Beginning on Thanksgiving this year, Everglades National Park opened Joe Bay, and adjacent Snag Bay, to the public for the first time in more than 30 years. The area will allow non-motorized boating and become the park's first catch-and-release fishing area.
The decision to re-open Joe Bay and Snag Bay was included in the park's 2015 General Management Plan (GMP). The management strategy implemented provides the needed resource protection while providing new wilderness experiences for park visitors. A monitoring program has been initiated to evaluate the effectiveness of these new management strategies over time.
Park Superintendent Pedro Ramos states, "Joe Bay's decades-long closure was an important piece in our efforts to help the American Crocodile recover from the brink of extinction. The status of the species has improved significantly and we are pleased to open Joe Bay to sustainable public access in accordance with our recently completed General Management Plan."
There are four creeks that provide access from Trout Lake to Joe Bay and adjacent Snag Bay (see map). Visitors will be required to use a paddle or push pole to enter the area, and boats with a combustion engine and/or trolling motor must remove them from the transom and/or bow before entering the area.
As depicted on the accompanying map, access to the two bays is through Trout Cove and Trout Creek, and boaters should be aware of the new markers and follow all rules on signs installed to protect shallow-water resources and insure public enjoyment. Particular attention should focus on the 1) Trout Creek speed restriction, 2) designation of Trout Lake as a pole/troll zone, and 3) Trout Lake mooring area (6 boat capacity). The mooring area allows motor boats to travel to the area, carrying a canoe or kayak to explore the area.
Joe Bay and Snag Bay were part of the "Crocodile Sanctuary" closed to public entry in 1980 for the protection of the American crocodile and other endangered species. Other areas of the "Crocodile Sanctuary" (e.g., Little Madeira Bay and all other creeks and ponds) will remain closed to the public.
In the coming year, the park will implement additional high-priority GMP projects. These include launching the park's boater education and permit program, enhancing protection and access in Florida Bay, establishing the Everglades Paddling Trail, and providing enhanced maps and electronic navigational tools to the public that reflect the changes identified in the GMP.