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CP2 - Chokoloskee

Roughly 70 miles along the coast from Cayo Costa you will come to Indian Key Pass.  The mangrove channel that leads to the fabled Everglades City.  You are at that crucible that will weed out the Men from the boys; the Women from the girls; and Real Boats from mere puddle hoppers. 

Tide Will be a Factor

There are strong tidal currents through these mangrove channels that can make grown men cry.  A huge amount of water flows through these channels so current can be 2 to 3 knots or so.

Another interesting phenomenon is that as the water level drops or rises various sand/mud/oyster bars are exposed or covered.  Flow changes and currents become counter intuitive.

Tide tables and local knowledge of how to interpret them will be published long before the race.  Don't get too fixated on the tide problem right now.  If the tide is too strong, you have two basic choices: wait or paddle harder.

I plan to pitch my hammock on Indian Key, or thereabouts, and nap until the right time.

It Is Doable

Having warned you of the terror, I must remind you that this is a doable entrance that is used by kayaks, canoes, sail boats, and motor boats all day long almost every day.  Some of our discussion forums have gotten carried away with the difficulty of this checkpoint -- thus the opening paragraph.

If you use Indian Key Pass to enter Everglades City and then use Chokoloskee Pass to exit Everglades City, you will minimize tide issues and the need for local knowledge.  These two channels a wide enough and well marked so as to be considered "normal" navigation and difficulty.

Some plan to take a detour and visit Watson's Place instead of take Chokoloskee Pass.  This too should not present any difficulty for classes 1 and 2, but classes 3 and 4 may want to think real hard about trying this route.

Big Boats Are Everywhere

Big boats are cruising these channels so watch out.  Some of them run at night with no lights.  If you must travel these channels at night, keep lots of lights going on your boat and keep a strong spot light handy.

Access for Family and Friends

This is a regular city on the west coast of Florida with highway access.   There is an article in the Sept/Nov 2000 issue of Paddler Magazine about Everglades City.  

 

The resort of choice in this area is Outdoor Resorts of America, Inc. located at the entrance to Chokoloskee Island.  They have RV campsites and cabins along with full services.  Their public restroom at the docks was the cleanest I've seen at a public spot in a long time.  Their phone number is 1-941-695-2881.  This would make a great spot to meet family and friends along the course for a nice restaurant dinner.

They have kayaks for rent so your family can paddle and have fun while waiting for you to struggle into the checkpoint.  :) 

If You Drop Out

If you drop out at Everglades City, be sure to let the check in crew know.  They will help you arrange for transportation back to Tampa Bay if you need it.  You may have to stay at Everglades City a day or two (hopefully not more) for the transport to show up.

Fresh Water

Fresh water is available at Everglades City as well as restaurants, convenience stores, and kayak outfitters.  Your best bet is the hose at the canoe ramp at Park HQ or the hose at the docks of Outdoor Resorts or the convenience stores at both locations.  Beware however that availability of bottled water at these two convenience stores is not guaranteed.  There are other stores in the area within about a 1 mile radius at both locations.

The hoses will be easily accessible, but I recommend that you filter all water from hoses -- if only for taste.

Everglades Park

This is the North Headquarters of Everglades Park.  If you are taking the inside route, you must register with the park rangers.  If you are taking the outside route, you may have to register with the park rangers.  It depends on whether or not you intend to camp on the way to Flamingo.

Everglades National Park

When you reach Everglades City, you are about to enter the Everglades National Park.  You must follow all park rules and regulations.  Depending on your chosen course (inside or outside) and whether you will have to camp on the way to Flamingo will determine if you must obtain a Wilderness Permit .  This is entirely up to you and your decisions about your best course.

You can get more information directly from the park at the following:

You can only get a Wilderness Permit 24 hours in advance at the Gulf Coast Ranger Station (Everglades City) so in effect you will have to get it when you arrive at the Everglades City checkpoint.  They are open normal business hours so you may decide to check in first and then go to the ranger station or the other way around.  It depends on what time you arrive.

In most cases, the outside route will be faster, but your open water skills must be up to the challenge.  This is during the busy season so have two or three alternate sites in mind for your camping permit.

If you don't get a camping permit, you are not supposed to camp.  However, there is no rule that I know of that prevents you from stopping for a snack or a break.  DO NOT camp without a permit.

Our race IS NOT approved or sanctioned by the park.  They couldn't care less that you are in a race.  In fact, they may get alarmed if you bring it up.  We aren't doing anything illegal by paddling or sailing through as fast as we can, but DO NOT expect any favors from the park.  The best course of action is DO NOT mention the race.

Here is my plan.  I am going to purchase a Wilderness Permit and pick a campsite roughly half way to Flamingo.  If I can't get one half way, my backup is going to be any campsite on Cape Sable.  Then along the way I will take a break when I need it.  A hammock in the mangroves for a few hours won't bother anybody.  No worries.

Remember to practice the Leave No Trace principles during this race and especially while in the park.  The Everglades National Park is a unique treasure that we must help preserve.

This is the "canoe ramp" at the Everglades City Park Headquarters.  Concrete with some wood slats.  Nice huh?

   25° 50.72' N
 081° 23.23' W

You must come here if you will be camping along the way to Flamingo.

NOTE:  This is not the checkpoint.  The checkpoint is at Chokoloskee.  See below.

If you need significant food or services, you might consider stopping here and walking into Everglades city.  If you just need convenience store items, please buy from the resort at the actual checkpoint in Chokoloskee.

Indian Key Pass is a well marked channel.  Just before you get to the Barron River make a hard right turn and you can't miss the Park marina.  They have a SMALL convenience store and not much else.  About 1 mile into town or so you will find a grocery store.  Not a big super market but some supplies available.  This is your best bet if you need anything serious.  

There is a hose at the canoe ramp for fresh water.  I recommend a filter if you are particular about taste.

Roughly 3 miles along the causeway you will come to Chokoloskee Island.  You can't miss it on the chart.  This is your official race checkpoint. 

Physical Check In Station

The Chokoloskee check point is at the Outdoor Resorts of America located at the entrance to Chokoloskee Island.  You will land on the beach on the west side of the causeway.  The resort is located on the other side of the road a stones throw from the beach.  Check in with the person running the office.  Get your passport signed and make sure your time of arrival is noted on the checkpoint log.

Remember to click on each photo for a larger view.

The view of the Chokoloskee check point from the water.

Business hours are 6AM to 6PM.  

IMPORTANT: WASH the mud off the first thing you do so you don't mess up the resort.  Do this at the far left end of the docks.

The view of the beach after you land at the Chokoloskee check point.

   25° 49.08' N
 081° 21.57' W

Note that the grass just above the beach will be filled with cars and boat trailers during the race.  This picture was taken in the off season.  On the left side of the beach where the mangroves stop is a little deeper water.  It might make your path through the mud a bit shorter.

Note the mud trail if you land at low tide and have to pull your boat across the mud.

If you land on the left side of the beach next to the mangroves you may have less mud to deal with

Chokoloskee Mall.  Does this give you an idea about the amount of food and other services available?  Less than 1 mile from the checkpoint.

The resort has a small convenience store but if they don't have what you need the store shown above is just a bit bigger.  Don't expect too much.  A larger store is about 3 miles away.

Some different views of the lockbox location.  The picnic table is on the dock/ parking lot.  All the hoses are city water but you may want to filter just for taste.

The restrooms are in the breeze way by the ice machine.  Be sure you have rinsed off any mud before you go in.  Keep the restroom clean so we can use this checkpoint again next year.

Please buy as much as you can from their convenience store.  This resort has been very helpful and they are doing it free of charge.

The Outdoors Resort at Chokoloskee offers a small convenience store, water, showers, laundry, and an enthusiastic manager, Kenny Brown.  The people of Chokoloskee were very friendly and curious about our race.  They like kayakers here.

There is no tent camping so if you want to spend the night, you will have to reserve a room.  Call 1-941-695-2881 ASAP if you will want to stay here for a night when you check in.  Now would not be too early.  This is a very popular area during March.  This is a very nice resort and I was amazed at how clean their rest room was when I visited. 

Note that tent camping in this area has been driven out by RVs.  Most snowbirds come down for several months in the winter and there just isn't room for tents.  However, Pavilion Key and other NP camp sites are fairly close.  If you absolutely MUST tent camp at this checkpoint, your best bet MIGHT be to find a secluded spot along the causeway and practice a little stealth camping.  I have slung my hammock next to their canoe landing.

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