‣ TEN THOUSAND ISLANDS, FLORIDA
Magical, mystical and alluring, the Ten Thousand Islands chain is a maze of uninhabited low keys that separates the Everglades from the Gulf of Mexico on Florida’s southwest coast. Despite the name, the islands actually only number in the hundreds. However, with its myriad of islets, lagoons, and shallow ocean passages, there’s enough exploring potential in this subtropical wilderness for a weekend or weeklong winter paddling getaway. The native Calusa tribe recognized the canoe early on as the best mode of transportation through the island group, and canoes and kayaks are still the best way to appreciate the area’s beauty and wonder. Launching from Everglades City, at the northern end of Everglades National Park, you’ll be among the archipelago within minutes as you enter Chokoloskee Bay. Endless paddling routes weave through countless mangrove-lined passes and small bays with an incredible number of fine camping spots. Spectacular sunsets are a highlight of any Ten Thousand Islands trip. As for company, you’re almost certain to have curious dolphins cruise alongside you—even manatees and alligators from time to time. Bird life is nothing short of sensational.
Local Knowledge: This is a wilderness area that will likely be very different from other places you have paddled or camped. Proper planning is a must. Carry drinking water and food supplies in hard-sided containers; raccoons inhabit many of the keys and can be numerous and bold. — Larry Rice
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