Visit Everglades City and the Ten Thousand Islands of Southwest Florida, the Everglades

Where Can I Just Slow Down?


by Reverend Dr Bob N. Wallace
Everglades Community Church

Chokoloskee Island. That’s where time seems to slow down. And the whispers of the past echo through the mangroves located at the edge of the Ten Thousand Islands off Florida’s southwest coast at approximately 25°48’46” North latitude and 81°21’39” West longitude. Chokoloskee Island is opposite the mouth of the Turner River near the southeastern end of Chokoloskee Bay which stretches about 10 miles (16 km) in length and 2 miles (3 km) in width and runs southeast to northwest along the mainland of Collier County. Separated from the Gulf of Mexico by the northern end of the Ten Thousand Islands and connected on the mainland by a causeway to Everglades City, the island reaches a high point of approximately 20 feet (6.1 meters) above sea level. This wonderful ecosystem is situated right in the heart of the Everglades making best part of Chokoloskee Island its tangle of mangroves, waterways, and coastal wilderness. Though small (about a ¼-mile square), Chokoloskee contains more history than some major cities. Ancient shell mounds built more than 2,000 years ago by Native Americans contain stories of a remarkable civilization of Calusa people who established their dominance in southwest Florida. The name Chokoloskee is derived from an Indian word meaning “Old Home” which captures the island’s connection to the past, its enduring presence, and the lives that have crossed on its shores.

Chokoloskee is an unincorporated community. It is in the Ten Thousand Islands and is a census-designated place (CDP) in Collier County renowned for its excellent fishing opportunities. Anglers from everywhere explore the surrounding waters casting lines for snook, redfish, tarpon, and other species. Bird watching in the island’s mangrove tropical forest provides a haven for herons, egrets, ospreys, and other coastal birds. Kayaking and canoeing is big, paddling through the intricate waterways immersed in the tranquil beauty of the Everglades.

Where can I just slow down? Chokoloskee Article by Reverend Doctor Bob Wallace

Ted Smallwood’s General Store is a historic site with a unique museum that takes you back in time. Wooden rocking chairs, canning machines, and animal skins recall the spirit of old Florida. Locals say there may be more ghosts in Chokoloskee than living souls. Legendary characters like Edgar J. Watson are said to still inhabit the area. Watson was one of the most notorious outlaws who relocated to the area in the 19th century. Born in Ridge Springs, South Carolina, he was on the run following a series of homicides. He settled in the Ten Thousand Islands area, where he purchased 40 acres of land near the Chatham Bend River. There, he began raising crops, including sugarcane, but remained troublesome. There were mysterious reports circulated about his workers going missing when they asked for pay. Bodies would occasionally wash down the river—laborers from Watson’s field. Watson himself was killed after trouble with other residents on the island in 1910. Watson’s story became a local legend and was the subject of books and movies. The Smallwood Store runs the Bloody Watson Tour which explores how Watson forged through the flooded grasslands to set up shop. The Smallwood Store is now run by the descendants of Ted Smallwood, one of the pioneering entrepreneurs of the community who died in 1951. The store is on the National Register of Historic Places.

In the late 1800s, settlers replaced the Calusa people and Chokoloskee became a trading center, exchanging locally grown produce for supplies. The area was extremely remote, accessible only by water until a causeway was built in 1956. Moonshine production and plume hunting were part of its colorful history. As of the 2020 United States census, Chokoloskee Island had a population of 346 people, residing in 155 households. Its isolation was eased by the causeway connecting it to Everglades City. The island’s history is rich, and its present-day charm lies in its simplicity and connection to nature. Chokoloskee’s natural beauty and closeness to the Ten Thousand Islands make it a captivating place to explore. Chokoloskee remains a classic definition of a sleepy little fishing village with a rich past.

There are several mobile home parks in the Chokoloskee vicinity having all age and 55+ communities. Outdoor Resorts at Chokoloskee Island is a condominium RV resort with 23 privately owned luxury RV sites offering an eight-unit motel and marina. Additionally, Chokoloskee Island Resort Mobile Home Park offers mobile homes for sale or rent. It’s an all-ages park.

Everglades Airpark is nearby with a 2,400-foot runway (LDA- 2,300), AvFuel 100 LL self-service available 24/7, passenger terminal, bicycles available for rent and minutes from Chokoloskee, fishing, airboats, swamp buggies, everglades tours, and dining.

Yes, Chokoloskee Island is a place on the lower southwest coast of Florida where you can just slowdown and enjoy life.

2024-04-09T11:37:56-04:00April 22, 2024|Community|

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