Flamingo Circle – Wilderness Waterway

Flamingo and Back

Much time has elapsed since I last recorded any kind of Janthina trip log.  The inflatable rib I use as a sometimes photo platform was in need of some attention. Now her tubes are freshly made and she’s just like new only with history!!  Let the voyages begin!!

Sunday, July 29, 2012 – Charting  Summary for exploration of the Little Shark River and White Water Bay via Flamingo from both sides.  (click on” Flamingo-White Water Bay Chart..you can scroll and zoom the NOAA Chart 11433 online…to see where we explored)

  • Started at Everglades National Park- Flamingo Marina and launched Janthina on the Florida Bay Side (Salt Water Side) of the facility.
  • Proceeded SW out into Florida Bay stopping briefly for some shots of a handsome Osprey in the mangroves.

    Osprey at Flamingo, Everglades National Park

  • Navigated out in a generally W/NW direction -pausing again for pictures of a solitary mangrove with many cormorants perched and drying their wings with perhaps Murray Key in the background.
  • Followed the coastline about 1 mile offshore  in 8-10′ of water past East, Middle and Northwest parts of Cape Sable and Big Sable Creek with some dolphins for company.

    Nautical Markers are Oceangoing Bird Perches

  • At Marker “1” – N latitude 25°  19.30′, W081°  09.50′ – we entered the Little Shark River to explore the waterway.

    Little Shark River


  • Entering Oyster Bay we stopped at the Oyster Bay Chickee so kindly provided by our wonderful park service.  Besides a bio-break, we’d tied up expecting to relax by the mangroves for lunch. However, mosquitoes had the same idea and we were the menu.  So we ate while cruising and continuing to explore the Shark River East Bound until 81°W.

    Oyster Bay Chickee

  • Retraced our path back through Oyster Bay southward via Cormorant Pass into White Water Bay….which began to earn its name as the wind freshened considerably creating chop. We also enjoyed some cool respite with a passing rain. I think this is where I lost my glasses while securing my camera from the rain as both were around my neck!!  Rats!!
  • We continued along the Wilderness Waterway through Tarpon Creek into Coot Bay and southward into the entrance of the Buttonwood Canal where we passed some intrepid canoers and a SeaTow Boat off to rescue perhaps another boater.

    Intrepid Canoers in Buttonwood Canal

  • Hauled out on the freshwater side of the marina.
  • Stopped for a brief visit to EcoPond to see if any birds were home.  There weren’t!
    The EcoPond sign was down and everything seemed quite forlorn and overgrown in the steamy heat.  It was much more of a pond than on previous visits however.

While mid-summer in the Everglades can be a challenge with oppressive heat and mosquitoes, it does serve to remind us that life in Florida was not always about air-conditioning and swimming pools! Traveling the Wilderness Waterway with its thick mangrove forests punctuated by white Ibises winging their way along the tangled, verdant walls does transport you back in time! If you want a sense of continuity in the stream of time,  the Florida Everglades is your portal.

Wilderness Waterway

~ by Judy on August 1, 2012.

5 Responses to “Flamingo Circle – Wilderness Waterway”

  1. A-W-E-S-O-M-E . . . as usual !

  2. So like the bayous of Louisiana. There are some differences in flora and fauna of course, but the web of waterways, the heat, the humidity, the birds – all very familiar.

    I’m curious about the canals. Around here (and in Lousisiana) bayous are crooked, canals are straight and canals generally betoken the presence of oil exploration interests. Are your canals a result of industry incursions, or simply an added means of navigation? The canals have done terrible damage to Louisiana’s wetlands, allowing salt water to move in and kill the swamps.

    I can’t quite get my mind around a marina with a fresh water side and a salt water side – time to go look at your chart!

    • The answer to the question about why there is a fresh water ramp and a salt water side at Flamingo actually leads to the larger discussion of why canals and rerouting of the flow of fresh water in the past need to be restored as much as possible. And, why Everglades Park is set aside to protect one of the most delicate ecosystems on the planet. Protecting the freshwater habitats from salt water intrusion was just not a thought in the past. It is a huge discussion.

      “Geological surveys indicate that Lake Okeechobee was formed about 6,000 years ago, when ocean waters receded and water was left standing in a shallow depression in what today is known as the state of Florida. The expansive lake that resulted from this process was named Okeechobee, which means “big water” in the language of the Seminole Tribe. The lake served as a direct source of water to the Everglades by way of numerous small tributaries passing out of the lake’s southern end.”

      Life-giving waters flow from from north to south and support Everglades National Park. There are two distinct sloughs: Shark River Slough, the “river of grass;” and Taylor Slough, a narrow, eastern branch of the “river.” Other sloughs run through the Big Cypress Swamp and supply freshwater to western Florida Bay and the Ten Thousand Islands. The area we were exploring is dotted with mangrove islands and winding pathways all at the same level and looking alike, so it is very easy to get lost without a GPS. The mangrove forests along these channels and rivers thrive where salt water and fresh water mix. It makes a valuable breeding ground for shrimp, fish and a place for wading birds to congregate and feed.

      Buttonwood Canal was dug in 1922 and is accessed from the fresh water ramp in Flamingo. It connects Coot Bay and the Inland Waters with Florida Bay as a spur of the Homestead Canal. In the 1950’s the National Park Service widened it from 35 to 50 feet and extended it to provide a boating route into the backwaters of the park. While this might have seemed a good idea at the time, for thousands of years fresh water flowed from the river of grass into the east side of White Water Bay and into Coot Bay. It played a role as a nursery for many species of fish and waterfowl. Coot Bay was named for the thousands of Coots once residing there. When the inland areas were exposed to the salt water of Florida Bay the patterns of salinity levels changed and destroyed some of the freshwater environment. In 1968 the Buttonwood Canal Restoration Project began and a concrete dam was installed next to the marina and so the tidal flow of saltwater was stopped. In the years since fish and bird life has been recovering. So to leave Flamingo you put in on the Florida Bay side or the Buttonwood Canal side, we enjoyed the circular route from one side to the other. It can be done in a few hours..but it is important to chart the course and have a GPS.

      Your question is appreciated and probably not answered completely as it does touch on critical efforts here in Florida.

      Here are some helpful links describing the area:


  3. SO BEAUTIFUL! How exciting. I love that osprey close-up! Just magnificent. What a beautiful shot of Wilderness Water — there’s nothing like being on/in the water for Everglades’ shots.

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