On August 28, 2005, Hurricane Katrina virtually destroyed the Flamingo Lodge Marina & Outpost Resort located in the Everglades National Park at the southern end of State Road 9336. Two more hurricanes – Rita on September 20, 2005, and Wilma on October 24, 2005 – finished the job. 103 motel rooms and suites, 26 cottages, the gift shop, restaurants and bars, all of the marina facilities, and all of the employee housing was destroyed and the resort was officially closed in June of 2006.
The whole world knows about the destruction of the city of New Orleans by Katrina on August 29. New Orleans had an estimated population then of about 160,000. However, in comparison, very few people new about the city of Flamingo; in fact, I am not even sure that it is a city, and I lived there from May, 1996, until September, 2002. During that period of time I worked for the company that managed the concessions at Flamingo; the lodge, cottages, gift shop, dining room, cafe, marina store, gas station, and boat rentals. Most visitors to Flamingo never got to see our “residential” community. Located down a blacktop road signed for Maintenance Only there were several old 2 and 3 bedroom trailers, six dormitory buildings, (4 old wooden stilt-type dorms and 2 more modern concrete & steel dorms, 3 laundry areas, and a recreation hall. During the winter season, from November or December through Easter, it took about 170 people to staff the concessions – and that is where all but a few of them lived. The US Department of the Interior was the land-owner, and the National Park Service employed a staff of rangers to oversee their interests in this part of the Everglades National Park. They also lived in dormitories – at the end of the maintenance road. A small cooperatively owned T-shaped fishing pier separated the two communities. Fortunately for everyone concerned, Katrina hit Flamingo during the slow season and – while recruiting for the winter season was in process – the concessionaire only had 40 or 50 employees in residence then, and everyone was able to evacuate safely.
I loved the everglades and enjoyed working in Flamingo despite the fact that I often complained loudly about the sweltering summer heat, the 43 different varieties of mosquitoes that chewed on me and the alligators that often blocked the trails I had to navigate. The fishing was fantastic! I first fished out of Flamingo in 1947, before the road was black-topped and before President Truman dedicated the park. I was 11 years old then, and my mother, stepfather, and I caught a lot of fish. When I came out of retirement in 1996 and got a job at the Flamingo Marina I was elated. During the next six years I caught a great variety of fish; Mangrove Snapper, Sheepshead, Sea Trout, Reds (big redfish), Snook – some over 30” long, Black Drum, small Goliath Grouper, Tarpon and sharks. The Goliath Grouper, and the Tarpon – many over 100 lbs, were released as were the sharks; mostly Black Tips, but an occasional Bonnet or Lemon.
Soon after turning 65 in 2002 I retired again, and moved to Tampa Bay, but it was always my intent to return many times to fish the waters surrounding Flamingo. Now there is no place to stay. The nearest motels are about 50 miles away, in Florida City and Homestead, and I live over 300 miles away, so . . . I guess this is My Epitaph to the Flamingo Lodge Marina and Outpost Resort.
This is a picture of me at Flamingo in 1947:
The pictures that follow were taken by the late Peter Hulse, GM of the concessionaires operations at Flamingo, on September 2, 2005. They are published here with the consent of Jennifer Huber (http://www.quirkykitschgirl.com/):
When Hurricane Wilma struck on October 24, 2005, she put the finishing touches on what was once known as the Flamingo Marina and Outpost Resort. The below photographs were also taken by the late Peter Hulse, and forwarded to me by Jennifer Huber:
The Motel buildings, offices and guest rooms:
Food & Beverage Department:
The Buttonwood (above) and the Gift Shop (below) seemed to have taken less of a hit then many of the other areas:
Marina Maintenance Area:
The Marina and Marina Store:
The absolute End!
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