Over the weekend of December 4-5, our team of six made the connection known as the Lost Portage, between North Harney River and Broad River. Up until now, the only route between Cane Patch and Camp Lonesome was nearly 30 miles long and took two days to travel. We have shortened this connection to about 8 miles that should take no more than 6 hours for the average paddler to complete. The actual Lost Portage passage is less than 2 miles long.
Outward Bound groups have done this before, and they are the ones who gave the Lost Portage its name. Their undocumented routes plowed straight through heavy sawgrass and they dragged their boats almost the entire way. They took two days to make the crossing and spent the night in their canoes. We have managed to find a clear, open route that can be done in less than 3 hours, and impacts the sawgrass prairie far less by following navigable water trails at every opportunity.
While every Wilderness Waterway paddler should experience the Nightmare (until now, the closest thing to a 'shortcut' between Cane Patch and Camp Lonesome), those desiring more in the way of adventure on their next trip should consider the Lost Portage. However, before you start making plans, I'd like to make it clear that this is not a route for beginners, and even experienced paddlers should be well prepared before attempting this crossing. I'd also suggest that you don't try to do this solo until you've had a chance to cross at least once with a companion. You don't want to get stuck out there alone without any help. There are areas of shallow water where you may need to get out and pull your boat, and you will encounter holes that will open up under your feet and send you chest-deep into the mud soup without any warning. There is a ridge of high sawgrass about 200 yards wide that you will need to pull your boat and gear across, and the central section of the Lost Portage runs through a series of interconnecting freshwater ponds that are difficult to follow on the ground. We will post a GPS route as soon as it is finalized, but the bottom line is that there is great potential for getting lost unless you are very observant.
Now that the 'gotchas' have been listed, I guarantee that you are in for a real treat when you finally get to cross the Lost Portage! 99% of Everglades paddlers never get past the wall of mangroves that lines the Wilderness Waterway, and the Lost Portage provides a rare glimpse into the deep sawgrass Everglades that very few ever get to see from the boat, and that you will never come close to duplicating just by driving down the park road. Being there up-close-and-personal is the way to go.