The Ten Thousand Islands are a chain of islands and mangrove islets off the coast of Southwest Florida between Marco Island and the mouth of Lostman’s River. Despite the name, the number of islets in this chain actually number in the hundreds; rather than thousands.
Some of the islands are high spots on a drowned shoreline, while others were produced by mangroves growing on oyster bars. This area is part of the largest expanses of mangrove forest in North America.
The northern part of the Ten Thousand Islands, between Cape Romano and Everglades City, is in the Ten Thousand Island National Wildlife Refuge. The southern part of the Ten Thousands Islands, south of Everglades City, is in Everglades National Park. The 99-mile long Wilderness Waterway begins at Everglades City and ends at Flamingo, on the southern tip of the Florida peninsula
The Ten Thousand Islands were used and occupied by Native Americans for thousands of years. The Horr’s Island archaeological site at the northern end of the Ten Thousand Islands was occupied year-round 3,500 years ago. Evidence of former living sites presumed to have been inundated by a rise in sea level can be found under as much as four feet of water.
Although some of the islands have been inhabited sporadically by individuals or small groups, most are uninhabited currently. Chokoloskee Island, which is connected to Everglades City by a causeway, has about 400 permanent residents. Some of the Ten Thousand Islands are suitable for camping activities which are controlled by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. The USFWS recommends only seasoned paddlers with experience in wilderness areas plan to venture far or camp in this area due to its remote nature.
This area is a popular destination for those individuals seeking a true Florida wildness experience with the opportunity to view diverse native wildlife in unique and unspoiled Florida ecosystems. Although there are few access points, the area provides a rewarding adventure for those experienced with back country paddling, camping and hiking.