Paddling the Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail

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My hair is being blown straight out by the wind. I unhook the ratchet straps that hold my canoe on my SUV. I starts to swing in the wind. I wasn’t expecting it to be so windy when I planned on canoeing Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail in Everglades National Park in Homestead, Florida. Despite the name, the trail is only 5 miles. It is marked with 116 PVC markers.

The previous day, I checked in with the ranger about the water level on the trail and weather report. Both looked good. Except the weather had changed, and the wind had arrived. It took a lot careful maneuvering for me to get my canoe down safely. It tried to go flying a couple of times, but I finally set it on the launch point and grabbed by gear.

Paddeling the Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail

I was planning on being on the trail for about 5 hours. I was bringing a water proof bag with water, my camera, and some snacks. As I prepared to push off, I noticed a 4 foot alligator hanging around the shore line. I smiled, picked up my paddle, pushed off from the shore, and had the open water of Nine Mile Pond in front of me.

I was hoping the wind wouldn’t be as bad after I crossed the pond but it seemed to pick up. I was having issues getting blown off course. I kept feeling like the wind would flip the canoe. I didn’t have a plan for getting the canoe corrected while in the middle of the pond. I was also worried about a couple of the larger gators I had seen on the pond.

Paddeling the Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail

The wind forced me to the bank and I worked my way around the pond to the first PVC marker. The markers define the path through the mangroves and other swamp vegetation and are meant to be visible from each other. I paddled from marker to marker until I got to number 12. Number 12 was at the crossroads between several pathways and some open space. I couldn’t see the next white marker even though I got out my hunting binoculars.

Paddeling the Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail

I pulled out my trail map and decided that I would head straight from this marker and if in 5 minutes I hadn’t found a marker, I would turn around. At the 5 minute mark, I still hadn’t found a marker. I put my paddle down and got my binoculars for one last sweep. Just out of range, I saw a white pole. It was a marker. I paddle over to the marker and find its marker number 17. I mark down which markers are missing to report to a ranger later.

Paddeling the Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail

Now that I am in the mangroves, the wind isn’t as much as an issue. I keep paddling between markers and listen the bird calls. I carefully scan each tree looking for snakes. I am hoping to see a Burmese python. This invasive species is wreaking havoc on the Everglades ecosystem. The main reason I want to see one is so I can report the sighting.

Paddeling the Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail

I pass marker 72. I am half-way done with the trail. I stop and took a short snack break and watched a gator relaxing in the sun. The mangroves are thicker in this area and maneuvering the canoe is a little difficult. I sometimes have to use the bank as a pivot point to get around the curves.

I pass marker 115 and exit the mangroves heading back to open water. The wind hasn’t died down but I stay close to the bank. As I approach the launching beach, I notice a log in the middle of the beach. It wasn’t there when I launched. I pull out my binoculars and look close. It’s not a log. I have a problem; it’s a 7-ft alligator. The beach is about 30 ft. long and he is in the middle of it. I have two options, wait for him to leave or bring the canoe ashore and stay as far from him as possible.

Paddeling the Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail

The gator pays me no mind when I approach the beach. I bring the canoe ashore and the gator turns his head to watch me. I watch him and we have a staring contest. Finally abandoning the staring contest, I go back to work and get the canoe onshore and walk over to my car. I grab a bottle of water and watch the group of young tourists. I close my eyes as they approach the gator. The gator turns and hisses at them. Not one of them backs up. I start packing my stuff and putting the canoe back on the car. I don’t really want to be around when one of them ignores the warning signs and gets bit. One of the guys ignores the hissing so he can get his picture next to the alligator. I am putting one the ratchet strap on the canoe when the gator turn on the guy. He gets lucky and isn’t bitten. I don’t think the gator was actually trying to bite him.

I put the final touches on my car and get in and drive off. I have had enough adventures in the Everglades for the day. I don’t want to see someone be eaten.1915823_10150151159580121_871122_n

Have you been to the Everglades National Park? If so, did you paddle the Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail?

paddle the Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail

24 Replies to “Paddling the Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail”

    • Jennifer Post author

      There are a ton of birds. If you are really lucky there are a handful of Flamingos still in the park. Bird watching is good pretty much all day. I have seen birds at all hours.

      Reply
  1. sharon phillips

    Looked like you had a great day. I would love doing something like that. Great pics. Gators are kind of awesome the way they live and great to watch.

    Reply
  2. Valerie

    Oh my gosh, that’s so scary!! I haven’t seen an alligator before (besides at the zoo) so the thought of being in the same body of water as them is a little terrifying! I live in Washington state so my only experience with them is what I have seen on TV…which in hindsight may not have been entirely accurate 😉 I would love to visit the Everglades though and see them…from a distant.Your picture of inside the mangroves was beautiful! It seems like it would be really peaceful.
    Valerie’s current road . . . Exploring the Phi Phi IslandsMy Profile

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    • Jennifer Post author

      They are pretty much harmless unless you go out of your way to mess with them. Go visit and you will see they aren’t aggressive unless you give them a reason to be. Most of the TV shows get it wrong.

      Reply
  3. Kate

    Are people insane?! Who goes up close to an alligator? They move so fast, I remember seeing one near Darwin in Australia and they were huge but moved so fast when they were hunting food. The canoe trip looks fun, it would be great to do a guided one in that area. I don’t know a huge amount about the Everglades National Park so I’m glad I’ve read this post
    Kate’s current road . . . Travel Massive Newcastle with Iles ToursMy Profile

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    • Jennifer Post author

      A lot of people. I had the tar scared of me once by a gator. I was kneeling down taking a photo of a gator about 10 feet from me. A bird was about 5 feet from my left. A second gator was about 5 feet down a bank from the bird. I noticed some movement to my left. The bird was gone and there was a gator instead. I just stood up and backed away. The whole incident only took a second. They move so fast.

      Everglades are amazing. There are some guided tours and a lot of self-guided tours as well.

      Reply
  4. Karilyn

    Wow wow wow! You are brave out there with those gators! I don’t think I would have the courage. But so awesome to be so close to them. Glad that silly tourist wasn’t bitten, but sometimes you sort of wish something would scare the beejesus out of them so they dont do it next time! I saw it so often with the turtles in hawaii – always ignoring the signs and getting right up in their faces.
    Karilyn’s current road . . . Grand Canyon in the Summer: How to Beat the HeatMy Profile

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    • Jennifer Post author

      I have never had an issue with a gator. In the water, they tend to avoid people. I am torn. Sometimes I wish they would get bitten so then someone else might think twice about letting their kid feed the gator. It’s amazing how many people think nothing of approaching animals. In recent weeks there has been several people and animal incidents in or near parks. Almost all of them involve people doing what they weren’t suppose to. (There isn’t enough info to say what happen on the recent bear attack in Yellowstone, yet but a mom and cub were involved so I am betting on mom protecting cubs). The animals are wild and should be treated as such.

      Reply
  5. Jackie

    Great post! I’ve been so curious about the Everglades and the different ways to see the landscape and wildlife. Canoeing looks good, although I’m not sure I would have had the courage to head back ashore with a gator sunning itself on the beach! Have you heard of taking an air boat ride in the Everglades? Do you know if/how these boats disturb the ecosystem?
    Jackie’s current road . . . Getting a Thai Massage by Ex-PrisonersMy Profile

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    • Jennifer Post author

      There are no airboat tours in Everglades National Park for a long time. There were boat tours but they do a lot of damage to the ecosystem hence why they are no longer allowed in the park. Part of the Nine Mile Pond Trail is on one of the old airboat trail. The damage is still present. All air boat tour are outside the park.

      Reply
    • Jennifer Post author

      Did you know almost all the falls at the Grand Canyon occur where there is a railing? I know canoeing in that wind had some risks but I am a good paddler and understand the risks. I hate watching people in parks. They think those near death things are funny. All I can see is one small change could have gotten someone killed.

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    • Jennifer Post author

      They just want to be left alone. The horror stories usually involved someone feeding the gator or a gator that has been fed by people. They pretty much hide when I try to paddle near them. For the most part even if I had went into the water, the more than likely they wouldn’t have messed with me. I am too big to eat.

      Reply
    • Jennifer Post author

      The Everglades don’t just have gators. They have crocs, too. Neither of them are aggressive unless threatened. The only real incident I have had was in northern Florida where a 2 foot was in the middle of the hiking trail. He got a little hissy when I stepped over him.

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