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  1. #1

    PWC riding in the Florida Keys. Areas not permitted?

    Hey Guys.

    I posted a while ago here about doing the keys by waverunner as a honeymoon trip. Still planning the trip, so long as there is a Florida left after Irma has her way with it!

    Trip will be in January/February, and want to explore the coast and the Keys, etc for about two-3 weeks. I am from Georgian Bay, Ontario Canada, and if there is water there, you can generally use a PWC. No restrictions. I like to wander and explore, and just taking the the everglades for example, I found this, and there are a TON of restrictions. I dont want to get into any trouble, but finding every no wake zone, no landing zone, and no PWC, for every national park and wildlife refuge is going to take forever...

    https://www.nps.gov/ever/learn/manag...9-combined.pdf This is something I found on the everglades...

    Just based on the map, the keys are full of awesome areas to explore (national wildlife refuges among others), but what am I allowed to do, and where? Great White Heron refuge for example doesn't allow camping, which is fine, but it also doesn't allow PWCs, only conventional boats... Just because I dont have a propeller I cant go??? And based on the map, just the green areas are refuge. Can I go by them but not stop?

    What do I do to keep legal?

    I went to school for outdoor adventure leadership, and was planning on camping wherever possible, whenever possible. No issue bringing the gear, but camping seems to be a no no in a lot of refuge areas, and I am not used to all these rules and restrictions.

    Any advice?
    Last edited by K447; 09-07-2017 at 03:13 PM. Reason: Thread title clarity


  2. #2
    Click avatar for tech links/info K447's Avatar
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    You may want to mount a GPS chartplotter that has detailed maps for that area.

    I do not know if any of the commercial electronic charts have complete mapping for PWC specific restrictions, as opposed to boating restrictions.

  3. #3
    boating restrictions on a gps might be a start anyway.

  4. #4
    Click avatar for tech links/info K447's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Hutchy View Post
    ... can it be moved from here somehow? the Florida forum might be better indeed.
    Already moved

  5. #5
    Well thanks!

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    Most of the restricted areas, in the Lower Keys where I usually ride are on the gulf side. You can launch at the various ramps they provide and do some basic riding on the gulf side then out an inlet onto the Atlantic side with no issues. There is a ton to see on the Atlantic side, from reefs to islands where people party(you'll find those real quick). Not exactly sure where you are going but I highly recommend visiting Looe Key Reef which you can get too from Bahia Honda or the ramp on Ramrod. I also suggest Coffins Patch reef which you could launch Marathon bayside and go through the Vaca cut and into the ocean. Both reefs you just look for all the boats centered in one spot about 5 miles out. I usually use a compass bearing but I can't remember the number off the top of my head..

    Lots to see and do in the ocean and islands. Yes there are restrictions on the gulf side but most of that area is shallow and better suited for fishing, from what I've experienced anyway. Just be careful heading into the ocean as there are lots of shallow spots, especially as you get close to the islands. Just take your time because the bottom isn't sand it's hard coral in the island areas. Good luck and enjoy.....That is if there is anything left to visit after this week...

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    Sanctuary map :

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Fknms_map_big.jpg

    In contrary, it seems like a jet-propelled PWC is the ideal craft for accessing the Keys shallow-water island-hoping back-country. Well . . . therein is exactly why they are banned. It's not so much the ski, nor the behavior. It's more about what sits on top the ski - "you".


    Background info on the wildlife refuges zones in the keys, and a hint to why PWCs are specifically singled-out :

    https://nmsfloridakeys.blob.core.win...ountryplan.pdf

    If I read that correctly, it seems the main reason PWC's are banned is not so much due to the notorious stereo-typically rowdy and unruly genre, but rather that PWC's can provide ideal transportation to these designated wildlife areas. Let's not mix words, these zones - agree or not - are basically designated as "sanctuary from humans". Therefore, with their shallow draft, speed, no-interference propulsion, and long-distance ability, PWCs pose a counter-intuitive threat to the parks ability to control human access to these areas. Now, if they (Park Services) could legally ban humans, I'm sure they would. Doing so would obviously generate too much push-back. So they instead ban the PWC - and well, the mass-human encroachment problem kinda fixes itself.

    Why are motor boats still permitted you say?? Again, we can not ban humans, boats are considered a low-volume reduced capability risk. So while propeller-driven crafts can enter a majority of these zones, the very nature of these shallow conditions pretty much makes boat access (due to the prop) self-limited to the few and narrow deeper channels, aka away from the vast majority of the island habitat.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TimeBandit View Post
    Background info on the wildlife refuges zones in the keys, and a hint to why PWCs are specifically singled-out :

    https://nmsfloridakeys.blob.core.win...ountryplan.pdf

    If I read that correctly, it seems the main reason PWC's are banned is not so much due to the notorious stereo-typically rowdy and unruly genre, but rather that PWC's can provide ideal transportation to these designated wildlife areas. Let's not mix words, these zones - agree or not - are basically designated as "sanctuary from humans". Therefore, with their shallow draft, speed, no-interference propulsion, and long-distance ability, PWCs pose a counter-intuitive threat to the parks ability to control human access to these areas. Now, if they (Park Services) could legally ban humans, I'm sure they would. Doing so would obviously generate too much push-back. So they instead ban the PWC - and well, the mass-human encroachment problem kinda fixes itself.

    Why are motor boats still permitted you say?? Again, we can not ban humans, boats are considered a low-volume reduced capability risk. So while propeller-driven crafts can enter a majority of these zones, the very nature of these shallow conditions pretty much makes boat access (due to the prop) self-limited to the few and narrow deeper channels, aka away from the vast majority of the island habitat.
    Interesting addition at the bottom of the document...

    List of citizens submitting written comment (alphabetic order)
    Jimmy Buffett, Margaritaville

    He bitches about PWC's, but has no problem landing his seaplane in and around coral reefs.

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  13. #10
    Unfortunately, most national park areas (as in the Florida Keys) have a ban on PWC operation within their boundaries. If you plan on going from Miami, you need to go 9 miles east, outside the boundary of Biscayne National Park, to get to Key Largo. If you're looking to trailer, I suggest you go to Indian Fill Key in Islamorada (gulf side) as there is a boat launch ideal for PWC. You can explore the Tiki Bar, the sandbar nearby, Alligator Reef Lighthouse and on the inside, you can visit the Toilet Seat Channel. South of Islamorada, you can launch at Duck Key and check out Grassy Key and Sombrero Reef Lighthouse. Big Pine Key and Marathon has plenty of areas to explore also. Key West is for the most part open for PWC.

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