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Boating: Coe Visitor Center to Flamingo
The 99-mile inland Wilderness Trail between Flamingo and Everglades City is open to motorboats as well as canoes, although, depending on the water level, powerboats may have trouble navigating above Whitewater Bay. Flat-water canoeing and kayaking are best in winter, when temperatures are moderate, rainfall diminishes, and mosquitoes back off—a little, anyway. You don't need a permit for day trips, although there's a seven-day, $5 launch fee for all motorized boats brought into the park. The Flamingo area has well-marked canoe trails, but be sure to tell someone where you're going and when you expect to return. Getting lost is easy, and spending the night without proper gear can be unpleasant, if not dangerous.
Flamingo Lodge, Marina, and Everglades National Park Tours. Everglades National Park's official concessionaire—up again for bid in late 2013—operates a marina, runs tours, and rents canoes, kayaks, and skiffs, secured by credit cards. A one-hour, 45-minute backcountry cruise aboard the 50-passenger Pelican ($32.50) winds under a heavy canopy of mangroves, revealing abundant wildlife—from alligators, crocodiles, and turtles to herons, hawks, and egrets. Renting a 17-foot, 40-hp skiff from 7 am runs $195 per day (eight hours, if returned by 4 pm), $150 per half day, or $80 for two hours. Canoes for up to three paddlers rent for $16 for two hours (minimum), $22 for four hours, $32 for eight hours, and $40 overnight. Family canoes for up to four go for $20 for two hours, $30 for four hours, $40 for eight hours, and $50 for 24 hours. The concessionaire also rents bikes, binoculars, rods, reels, and other equipment by the half or full day. Feeling sticky after a day in the ‘Glades? Hot showers are $3. (Flamingo Lodge, a victim of massive hurricane damage in 2005, remains closed pending a fresh start.) An experimental Eco Tent of canvas and wood, unveiled in winter 2012–13, was immediately booked solid for the season. Built by University of Miami architecture students, Eco Tent sleeps four, has a table and chairs, and wins rave reviews from designers, park officials, and campers. It's a prototype for up to 40 more units, once funding is secured. 1 Flamingo Lodge Hwy., on Buttonwood Canal, Flamingo, FL, 33034. 239/695–3101; 239/695–0124 Eco Tent reservations. www.evergladesnationalparkboattoursflamingo.com.
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