Post Hurricane Irma high water paddling in the Everglades!

In early September 2017, South Florida experienced a powerful Category 4 Hurricane Irma. The huge storm made a last minute shift slightly to the west which spared the east coast of it’s full fury while the Keys and wild areas like Florida Bay and Everglades National Park received a more direct hit.

About a month later, after extensive cleanup efforts, Everglades National Park reopened the main Park road all the way down to Flamingo. I decided to scope out the impact that the powerful storm had. My first impressions were that while certain spots were left bare of vegetation, the overall immediate impact on the natural areas was not too severe. At least from what I could see from the main Park road and also on Florida Bay.

This little trip was the maiden voyage of the “Pa-Hay-Okee” –

my versatile Ocean Kayak Trident 11 sit on top kayak!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

The main road in yellow as it winds it’s way through Everglades National Park. The lower half sits on top of the original Ingraham Hwy.
This short but scenic trip takes place where the two meet next to Sweet Bay Pond!

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Some areas like the Pahayokee Overlook and Shark Valley were flooded out and still closed two months later!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

I scored a couple more PFDs found by the side of the road! 🙂

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The upper portion of the main Park road has been badly degraded over the years and very noisy to drive on. However it is now finally being re-paved to match the lower section which was redone only a few years ago. Soon it will be smooth sailing all the way to Flamingo, although the speed limit will remain the same at 55 mph. It’s tempting to speed on the long straight stretches, but a lot of wildlife tends to converge near the road because it is dry ground. Sadly I see roadkill all the time which could be lessened if only drivers reduced their speed to the posted limit!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

The main Park road also attracts wildlife of all types, sadly often to their detriment. Note this grasshopper is missing a part of it’s hind leg.
The speed limit in the Park protects not only people but also gives drivers a chance to avoid larger animals like birds, snakes, turtles and even alligators!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Water’s UP – Let’s go paddling! 🙂

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Aside from the wind damage caused by Irma, the storm brought down a lot of rain. Actually it dumped a TON of rain  and this means that water levels throughout the Everglades are high and it’s possible to paddle in places where one would ordinarily hike!!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Put in on the side of the main Park road in Everglades National Park.
This is the maiden voyage of “Pa-Hay-Okee” – the versatile Ocean Kayak Trident 11 in camo skin!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Pa-Hay-Okee” is my Ocean Kayak Trident 11.
All the better for exploring the “River of Grass”! 🙂

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The Trident 11, aka “Pa-Hay-Okee” is a very versatile boat for the interior Glades exploration. For someone of my size or less (6’2″ and 160 lbs) it’s pretty much an ideal boat. Stable enough to stand on and paddle standing up (SUP style), plenty of room for gear, very comfortable and short enough to turn on a dime. The center access hatch is perfect for photography and at 55 lbs she’s light enough to solo carry, car top and push/pull come what may. She’s also rigged out for fishing!

Prowler 11T dimensions:

11′ 5″ long x 30.5″ wide
Weight: 54 lbs
Capacity: 350-400 lbs

Note that mine is a slightly older generation of this craft, but this actually works in my favor as the newest models are now 15-20 lbs heavier due the all the fancy seating and other gizmos.

I’ll take the lighter boat any day, thanks! 🙂

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Approximate outline of this short little trip. Most of the time this area is for hiking out to Sweet Bay Pond, but the current high water levels allow paddling around to explore instead!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

The Trident 11 pairs well with a 220cm wooden Euro-style paddle.

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The Everglades: the final paddling frontier ..

These are the voyages of the Pa-Hay-Okee.

Its multi-year mission: to explore strange new landscapes,

to seek out new trails and new campsites, to boldly go where no camera hath gone before!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Paddling standing with an SUP paddle works best in deeper water and with less vegetation in the way.

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Since this trip was early in October, how about a mini Oktoberfest in the ‘Glades?!

I felt that a couple of beers were in order to celebrate!

🙂

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

The Everglades really looks nothing at all like the Bavarian countryside.
Regardless, it’s Oktoberfest in the Everglades – Prost!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

This “Festbier” beer was brewed for one batch one-time only!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Post hurricane Irma means high water in the Glades in October 2017 !!
Sierra Nevada Oktoberfest – Brauhaus Miltenberger Collaboration.

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Flex Maslan Everglades kayakfari ranger led pour beer kayak expansion grass sawgrass gladesmen paddle east photography

Vintage litter from another grass paddling trip. The can says “genuine”, but it’s really a poor imitation of the original Budweiser – a truly great brew from the Czech Republic!
CLICK for story: Let’s take a Ranger-led Pour of the Everglades!

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Let’s take a Ranger-led Pour of the Everglades!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Some clouds rolling in over the Glades prairies.

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As previously stated, the Prowler 11T / Trident 11 is a great hunter’s boat – and this includes photography, which is like a form of hunting.

I normally consider my Photography to be a victimless crime and I usually get away with it! 😉

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

A strand of Pines and mixed trees/shrubs in the distance over the interior Everglades prairies.

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

A strand of Cypress trees in the wet grass prairie.

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

“Pa-Hay-Okee” translates to “grassy waters” – an apt description of the Everglades.

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

On top of a raised berm and a shallow canal that were once dug here for agriculture. Much of the higher ground in Everglades National Park is actually “damaged” agricultural land left to return to nature since 1947.

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

A Crow observing me from above.

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It was on this muddy berm while I was enjoying my beer that I spotted what looked like a plastic bottle from a distance. I was gonna pick it up as trash anyway, and to my surprise it was glass. Furthermore, I immediately noticed there was some writing embossed on it.

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

October surprise find in the interior of the Everglades!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

“Federal Law Forbids Sale”

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“FEDERAL LAW FORBIDS SALE OR REUSE OF THIS BOTTLE”

The embossed text on the bottle/flask pertains to a Federal law that went into effect in 1935 and was on the books until 1964.

The law was intended to prevent illegal distillers from refilling legitimate bottles with their moonshine!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

“or Re-Use of this Bottle”

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So this is a vintage bottle from the post-Prohibition era.

Whether or not it was part of a clandestine moonshine operation or just somebody’s personal refuse we shall never know!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari.com Bill Ashley Jungle Herman Lucerne backcountry Paurotis Pond kayakfari aerial Hells Bay canoe kayak trail everglades mangroves pr00398 Ashley gang smugglers 1910s

Illegal moonshine stills operated in this area for decades even after Prohibition ended. These guys were an early infamous gang!
Crossing paths of Gladesmen, Gator hunters, Outlaws & Moonshiners: An invitation to paddling forgotten trails of the Everglades!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari Liquor Still Bay everglades moonshine totch brown 10000 islands ten thousand art prohibition gladesmen history chokoloskee

Real liquor still site hidden deep in the Everglades’ 10000 Islands.
CLICK for story:
ART at Liquor Still Bay – hidden history in the Everglades!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

A vintage Pint liquor flask found in the Everglades.
Cheers!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Big sky over the Glades prairies brings rain clouds.

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

The Trident 11 kayak is very stable for me and works great for stand up paddling or poling! 🙂

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Moving on, I was able to paddle and pole around for a bit in an area that I have not previously explored.

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Grass paddling and poling over the very shallow flooded Everglades prairies.

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Clouds rolled in and I got drenched by a passing shower, which was actually a beautiful experience!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Rain clouds moving in over the Everglades prairies.

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

“I’m paddling in the rain, I’m happy again!” 😉

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Sun shower on the Everglades prairie!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

It’s a beautiful experience – light rain over the wet Everglades.

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Back on the dirt berm/old farm road. The Trident 11 is a friendly boat for this kind of paddling – it’s only 55 lbs, and easy to drag over anything!

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Water depth in the prairies averages about a foot deep, with some deeper spots to two feet. That’s more than enough to float a kayak, but the vegetation retards forward motion and a lot of times it’s easier to split the kayak paddle apart and use it like ski poles!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

A take-apart kayak paddle works great in this kind of shallow and grassy terrain. I often use the two halves like ski poles to move – it works better than it sounds!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

When the sun came out again I shot this beautiful aerial panorama of the flooded Glades!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Dragon fly aerial view of the maiden voyage of the “Pahayokee” on the Glades praries! 🙂

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When the sun came out again I was able to pop into Sweet Bay Pond, one of several artificial lakes near the main Park road. These are also called “borrow pits”, and the extracted material was used as fill for road beds. The resultant ponds were then used as storage reservoirs for agriculture and irrigation.

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Busting through the perimeter vegetation into Sweet Bay Pond.

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Paddling on Sweet Bay Pond – a man-made reservoir or “borrow pit” as they are called. The extracted fill was used to build up road beds and create canals for drainage.
This is how most of the Everglades were “conquered” in the 20th century!!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Aerial view of Sweet Bay Pond in the golden afternoon sunlight of the Everglades.

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Sweet Bay Pond averages about 4 feet deep and has very clear water where you can see the exposed limestone rock. I did not notice any gators or large fish, but I’m sure they’re around!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

New Coco-plum leaf shoots opening up. Vegetation will rebound quickly after Hurricane Irma!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Poisonwood leaves can be confused with other plants as several species are commonly found growing intermingled. Careful look at the leaf shape and also tree bark helps with identification –
DO NOT TOUCH!!
These are pretty common in this area and something to look out for esp. for those sensitive to Poison Ivy!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Sometimes the beauty is in the details – like this Toothed midsorus fern or Swamp fern!

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It’s just a short hop from the pond back to the Park road and the curious visitors eyeing me pulling a kayak out of the Everglades prairie!

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Cruising back towards the main Park road in Everglades National Park.

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

The take-out back onto the main Park road.

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The maiden voyage of the “Pa-Hay-Okee” was short but fruitful.

The Trident 11 proved to be an excellent back country boat and the mission was a success.

I am looking forward to many more exploratory trips on the River of Grass! 🙂

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Flex Maslan everglades kayakfari paddle Sweet Bay Pond Ingraham liquor canoe kayak hurricane Irma prairie

Sunset over the Everglades prairies! 🙂

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Cheers! Prost!

Salud! Na zdraví!

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Flex Maslan kayakfari.com rasta 420 happy kayakfari kayak canoe paddle photography adventure fitness awakenthegrass everglades florida

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© 2017 Flex Maslan / kayakfari.com / awakenthegrass.com. All original photographs, artworks and music in this portfolio are copyrighted and owned by the artist, Flex Maslan, unless otherwise noted. Any reproduction, modification, publication, transmission, transfer, or exploitation of any of the content, for personal or commercial use, whether in whole or in part, without written permission from the artist is strictly prohibited.

All rights reserved!

DISCLAIMER:: The maps and images on this site are not intended for navigation, I am not a guide; use any and all information at your own risk! Your mileage may vary .. so use good judgement before venturing out!

With that said..
Blessings friends!

:)

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