Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail 🛶
One of the best things to do in South Florida is a canoe trip in the Everglades and exploring the mysterious swamps.
There are various canoe routes in the park. We chose 9 Mile Pond Canoe Trail and rented 2 double canoes. The total distance of the loop is actually not 9 miles but 5 miles. Jessica shared a canoe with Eli and I one with Tess. Kayaks are also available. That day it was cloudy but still very warm.
There was a bit of current when crossing the large pond. That is because the wind can blow harder at that location. Once we were paddled over the large pond and arrived at pole #1, it became windless. We didn't meet anyone else on our route that day. The only sound came from our paddles, the rustling of the saw grass against our canoes and from the many grumbling alligators. They make a kind of growling noise. In this way they warn not to come close to their nest. If you respect that, then it's not dangerous. Alligators do not normally attack people.
You must first collect the keys to the chained canoes at the Visitor Center in Flamingo. That is about 15 minutes drive. There is only one road, Main Park Road. You will pass the starting point of the Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail when you drive to Flamingo. You can make canoe and kayak trips with or without guidance at 6 places in the Park. You don't need a lot of experience for this trip, but with the guidance of a Park Ranger you will get a lot of information about the fauna and flora of the area. Picnic tables can be found at the parking lot of Nine Mile Pond, but there are no toilets.
In 2013 we had already visited the Everglades with the children and then sailed with an airboat, but they make a lot of noise and therefore disrupt life in the swamp. It is simply much more fun to glide over the water in a canoe or kayak and enjoy the silence. You can also watch a short video of our canoe trip in the Everglades on the Nine Mile Pond route and enjoy the silence.
Shorten canoe route 🔎
Once the pool has been paddled, follow the numbered signs that are attached to the posts. Everywhere there are mangrove islands and endless saw grass. The one looks a bit more like the other and without those posts you probably won't find the way back. Sometimes we did not notice a sign and sailed past it, but you notice it quickly. Just go back and you're on the right route again. The landscape extends as far as you can see. It is possible that the water is (too) low in that period. You can then shorten a bit by turning left on the sign #44. It is best to ask that at the Flamingo Visitor Center when collecting the keys.
When we were there, the water was quite low, but it was still easy to do. April is the end of the dry season and I estimate that on some parts of the route it was only 40 cm deep. In other parts you sometimes do not see the bottom. The advantage of the low water level is that the roots of the mangroves protrude from the water. If you then sail through the narrow mangrove tunnels where it is too narrow to pedal, you can simply pull on the roots. The children found the narrow mangrove tunnels fun and exciting.
Alligators and Crocodiles
Sometimes you have to search, but the alligators are everywhere. Most are still breeding during that period. Fish swam beside and under the boat, some were 60 cm long. The full trip lasted four hours, but the shortened version via #44 can be made in two hours. The Rangers warned us not to disturb the alligators. They guard their nest and, if they feel threatened, can hit the canoe with their tails. A crocodile also lives in the area. The rangers call him Croczilla. A crocodile is a rarity in the Everglades and it is 5 meters long.
Croczilla: Meet and greet
On the last part we had to pass a narrow passage and suddenly there was one in our sailing route. We had no choice but to sail past it. About a meter from the alligator, or was it Croczilla, we passed very quietly. He didn't move an inch. Eli wasn't really comfortable about it, but Tess looked at it as if it were National Geographic. She was completely at ease. Nothing to worry about! Once past that, we had to paddle over 2 larger ponds and we were back at the starting point. Canoes towed out, tied up with the chain and the keys returned to Flamingo.
Short video of our canoe trip in the Everglades
Where can you rent canoes and kayaks?
The price for one double canoe was 45 $. Kayaks were not available at Nine Mile Pond, but they could be delivered by the company to the parking lot and picked up for an extra fee of 43 $. We have reserved in advance. The owner asks you to fill in a form and email it back. Everything went smoothly.
Address1 Flamingo Lodge Hwy, Homestead, FL 33034
Map: Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail
What else can you do in this part of the Everglades?
A little past the entrance to Everglades National Park you will find the well-constructed hiking trail “Anhinga Trail”. You can take a 1.2 km long walk on wooden decking. Anhinga Trail is a very popular hike because there is so much wildlife to see. It is different from a canoe trip in the Everglades, but certainly no less fun 🙂 We found the short walk to be a nice completion of our day in the National Park.
Where can you make a kayak trip with a kayak?
You can actually kayak anywhere in Florida. You see a lot of locals driving around with a canoe or kayak tied to the roof of their car or you see them on a trailer. One of the best kayak trips we made during our vacation in South Florida was a kayak trip to the small island just before Everglades City. We rented kayaks from Gulf Coast Visitors Center and went on an adventure with my daughter as a guide 🙂