Everglades Invitational 2021 on the Nine Mile – Craighead Pond route!

Everglades Invitational 2021 Paddling Event:

“Craighead Pond Canoe Trail”

accessed via Nine Mile Pond.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove canoe satellite trail

Satellite view of the Nine Mile – Craighead Pond route of the Everglades Invitational 2021.

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Back in the fall of 2010, a series of “Invitational” backcountry Everglades paddling events began. Chiefly organized by Terry Helmers, along with the late Keith Wasserman and Charlie Arazoza. The events ran for several years until petering out by 2018. This trip was an effort to restart these yearly Invitational paddles in the Glades!

The trips were pioneered and previously organized by the one and only Terry Helmers of the Everglades Exploration Network. Terry liked to go well off the beaten path and planned these trips right near the end of the Everglades wet season, usually late October and into November. Terry’s promise was dawn till dusk paddling and to never subject paddlers to a “brochure route” and he always delivered!

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List of all the past Invitational events:

Taylor Slough (2010) – the FIRST Invitational!

Mahogany Hammock to Ed Brooker’s Landing in the Bill Ashley Jungles (2012)

Grass Paddling in the East Everglades Expansion Area (2013)

Crossing paths of Gladesmen, Gator hunters, Outlaws & Moonshiners: An invitation to paddling forgotten trails of the Everglades! (2014)

“Halloween on the Taylor Slough” special edition (2015)

The 2016 Invitational ran from Nine Mile Pond south into West Lake – I did not cover it.

Mahogany Hammock – Lane Bay loop of the 2017 Invitational paddle!

The 2018 Invitational was a farewell paddle of the John Pennekamp Park trails.

There was no 2019 event.

2020 = Covid, no event.

Hello 2021, we are HERE!

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+ ( additional exploratory paddling events held throughout the seasons )

Kayaking the River of Grass – Shark River Slough (2012)

Barron Creek – Ferguson River loop in the Ten Thousand Islands (2012)

Pahayokee to Main Street: Probing into the Shark River slough (2013)

Go West to East Cape – an interior route via “Spoonbill Pass” and Raulerson Prairies (2014)

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In keeping with the spirit of the “Invitational” events, I organized this trip to offer us (partial) off-trail paddling on the wide grassy expanses of Craighead Pond. Starting and ending at Nine Mile Pond made the logistics simple with no shuttling required. This was also a good way to gauge the current interest level for these types of paddles. I’m happy to say the turnout was great with seventeen paddlers in ten boats! This is actually a comfortable group size for back country paddling in general. I don’t see it prudent going much beyond twenty attendees.

For future Invitational paddling events we will be taking things up a notch both in location and difficulty levels!

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Nine Mile – Craighead Pond Everglades Invitational 2021 fall edition.

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This year’s event was held in

the Nine Mile Pond and Craighead Pond

areas east of the Park road and just north of

the mangrove forests that border Florida Bay.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Early launch into Nine Mile Pond on the Nine Mile – Craighead Pond Everglades Invitational 2021.

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The Craighead Pond Canoe trail is about a 16 mile round trip when starting and ending at Nine Mile Pond. Once past the marked Nine Mile Pond Canoe Trail (# 65A), the paddling parallels the “reef” mangrove line bordering on the south side. There are pvc pipes that mark a Park airboat trail, which we unofficially call the Craighead Pond Canoe Trail. Here you can free-range most of the way and orient via compass heading and chart  looking for the white markers. Of course a gps unit makes it even simpler. This open range is typical of the slough habitat and different from the typical creeks, channels and trails that paddlers are used to in other parts of Everglades National Park.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

We had a total of seventeen paddlers in ten boats.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

The event’s special guest was Daniella Levine Cava, the Mayor of Miami-Dade County. She and her husband Dr Rob Cava are both avid canoeists!

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Paddling the Nine Mile Pond trail, north route.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Who is this masked gentleman? It’s David C of the South Florida Paddling group!

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Charlie A and Frank, both Invitational veterans.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Amazon Bill, another Invitational veteran with a new paddler.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Several different types of boats were represented.
This one a lightweight downriver racing boat piloted by Don F.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Paddling the Nine Mile Pond Trail is typically single file.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Numbered PVC pipes like this one mark the Nine Mile Pond Trail.

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Kayaking across grassy waters on top of periphyton and other vegetation, an intersect with the smaller of the two main Everglades sloughs – the Taylor Slough is marked with an old wooden research platform. You can also get to Craighead Pond if you’re running down the Taylor Slough from the main Park entrance!

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Charlie Arazoza is the OG bush paddler in his decked canoe!

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Nine Mile – Craighead Pond Everglades Invitational 2021 fall edition.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

This trip came in at the tail end of a week’s worth of rain in S Florida.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

The morning sun through the slow clearing clouds.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Chris and Gisa paddling their tandem sea kayak as we exited into more open grassland.

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“Harmlessly paddling the time in the grasslands away,

feeling a certain unease in the air.

You’d better watch out, there may be Gators about!”

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Aerial view paddling the seas of periphyton in the Craighead Pond area.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Being able to stand up in your canoe or kayak is very handy in the Everglades backcountry.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

No beating around the bush, we had 16 miles to cover!

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Short snack break floating on Craighead Pond.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

The gentleman in the front is an inspiration to us all.
85 years young and still paddling. Paddling well too! 😮

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Canoes and kayaks in the Everglades backcountry.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Nine Mile – Craighead Pond Everglades Invitational 2021.

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The Craighead Pond  area is very similar to a slough prairie and lies just north of the “reef” line where thick mangrove forests start and beyond which lies salty Florida Bay!

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

The Craighead Pond area is very slough like owing to it’s close proximity to Taylor Slough.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

When I spotted this debris I knew we were close to the old research platform on Craighead Pond.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

PVC pipe tripod marker on the Craighead Pond trail.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

The old research platform has become almost completely overgrown in the last few years!

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

The Craighhead Pond research platform covered in reeds.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Arrival of the group at the old Craighhead Pond research platform.
I was ready and waiting for them to get this aerial shot!

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

However the platform is so overgrown that not even the aerial can hardly reveal it. 😮

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

The view from the seat and same position!

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Access ladders to the Craighhead Pond research platform.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

The ladders were very convenient and useful for a number of the paddlers.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Aerial view of group on the Craighhead Pond research platform from the long catwalk.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

The Craighhead Pond research platform on the edge of Taylor Slough.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Remnants of Everglades research on the Craighhead Pond research platform.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

The old Craighhead Pond research platform almost overgrown with reeds.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Lunch on the Craighhead Pond research platform.
Everybody was glad to have a place to stretch out!

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Frank ready to paddle back on the Invitational 2021 – Nine Mile – Craighead Pond Everglades.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Sea kayaks do well for grass paddling. However visibility can be very limited as you can see.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Reconnecting with the Nine Mile Pond Trail in the late afternoon sun.
The raised paddle is a signal to those catching up and also shows that we are stopped.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Nine Mile – Craighead Pond Everglades Invitational 2021 fall edition.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

David C paddling through periphyton and spike rush fields on the Craighead Nine Mile Pond Invitational 2021.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Periphyton and Bladderworts in the golden sun of the late afternoon.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

These Bladderworts trap and eat small aquatic creatures with their submerged bladders.

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

This is the official Kayakfari “Invitational” hat – a quality original Watership Trading Co.!

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Mangrove head frames the low sun on Nine Mile Pond, nearing the end of our Everglades Invitational 2021.

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The Everglades Invitational 2021 Paddling Event was a success and we have resurrected a yearly Everglades tradition of sorts. We paddled all day long, right into a glorious sunset!

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kayakfari Craighead Nine Mile Pond kayak everglades paddle slough mangrove invitational platform mangrove trail canoe

Sunset finish back at Nine Mile Pond for the Everglades Invitational 2021 event!

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The End.

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Myself and others from this group have previously

run variations of this trip a few times over the years:

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Flex Maslan Taylor Slough kayakfari everglades photography River of grass paddling kayak canoe craighead pond airboat trail florida

Craighead Pond after dark as part of the 2015 Invitational event!
Halloween on the Taylor Slough of the Everglades.

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Craighead Pond kayakfari everglades maslan mangrove enp slough 029 canoe kayak digital029art research platform

Going through hoops, mangrove hoops!
Paddling on the Craighead Pond Canoe Trail.

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flex maslan kayakfari Taylor Slough everglades kayak canoe grass paddle keith wasserman gladesmen explorer

Terry Helmers seated in canoe is the originator of the Invitational events.
Standing proud is the late Keith Wasserman, creator of the Everglades Diary site!
Running down the Taylor Slough in the Everglades.

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! Bless UP

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With that said..
Blessings friends!

🙂