Vulture
Hammock fairly quick but went wrong by continuing south-southwest
off the east side of the hammock. With a little backtracking we
headed east toward a big unnamed hammock that's south and a
little east of Vulture Hammock. Near this hammock we picked up
deep and open water where the grass had been thinned by airboats.
This was the only hard part of the trip and it would have been
wiser to head more southerly from the break in the canal directly
to this hammock south-southeast of Vulture Hammock. From here we
went to Gumbo Limbo Hammock and then straight south-southwest to
Rookery Branch. We had to make it to Rookery Branch before dark,
once in Rookery Branch we would be in a defined river where it
could be navigated in the dark. We were also familiar with that
area from other trips coming in from the gulf. Once in the 'slot'
down the slough it's just paddling and paddling, the water is
deep and it might be deep enough to extend a trip like this into
drier months. We got to Bottle Creek, which is the first
obvious Rookery Branch tributary, at about 17:30 or about an
hour and a half before lights out. We had a little trouble
with a short distance in Bottle Creek but with just lifting
some branches we could get through. It was dusk when we made
it to the main junction just south of Rookery Mound and we
only had to paddle in the dark from about halfway between
Banana Patch and Canepatch. We arrived at the totally
overgrown Canepatch campsite at 19:30. It was 33 miles in
13 hours!

There were mosquitos at Canepatch but a little bug spray was all
that was needed. We pitched the tent on top of 4-5 foot weeds
right at the end of the dock, ate dinner, washed up and went to
bed. Judging from the growth, I don't think anybody had even
walked around at Canepatch since last winter. We woke up at
about 04:00 and started discussing the day, the moon was
straight up and bright. There was easily enough light to
paddle down Avocado Creek. We broke camp, ate breakfast
and took off at 06:00 with the goal of making it as far as we
could. We elected to take the little bit longer route of Joe
River for three reasons: 1) It took us around Whitewater Bay,
in case the wind picked up. 2) We would pass four chickees,
Shark River, Oyster Bay, Joe River and South Joe River, where we
could stop if our time ran out. 3) Riding the ebb in Shark River
almost negates the additional distance west to the Cutoff,
otherwise, we would have to fight the tide going into the Labyrinth.
We got to Shark River Chickee at 09:00, Oyster Bay Chickee at
10:30 and Joe River Chickee for lunch. With conditions still
near perfect we skipped South Joe River Chickee, went right
through the middle of Coot Bay and were in Flamingo at 18:30.
That was a 34 mile day in 12:30 hours and an experience that
will stay fresh in our minds for a lifetime.

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You guys going to Nov 16, 17? I was going to go to the FTA event, but may have to work at night.

Saturday 16 November:  Sunset 17:32, Moonrise 17:02, 99.8 percent illumination, NP202 +6.4

I have not checked the tides at the Shark/Harney/Tarpon intersection (subtract about 4 hours from the mouth

of Shark River station) but for the slough part the sun, moon and water is screaming: "This is the weekend!"

Quit talking about spray covers, best water jugs and X-15 kevlar boats, grab any boat you have

and GO.

Stop what you're doing and take a 4 minute sail down Shark Slough:

http://vimeo.com/79093621

Leave it to Tony to come up with this one, hey, no chickees, no problem,

how about a bigger flat bottom sailboat with a berth.

Wilderness Act just outlaws mechanization.

That's why he's THE Slew King!

About a month ago, when Billy Snyder told me "yeah, Tony's sailing a 20' sailboat down the shark...", I thought the man was crazy, he'd finally lost it.

But as usual, everyone thinks Tony's nuts...and Tony proves them wrong again!

That's awesome!!

I saw it on the watertribe forum last week, some more pictures and discussion

http://watertribe.org/forums/topic/chief-is-this-a-new-route

Video looked ALOT easier and carefree than the pix and writeup for the tribe!

I liked the quick scene of the boat at the intersection of Main Street and Bottle Creek -

Needs a caption:  "Oh, $^#^$# now what?

Rob, Swamp Witch -

You've earned your wings on the Lost Portage, next season has got to be Shark Slough.

Let me help you....or shove you off the cliff:

The moon and tides line up on the second weekend in October 2014 so next season's

premier weekend is 9 - 12 October.

After full moon is best since the moon is setting later giving bright mornings as

opposed to pre-full moonlit evenings.  Moonlit evenings are better for emergencies

but when you can plan ahead it's better to have moonlit

mornings to give greater flexibility for early morning starts as the day will only get

brighter.  The moon is full on 8 October, however, it's high tide at the

Tarpon Bay / Shark River / Harney River intersection at about 07:00 on 11 October.

Perfect.

Leave Tamiami Trail  on 7, 8, 9, or 10 depending on your desired amount of time you

want to spend in the slough.  Plan to be at Canepatch on 10 October, the next morning,

Saturday 11 October, you'll have a bright moon high in the sky and ebb tide to ride down

Shark or Harney Rivers after 07:00.   Or, if you're a late sleeper, plan to leave Canepatch

on Sunday 12 October,  you'll have a little less moon light but you also don't have to

get to the intersection until after 08:00 to catch ebb.

There it is folks second weekend in October 2014, go for it.


Oh man, you are just getting me in trouble. Allison has already seen this.
Terry said:

Rob, Swamp Witch -

You've earned your wings on the Lost Portage, next season has got to be Shark Slough.

Let me help you....or shove you off the cliff:

The moon and tides line up on the second weekend in October 2014 so next season's

premier weekend is 9 - 12 October.

After full moon is best since the moon is setting later giving bright mornings as

opposed to pre-full moonlit evenings.  Moonlit evenings are better for emergencies

but when you can plan ahead it's better to have moonlit

mornings to give greater flexibility for early morning starts as the day will only get

brighter.  The moon is full on 8 October, however, it's high tide at the

Tarpon Bay / Shark River / Harney River intersection at about 07:00 on 11 October.

Perfect.

Leave Tamiami Trail  on 7, 8, 9, or 10 depending on your desired amount of time you

want to spend in the slough.  Plan to be at Canepatch on 10 October, the next morning,

Saturday 11 October, you'll have a bright moon high in the sky and ebb tide to ride down

Shark or Harney Rivers after 07:00.   Or, if you're a late sleeper, plan to leave Canepatch

on Sunday 12 October,  you'll have a little less moon light but you also don't have to

get to the intersection until after 08:00 to catch ebb.

There it is folks second weekend in October 2014, go for it.

It's August now but after watching Jaws and seeing Shark Week on TV has me thinking about heading down Shark River this Fall!  Start the count down, it is 11 weeks to Prime Time Shark River week!

What about furthering the Main Street to Pahokee Overlook Connection Expedition? Could a group stay one or two nights on the old science station platforms on Main Street and head east? Then a group head west from Pahokee and see if we can connect? Communication via VHF might reach some of the 6 miles that stretch from one science platform to Pahokee, Would VHF handhelds reach that far? 

Anybody planning a Shark Slough run should look at this weekend, it's all there:

Saturday 24 October, moonrise at 16:51 with 92 percent illumination at 23:00, Water Station NP202 is

reporting about +6.0 on the NAVD88 datum and it will even be low tide at about 10:00 at the intersection of

Shark River/Tarpon Bay/Harney River.  No rain in the forecast.

It's all there, launch at L-67 and Tamiami Trail be at the

L-67/Cattail Route intersection at about 06:30, it will be just starting to get light as you push on to

Cattail Route arriving a NP202 Hammock around 08:00.   Pickup the airboat trail over to

Gumbo Limbo Hammock and then paddle like hell down Main Street arriving at Bottle Creek in the

Rookery at sunset.   Use the dusk light to find your way down Bottle Creek then use the

full moon light to travel the last few miles down Rookery Branch to Canepatch arriving at the overgrown

campground sometime around 20:00.  Thirty four miles.   If you get up early Sunday morning you can

catch the ebb tide out Avocado Creek and Shark River passing by Shark River and Oyster Bay Chickee

in the morning.

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