An invitation to paddling forgotten trails of
Gator hunters, Outlaws and Moonshiners
in the Everglades!
(tap or click pic to read)
The Bill Ashley Jungles is an area west of the main Park road roughly between Paurotis Pond and Hell’s Bay, and we were right in the middle of it! Historically these were productive hunting grounds for both Native American tribes and later “Cracker” gator hunters and trappers. This landscape has also changed over the decades, with brackish water intruding northwards, resulting in the predominantly wet mangrove forest habitat that we saw. It certainly did not look like it to us, but back in the 1920′-30’s there was abundant game deer to be had here! Today this is a largely forgotten area, except for the Hell’s Bay Canoe Trail that runs through a part of it. This single trail probably the single most popular paddling route inside of Everglades National Park.
Paradoxically this area is at once the most visited,
yet also the least explored!
The Bill Ashley Jungles were named after a band of outlaws who hid out in the Glades in the 1910’s-20’s called the Ashley Gang, led by John Ashley and his “queen”, Laura Upthegrove. Back then almost everything in South Florida was still the “Everglades”, so whether you were in Homestead or Jupiter, you’d still be in the “Everglades”. It was more of a question of how hard it was to get in and out. By 1924 members of the close knit Ashley Gang family were either in custody or dead. Bill Ashley, one of John’s brothers was apprehended in January 1924, and was the only one who actually survived the family “business” and then lived out his years in Pompano Beach until his death in 1940.
Incidentally, on the east side of the Park road is the Noble Hammock Canoe Trail, a short but pretty three mile loop. It was named after Bill Nobles who ran a moonshine still operation on a hammock back there during Prohibition. The trail is just a small section of Still Creek which runs down into West Lake and is well worth seeing!
Full story at:
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