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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   Is there a web site where you can get seasonal and monthly rainfall for Monroe, Collier, and Miami-Dade counties?
 

  

look around on 

http://www.gohydrology.org/

or more specifically

http://www.gohydrology.org/p/rain.html

Robert Sobczak runs the site. He used to post here alot, but I haven't seen him around lately. He has some good stuff on his site.

Since we’ve mentioned the white poles and all, I figured adding my GPS track would be OK.  If not, please delete this post.  Anyone attempting the Lost Portage needs to MEMORIZE Keith’s Gotchas.  Know that at some point you WILL end up at least chest deep in mud soup.  Just because the trail has white poles and MIGHT be easy to follow doesn’t mean it’s a gimme.  Read Rob’s posts again.

 

I’m hoping to answer Vivian’s questions here.  The aerial Keith posted does not show the White Pole Trail.  It does show the mangrove creek.  My first attachment shows my GPS track and my interpretation of Terry’s trail.  (For some reason when switching from Garmin to Google the 2 got switched).  Anyway, the green line with blue dots is my interpretation of Terry’s trail which, to me, seems to match the White Pole Trail.  The red line is my GPS track, which also matches the White Pole Trial.  They basically almost completely overlap.  The second attachment is how I’ve divided the trail into sections.  From north to south: mangrove creeks & some ponds (at southern end of section), the Ridge (or Drag), mangrove ponds, and sawgrass/airboat trail.  White poles are present in all sections except when you enter the mangrove creeks, then there are the ribbons.  If someone else has seen a white pole in the mangrove creek area please say so.  It was dark when I went thru there and I did not see any.

 

The White Pole Trail is neither better nor worse than my interpretation of Terry’s info.  The poles are basically a straight line.  My interpretation and GPS track follow the White Pole Trail.  (I went from South to North).  When you get into the mangrove pond section and depending on the water level, you may be able to find a path that is not a straight line but is paddleable (hmm…is that a word?).  You can see that the green line meanders a bit.  When I was out there I tried to follow or at least check it out but I usually could not get through and ended up back on the straight line dragging my boat.  Once I got past the Drag, I put the GPS away and quit comparing.  I was able to sit on my kayak thru the mangrove ponds just before the mangrove creeks, but as soon as I saw an opening into the mangrove creek I was in there.  You could still see the ponds & I think Terry’s line may have gone further north than I did before entering the creeks.  On the creeks, the two sets of ribbons did not always match up, but I got out with little difficulty even in the dark.  As Yakmaster said there is no need to bushwack anywhere on this trail.  Even in the overgrown mangrove creek part (that section was like the west end of the Wood River).  A lot of ducking and squeezing, but I don’t think I even snapped a branch.

 

My third attachment was what I planning to follow if conditions were right (purple line).  I wanted to spend more time in the sawgrass than mangrove creeks.  HaHaHaHa  Real world conditions changed my mind pretty quick, eh?  So, if I am ever able to do the Lost Portage when the water levels are higher, I will definitely try that other line which seems to be Outward Bound’s bushwack trail.  I was really disappointed not to get into those 3 round pond-like areas.  By the time I got there I forgot all about them!  If anyone knows what they are let me know.

Attachments:
I will study your routes vs my planned route. Thank you, it is very helpful to have your actual tracks to compare with. I still would like to know who put those poles there ?

Swamp Witch. That looks like the route we took. I would have thought it would have been not so straight in the mangrove puddles at  the north western end. We just followed the survey tapes and the white poles. It would have taken us 5 days if we had to search for the best route as we crossed.

Rob, it's unbelievable and down-right foolish to be doing these kinds of treks with

no navigational aids.....and this coming from me who's more conventional than

most on GladesGoDeep.   Going up and down the magenta line is the first step

but this kind of stuff is a big second step, evident by there was no reason to

get stuck in there for a night much less two.

When you do Shark Slough next season, do not attempt it without arming yourself

with as many navigational tools as you can get.  You too Allison.

Terry (this is Allison hijacking Rob's account),

I am actually quite proud of our navigational prowess sans GPS. We have done very well with compass and charts (and an occasional time check), given that in Florida, unlike Maine, nearly every feature is flat and labeled "mangrove" on the charts. We were not tool-free. We had also printed several google earth images, took a lot of notes, and stared long and hard at the computer before we took off. The reason we took 2 days was not because we were lost but because we were carrying a lot of gear in that 17' beloved Grumman, and there was very little water. (And we had a Plan B to run back if we had felt lost.) That said, you are not alone in suggesting this new toy to us. (PS -- I really enjoy this site. I have learned tons from all you paddling veterans. I love reading it especially when I am back in school facing a long snowy commute home.

 Terry, I agree with you that one should not be foolish heading out. Actually I'm quite proud of Allison's navigational skills. I had spent a lot of time study the satelitte photos and realized the problems by going too easterly or southerly. On our reconnaissance the afternoon before I realized we wouldn't be going the path I thought we would. This gave me the night to think about how sheets of water and terrain interact. When we set off in the morning it was always with the plan that we could turn back. If there had not been survey tapes in the mangrove puddles we would have turned back. If it wasn't for the poles and the recognizable trail we would have turned back. Once we found the white poles the path was rather clear. It looks like it has seen a lot of use except the last couple hundred feet at the southern end. I don't know how long it takes for saw grass to recover. There really was just little water. It could take 3-5 pushes to move the canoe one canoe length. The easiest part was the 1300 feet (?) at the southern portal and what took 15 minutes to walk took 3 hours to push the canoe. I tried not to use the saw grass tufts on the edge of the path too much because I didn't want to damage them and we really needed the slick mud in the middle of the path anyways.

   We did have 15 gallons of water and plenty of food and were perfectly prepared to deal with what came our way. I don't want anyone to come save my butt and believe that people being rescued should face the risk of paying the cost of rescue. I do know that one can be "rescued" against their will. I also know that there are risks, broken bones, gators, snakes, scorpions, polar bears... 

   Actually, to be honest I can be foolish and I fear that if I ever do get hammered others will pay the cost of my stupidity. I just hope my friends let it be known that it was choice to take the risks.

Swamp Witch

   Do you remember how much water there was at the beginning of the LP? South Portal? On the 26th, 5 days after you, we had to carry the water jugs etc. to do the last 100 feet or so to get to where you started. What would be the first 1300' for you took us 15 minutes to walk, 3 hours to slide a fully loaded canoe. . This was the easiest part and in this section the periphyton algae (brown slime) was high and "dry". If doing the LP from the south eastern end people could use the first stretch to  give them an idea how the trip will be.

   I wish I could remember what I could suggest at the north western end to indicate how much water there is.

  When I was younger we could have done it faster but I still think one night spent on the portage.

There was enough water for me to paddle into the opening then the kayak got wedged between the mangroves and the sawgrass "bank."  I got out and walked to check things out.  I had decided that if there was no water, I would not take the Lost Portage, but there was at least 4" of water, and I was able to pull my kayak along with little effort.  That 1,300' part was also the easiest for me.  If the wind would blow from behind, the kayak would pass me.  There were no dry spots.  However, the water level was not high enough to allow me to paddle.  I would say that there was an average of 4" of water for the entire portage.  My kayak was not fully loaded since I was nearing the end of my trip & I had brought minimal gear (I had found the perfect back support chair that I could use in my tent, but I resisted temptation and did not buy it).  I had 10 liters of water in the cockpit and 4 liters in the day hatch which was my supply for that day.  I did not do any real portaging, i.e., unload the gear from the boat, move gear, move boat, repeat.

I would say that if you were able to paddle into the entrance and easily pull your boat, that you would be able to cross as I did by walking and occasionally falling into mud soup, with a little bit of paddling in the mangrove pond section.  If there is no water or you cannot easily pull your boat, you should not make the attempt.

Coming from the north western end...hmmm.  As I remember, you can pretty much paddle up to the ridge.  Did you have water in the mangrove pond section after the ridge?  I would think that if you came out of the ridge and found little to no water or could not pull your boat easily that you should turn around or be prepared for some of the worst slogging ever as you know.

Swamp Witch, Thanks. We paddled the mangrove puddle/ survey tape spots. We could not float in the WP parts. Maybe a category 1 hurricane would have pushed the canoe.

  Damn! Now I have to go back and take notes.

By the way what's a liter? You kayak people are just strange. Signed Stuck in the Mud Literally and Figuratively

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