Good news! The Flamingo Lodge has targeted the first week in December for its grand post-Katrina reopening. At least a portion of the campground should also be open in December. So it looks like the Flotilla is on!
Facilities will be slightly limited, though. For 2006, there will be no houseboats to rent, and no cottages or suites at the Lodge; just individual rooms. The tour boats survived the hurricane, so commercial tours into Florida Bay and Whitewater Bay will still be available. I have no information on the state of chickees or water trails. If anyone finds anything out, please post!
At the current time, the road into Flamingo is open, as are both boat ramps. (One ramp gives access to Florida Bay, the other to the interior.) There are restroom facilities at the ramps. No food, no fuel, no lodging, no t-shirts. But that should all change by Flotilla time.
I recommend making reservations for the Lodge and/or campground as soon as your plans firm up. There will not be as many Lodge facilities available as usual. And it is also possible that they may not have the full campground open this year. Plus, who knows, folks who normally go south early in the season may have shifted their dates toward late Jan / early Feb. (That would take some nerve, seeing as how we own the place during Flotilla time! But I suppose there may be some newcomers who don't know about us yet. Hard to believe.)
To make campground reservations:
CALL 1-800-365-CAMP (select “Everglades National Park”, then “Flamingo”)
OR GO ONLINE at http://reservations.nps.gov (select “Everglades National Park”; then “Flamingo Mixed” for tents or small RVs, or “Flamingo RV only” for pull-through sites)
DO NOT call the official campground number (305-242-7700). They'll tell you reservations are not being accepted, but they are wrong, wrong, I tell you, wrong! I made successful reservations with a cheery "reservation specialist" this morning.
To make Lodge reservations:
There is no land line phone service to Flamingo yet, so you must either make reservations online (www.flamingolodge.com) or call the Lodge cell phone number: 305-342-6842 (8AM - 5PM Monday through Friday).
Which raises an interesting question. How do they have reliable cell phone service at the Lodge when we poor campers have to wander around looking for sweet spots, dangle our cell phones over our heads to aim them at Miami, fight for that golden parking spot at the marina (whose GPS coordinates I shall never divulge!)...?? Hmmm. This bears investigating!
I just e-mailed this information to the Official Flamingo Flotilla Mailing List. If you didn't get it but wish you had, send me your e-mail address and I'll add you to the list. (Apologies to anyone I've inadvertently dropped. My web mail and pc mail address books are currently not on speaking terms.)