CEDAR KEY: Shell Mound In Cedar Key Florida
Join us on our visit to one of the more charming quiet little places on Florida's west coast. Page 4.
This park offers impressive vistas of coastal waters, boat/canoe/kayak access to the Gulf, a 3,500 year old archaeological site, and trails that lead to an intimate experience of a beautiful salt marsh.
On much of Florida's 1200 miles of coastline the beach runs in a tidy straight line for many miles up the shore, interrupted only by an occasional inlet. Your points of view are limited to either standing on the beach looking out to sea, or looking back upon the long unbroken coastline from your boat. These simple two dimensional postcard perspectives represent Florida to many people around the world.
The preconceived notions of Florida created by these stock marketing images may set up the surprise and wonder that arises when you visit Shell Mound and find a completely different coastal environment.
The Suwannee River is born in the Okefenokee Swamp of southern Georgia, and then winds through northern Florida until it finally reaches the Gulf of Mexico.
For miles around the mouth of the Suwannee the coast is a delta like maze of islands, creeks, inlets, swamps and marshes. In this part of the state the land and sea meet in many different ways, in a thousand different places. It's a wide open very natural area here, and a refreshing change from the more developed east coast of Florida.
The appeal of Shell Mound for us is that it is one of a limited number of places where boatless nature pilgrims can drive a car into the middle of this delta zone that lies between solid ground and the Gulf.
When you enter Shell Mound in your car your curiosity will probably lead you to follow the dirt road all the way back to the parking lot and boat launch area you see pictured on this page. The road is in good repair, and a porta-potti is available in the parking lot, but there isn't a visitor center or any other buildings within the park. You are definitely out in the midst of nature here.
We should note that another appeal of Shell Mound is that the services of civilization can be found in Cedar Key, only a few miles away. Cedar Key is a charming town right on the Gulf, that we like to think of as the "Key West of North Florida".
You can launch your boat, canoe or kayak from this parking lot. We're not boaters (a few more trips to Shell Mound may cure us of that) but we've read that it's important to know the tides here. The channel you used to go out at high tide may be a mud flat if you return at low tide.
In a photo above you'll see a shot of a fellow wading through the shallow water pulling his boat behind him by a rope. He diligently towed the boat a couple of hundred yards until he reached the channel, then he hopped onboard and motored off.
If you don't have a boat to worry about you can relax onshore and enjoy all the different vistas that are created throughout the day by the tides.
Shell Mound is fun place to take photos because the scene is always changing throughout the day with the tide. Much of the water you see at high tide is pretty shallow, so when the tide goes out all kinds of new islands and mud flats arise in the view.
We've always seen many birds in the waters around Shell Mound so it might be fun to bring your binoculars.
On one visit to Shell Mound I spent a morning hustling about intent on video taping the birds for you. Large groups of birds were all over the place, but on this day their interests took them just outside the range of my zoom lenses. After awhile I got frustrated and decided it must be time for lunch.
I got in the van, put the cameras away, took my shoes off, and spread a sandwich across my lap. Before I could take a bite an eagle floated slowly through the parking lot about 15 feet off the ground.
Well there it was again, another little lesson in surrendering to nature's time table. I imagined this practical joking eagle reporting his prank to his friends, and all the birds I was so earnestly trying to capture having a good chuckle at my expense.
Check out the little boardwalk that takes you out over the marsh grass to the water. At low tide there's a little beach at the end of the boardwalk where you can investigate the mudflats temporarily revealed to you.
This little parking lot and boat launch has become one of my favorite spots because it's only an hour from our house, and it offers great views that are refreshingly different from the scenes I am used to on Florida's east coast beaches.
Shell Mound is easy to find on paved roads, and close to Cedar Key, yet when you get there you often have the whole place to yourself.
Thanks for reading TannyTalk Newsletter! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.