Everglades Eco-Adventure, Florida

Sierra Club Outings Trip # 14178A, Base Camp, Canoe, Kayak


  • Go on a sunset paddle to nesting/rookery area in Everglades National Park
  • Learn on a naturalist/biologist-led swamp walk in Fakahatchee Strand
  • Enjoy a three day, two night sea kayak camping trip in Everglades Natonal Park’s 10,000 Islands


  • All meals, rentals, shuttles, and all tips to guides
  • Camping fees, mild Florida weather
  • Naturalist guides each day


DatesDec 7–13, 2014
StaffTerry DeFraties

Trip Overview

The Trip

Everglades National Park is the only national park established because of the biological and ecological diversity of the area -- an area unique to our planet. We will visit at the perfect time since December is the dry season with highs in the 80s and lows in the 60s. You will experience a multi-modal introduction to the Everglades as we do a series of guided day excursions by powerboat, by canoe, by kayak, and on foot into four of the Everglades’ distinct ecosystems. Each day, our naturalist guide will point out and explain the flora, fauna, and ecology. 

Every day will bring a new adventure. On our first day, we will kayak a short distance at sunset to a roost/rookery area just as the birds flock home for the night. Only beginner skills will be needed for our canoe and kayak day trips. However, we will be on the water some days for about six hours (with some breaks). In order to avoid paddling against the tide, we will rise early on Tuesday and Thursday so that we will be going mainly with, not against, the tidal flow. Starting from the freshwater ecosystem, we will canoe downstream on a river that flows all the way to the coastal estuary. There may be sightings of river otters, alligators, manatees, and bottle-nosed dolphins. Walking “wet” another day in the tropical rain forest of the Fakahatchee Strand State Preserve, we will search for rare epiphytic orchids. Power boats and kayaks will allow us to reach some remote birding and cultural areas in Everglades National Park.

We will start the trip in our base camp in a commercial campground in Big Cypress Preserve (with showers, wi-fi, and washer/dryers) and end the trip with a three-day, two-night sea kayak tour of the coastal marine ecosystem and camp on the beach at a rustic campsite on a nearby island.  We will return in mid-afternoon on Saturday to take advantage of the tides.

It may be necessary to modify our plans due to circumstances, weather, and other conditions, so it is important to be flexible.


Day 1: Sunset rookery kayak eco tour. We will meet for introductions, brunch, and orientation, then we will set up camp. You can bring your tent or use ours.  At about 3 p.m. we will leave for the sunset rookery eco tour and paddle there in tandem sea kayaks. Against the backdrop of a southwest Florida sunset, hundreds of wading birds will be returning to roost.  We will return to camp and enjoy dinner around the campfire.

Day 2: Guided swamp walk. After breakfast, we will pack lunches and put on our wet shoes.  Our guide will take us into the Fakahatchee Strand, which is touted to be North America’s tropical rain forest.  This swamp walk will be a “wow” experience that you will never forget in a unique and enchanting place, home to over 40 species of epiphytic orchids (including the infamous Ghost Orchid).  With over 30 years’ experience in the glades, our botanist guide will give us an experience had by few.  Back in camp, we can shower, relax, and enjoy dinner around the campfire.

Day 3: Freshwater to saltwater paddle. After an early breakfast, we will pack lunches and head for the river launch of the freshwater-to-saltwater paddle by canoe. Beginning in the bald cypress freshwater Everglades ecosystem, we will paddle into the mangrove forest and tunnels, where the Everglades transitions from fresh to saltwater and will end up in the Everglades National Park in the marine estuary ecosystem. This is one of the few contiguous freshwater to saltwater ecosystems left.  Paddle from frogs, turtles, alligators, and river otters to manatees, bottlenose dolphins, and loggerhead turtles.  Back in camp, we can clean up, relax, and enjoy dinner around the campfire.

Day 4: Grand heritage and birding tour. Over three hundred fifty species of birds visit Everglades National Park each year, making it a premier birding location.  It is also a World Heritage site. With more than four thousand years of human habitation and with its “wild wild west” reputation (especially in the Southeast), the area is rich in heritage and culture.  We will experience seldom visited places in some very remote areas of Everglades National Park on foot and via power boat and very stable kayaks. Lunch will be at an interesting spot. As the sun sets, we will return to camp by boat along the coast. This is the most extensive day tour of the park that is available.  We will have dinner around the campfire and reflect on our experiences.

Day 5-7: Guided sea kayak tour. We will start early, break camp, and move our base camp to Chokoloskee Island. From there, our naturalist guide will take us to some of the Everglades’ thousands of islands. With minimal light pollution in this remote area, the Milky Way is visible on any clear dark night. The moon will be waning and stars will be spectacular. Yet, by early morning, the moon will be casting some shadows on the white sand. There will be warm weather, warm water, campfires on the beach, great food, and varied wildlife, which could include dolphins and manitees. This will be quite a tour, but we will have to bring it to a close and return to the mainland mid-afternoon Saturday.



Getting There

Our base camp is about 75 minutes from Ft. Meyers airport (RSW). This is an easy airport to negotiate, but Ft. Lauderdale and Miami are only about 90 minutes away. While the leaders cannot organize carpooling, it is encouraged. Trip leaders will provide contact information so that participants can make arrangements if they wish.

Accommodations and Food

From Sunday night through Wednesday night, we will base camp in tents in a commercial campground with rest rooms, showers, wi-fi, and more. For the guided sea kayak tour, we will move our base camp to Chokoloskee Island on Thursday and Friday nights and camp on the beach. There may be an option to move to another island on Friday night. All meals are included starting with brunch on Sunday and ending with lunch on Saturday.

Plan to work together to make camp, and prepare and clean-up meals. The trip leaders really like to cook and to eat, so count on interesting, varied, and nutritious meals. There will be plenty of food. If participants wish, they can bring additional between-meal snacks. The trip leaders will do their best to accommodate vegetarians and medical dietary restrictions. Those with challenging restrictions may be asked to bring or prepare some of their own food to supplement group food. Please contact the leader if you require accommodation.

Trip Difficulty

This trip will be moderately strenuous but not technically difficult and will be suitable for beginning paddlers. There will be a review of paddling techniques.  We will be on the move for about six hours per day, but there will be breaks and, of course, great lunches.

Equipment and Clothing

We will travel in different ways on different days. We will be on foot, in tandem canoes, in tandem sea kayaks, and in power boats at various times. The trip price includes canoe and kayak rental, power boat trips, and all related shuttles. The weather will be mild. You will need shoes and clothing that can get wet for our “wet walk” and appropriate paddling attire when we paddle.  We will be in base camps, where you can bring your own tent or use our outfitter’s, but you will want a light sleeping bag, ground pad, etc. Participants will receive a detailed equipment and gear list after they have been accepted for the trip. With advance planning, most gear can be obtained from our outfitter on an individual basis, and a few items may be loaned by the leader. Please contact the trip leader if you have any questions.





  • Grunwald, Michael, The Swamp.
  • Smith, Patrick, A Land Remembered. 
  • Matthiessen, Peter, The Killing of Mr. Watson. 
  • Douglas, Marjory Stoneman, The River of Grass. 
  • Molloy, Johnny, A Paddler's Guide to Everglades National Park.
  • Whitherington, Blair and Dawn, Florida's Living Beaches. 


In a word, we will have conversation.  We are going to have an entire week's worth of conversation about the many, many aspects of the Everglades that we will be experiencing. While keeping us safe and helping us have a good time, our interpretive guides will focus on educating us about the Everglades. We will regularly touch on the topic of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Program (CERP). Though racked with politics and misdirected funding, it is a model for environmental restoration ...for the world. 

In 2014 America celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act. The Sierra Club, various other organizations with a wilderness focus, and the four federal wilderness management agencies are vigorously planning this celebration. The goal of the effort is to assure that a broader public knows about the concept and benefits of wilderness. Sierra Club Outings is a vital part of the celebrations for wilderness.
While the Act was far in the future when our outings program started, we were already promoting the principle behind it: to forever set aside from human developments certain special places, by civic agreement. This is the basic principle on which the Sierra Club was founded. The wilderness anniversary gives us an opportunity to highlight our organization’s leading role—in publicizing this principle, in passing the 1964 Act, and in achieving more designated wilderness since then.



Terry DeFraties leads local outings for the Thomas Hart Benton Group (Kansas City) of the Sierra Club Missouri Chapter and lives in the Kansas City area. He owns a small construction company and backpacks, canoes, kayaks and caves whenever he can. He has participated in, organized and led wilderness trips for over thirty years. With Sierra Club national outings, he has led or assisted on service, backpack, kayak and canoe trips. He is a certified Wilderness First Responder.


Holly Johnson is an outings leader for her local Eagle View Group and lives in the Illinois Quad Cities. She is massage therapist and paramedic who devotes her free time to environmental issues. Holly enjoys all outdoor activities including kayaking, biking, camping and backpacking. She lives with two cats and is the environmental pied piper to all of the children in her neighborhood. Holly has led several national trips and brings great energy and expertise to the outing.

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