Everglades Exploration Network

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.

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I have been looking at aerials for this route and could not figure out how to transfer waypoints from Google Earth to my gps. Fortunately it is very easy! This video explains how:


Terry, I will be sending you my finished map for your review. Now that you have inspired me to find this route, it is on my list for next season!

On my list too!

Jay, I will PM you when we are a month away from actual trip. Maybe you would like to join us for the crossing?

See the GMP thread.

The Lost Portage offers a bunch more fun.

Jay, after two trips into Fakahatchee you'll find this crossing elementary, the only issue is you have to

get your feet wet.

How cool is it to pull a paddlers backcountry permit for consecutive nights at Canepatch and Camp Lonesome?

Not many people would try that in one day using the Nightmare.   Solo canoeing it's all day for me to

go from Canepatch to Broad River Campsite even with favorable conditions.

On one through trip Tony stayed at Shark River Chickee, the next morning was peak flood tide.

Alternatives:  His group paddled at 4 knots up Shark River through the Lost Portage and when they got to

Broad River it was ebb so they did 4 knots out to Highland Beach.   That same WW trip the group started at

Pine Island, yup, the Pine Island at the entrance to the park, another Tony original.

Too much fun!

Thanks for the offer Vivian.   Terry - always looking for a new adventure.  I can see the Shark - Lost Portage - Highland with the right tides - throw in the wrong wind and your hosed.

I did it.  On December 21st, I traveled the Lost Portage from Canepatch to Camp Lonesome.  I used the information that Terry gave me and followed almost your exact route.  What I would like to know is where was all the water?  In the sawgrass sections I was able to paddle maybe 50 feet altogether.  I have a 16’ sea kayak (loaded with gear).  Did y’all have canoes?  Some Park volunteers who were aware of the Lost Portage said there should be plenty of water.  Some Outward Bound canoers came down from 41 one night and they had at least 4” of water the whole way.  Where it go?  All pooled up in that area where I sank chest deep into the mud soup?  What an adventure.  The only birds I saw were the vultures circling me.  In the ridge section, I crawled grasping at sawgrass and dragging my kayak with a thin, nylon painter across my hips (you should see the bruises).  (I meant to bring a wide strap for this section but forgot.  It’s hanging in my horse trailer in Michigan).  Collapsed and gave up at least once.  Could barely get thru the mangrove “tunnels” at the north end in the dark.  It took me almost 8 hours to go those 2 miles.  But I made it!  PS  Don’t know why because I haven’t done it before, but after my dip in the mud soup, I decided to take a selfie.  Thought I’d share it with you.  If you would like to see any more, you’ll just have to go yourself (and take an empty canoe).  :-)


Now THAT'S Everglades backcountry!

With this experience the brochure routes will never be the same, 

a slough trip is in your future.

Welcome to the next level.

Awesome!  Congratulations on your accomplishment!

Wow! We were going to do the lost portage this week and changed plans to do the camp routes. Glad I did not do it! You are very brave to do this by yourself. I am a big chicken. Very impressive.

BTW...Rob Stevens is doing this trail probably tomorrow or next day according to his last post. Hope they get through. Why is there no water out there?? You would think this was the perfect year to run this route.

That's why it's name is the Lost PORTAGE, you

always have to slog some portion of it.

At least you don't have to throw your boat over your head

like the Widowmaker.

Don’t let my experience discourage you!  A canoe or different type, less weighted down kayak might be able to get through easier than mine.  Besides, while I was enduring my ordeal of the Lost Portage it was also an incredible beautiful and peaceful passage.  All those rest stops just sitting on my kayak to enjoy the silence and magic of the Everglades were worth every bruise and step into mud soup.


The biggest factor in my having to portage rather than paddle is my kayak for a couple reasons.  It’s a 16-foot sea kayak (Valley Avocet - plastic) and overloaded when you combine the weight of the gear & paddler (especially the paddler!).  It works pretty well in sawgrass or mudflat areas on day trips with minimal gear, but I knew the extra weight of the camping equipment would be a major factor.  I had anticipated this and figured I’d be walking most of the way which was fine with me.  There is water out there.  Sometimes with the wind behind me the kayak was moving faster than me!  I have also learned a few tricks with this boat like sitting on the rear cockpit rim/day hatch area and pushing the boat forward with my feet (used this technique to escape the mud between Gopher Key and the deeper water of Charley Creek).  But the extra weight and just not enough water stalled the boat this time.  I had to pull it.  The second factor is form follows function.  There’s a reason the Inuit designed kayaks and double bladed paddles, the riverine First Nations/Native Americans designed birchbark canoes and single oar paddles, and the Calusa designed dugout canoes and a pole.  My kayak isn’t worth much in the middle of a low water sawgrass prairie, but when the wind and waves kick up on the open water, I wouldn’t want to be in anything else.

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