Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Atsena Odie Key

Shell Mound County Campground Site #12
Cedar Key, Florida

Went out for my final morning run around Shell Mound and when I got back guess who had come for breakfast?  The park employee had told us yesterday about this popular group whom too many locals came to see and feed but I hadn't seen them until they dropped by to check us out.  The head mama was sauntering by the front of our rig as I came jogging up

Yup, wild boar in the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge and I thought curiosity got the cat not the boar.

Here's some of the gang but not all of them.  We counted two adult females and about a dozen or so piglets or is it boarlets??  I'll spare you the rest of the shots of their antics.

After breakfast we got loaded up to go paddling from downtown Cedar Key over to Atsena Odie Key which was the original island.  The island we were paddling to was originally called Atsena Odie but as the town developed there, they changed the name to Cedar Key.  After the 1895 hurricane killed 100 of the residents and wiped out the town, they moved to the current island location and took the name with them.  So what was once Cedar Key returned to its original name Atsena Odie.  Are you sufficiently confused?  Hope not.  We were paddling over just to see the island, its habitat and the remains of the settlement which at this point is mostly the cemetery.

Here's a map showing where we went.  We left from the First Street and Dock Street public kayak put in and paddled to point A.  Click on the map to make it larger in order to see more detail.

The dock was an easy put in right beside the public beach which you can see roped off to the right in this picture.

Off we went, leaving Cedar Key behind us.

Here's where we're headed.  The wind was up a bit but not too bad.  We'd put in about 3.5 hours before high tide so we'd be sure not to get stranded.  Always a good idea to check the tides before setting out in any areas affected by them.

I was happy to see the white sandy beaches coming up.

We decided to kayak around the entire island and then go in land to see the cemetery.  As we paddled along we came upon this fisherman.

He let us get quite close before deciding enough was enough and flying off.

More sights along the shore as we paddled.

We rounded the bend and could see the dock ahead.  We wondered how it survives the severe weather out here.  It extends into the water quite a distance.

We tried to give a wide birth to this fellow so as not to upset his fishing.  Isn't he gorgeous? Or is it that she's beautiful?  Anyone know how to tell?

As we approached the dock, we could see it was covered with birds including this pelican, one of my very favorites.  He's definitely a stand out in this crowd.

We paddled on around this grassy point to the next side of the island

Here we found some inland waterways to explore.  We sat in one of them for a very long time being amazed at the jumping fish which we assumed were mullet.  We saw some jump multiple times 5, 6, 7 like a skipping stone.  You couldn't do anything but laugh.  What makes them do it?  Could it be just the joy of it or are the scientists really convinced that they are
a) breathing
                   b) getting rid of parasites
               c) to avoid predators? 
Maybe they jump just because they can.  :-)

Well we tried and tried to get a decent picture of this fun but the only one I have is of the fish practically back in the water.  I'm not sure you can see him no matter how much you enlarge this picture.   But he's the silver bump in the water to the left of the bird.  Honest!

 Coming back out to the edge of the island we saw a group of birds mobbing.  David had seen an eagle fly over the inland area where we were hanging out and he was very excited to see if that was who was causing all the ruckus.

This is as good a shot as we could get of the osprey whose giant nest we saw when we paddled around the 3rd side of the island.

The wind and waves started to pick up.

These guys seemed totally unconcerned about it all.  But then they have wings if the going gets really tough.

Around the bend to the fourth side and time to let the winds calm a bit.

We found the perfect place for a walk.  There was a tranquil inland water body just on the other side of the sand spit.

We saw an amazing number of things along this shoreline.  This seems to be the "rough" side of the island and there were the live and the dead here including this large turtle shell in the grass just ahead of our boats.  David says it's at least 12" across.

We flipped it over for a look and a picture and then put it  back the way we had found it.

This sign had blown over and was now horizontal in the sand.

Right after reading that the horseshoes nest here through July, we found several who hadn't made it in/out/back or whatever.

Fine examples of Mother Nature's art were everywhere.  Look at the geometric designs  in these clusters.  Like the magnolia pod and the pine cone, they are simply beautiful.

And this one too........

We walked most of the length of this side and I approached the bend that would take us around to the original side where we had intended to find the trail to the cemetery.  It was clear that some tough weather had harmed these lovely palms.

I stopped and stood still for quite a while taking pictures of this little one busily hunting through the waters for his favorite morsels.  As long as I didn't move, he ignored me.

Have you noticed the design on the crab shell?

Take a look at the design when you hold it up into the light.
Nature is just amazing!

We circled back to the kayaks, paddled down the shore we'd just walked, rounded the bend and paddled up to pull out  the boats out near the trail marker for the Refuge path to the cemetaey.  It looked like a really neat path until we stepped inside and then it was clear that we were the first meal in a LONG time for a very hungry mosquito population.

They were ravenous and even David who though they bite him never has a reaction that causes him to itch wanted to be covered with insect repellant.  The spray seemed to confuse them for a bit but they were more than able to find any tiny spot that wasn't covered.

We were really sorry to have to practically run down this lovely path.  These pictures were definitely taken on the run.

A bench?  Are you kidding?  To sit on?   No you must be nuts!!

We arrived and took these pictures VERY quickly.  We would have enjoyed a more thorough look around but I could already feel the welts raising up on my arms and legs even though as you could see in other pictures I was wearing long pants and a long sleeved shirt and a hat.

Here's the list of those buried or the best QUICK picture I could get of it.  Click to enlarge so you can read the names.

A fast shot of a section of the stones.  It's a shame that the cemetery hasn't been taken care of but given the bug situation I can see how difficult that would be.

Many of the stones had lovely carvings on them but had sunk into the ground so the dates of death were often no longer readable.

We literally ran out down the path and rushed out to the boardwalk dock shocking the birds relaxing there.

It felt a bit like that Hitchcock movie as we walked further down the dock.

Here's a view of its length.  I wonder when the next hurricane will wipe it out completely.  According to the statistics, this area is due for one before the end of 2011.

As we walked back off the dock David looked down and this is what he saw.  Not sure what kind of fish but BIG, 27 to 30"!!!  I was amazed that my camera would get this picture of him under water even though he was fairly close to the surface.

Time to head back.

The swimming pool rope off committee was waiting to greet us although as you can see from the final picture, our arrival scared some of them away.  Normally there is a bird per buoy.

Looks like we weren't the only ones who had a great day on the water although the owners of these boats were no where to be seen as we loaded ours onto the car for the drive back to the campground.

We were a good tired and hungry at the end of this excellent day.  We'll be moving on tomorrow so stick around to see where we end up next.


  1. What a great paddle!!

    Thanks for braving the mosquitos to bring us some cool photos!! Love the one on the pier with ALL the birds!!

    Safe Travels and Happy Trails......

  2. I think your fish was a bowfin. Good fighters not so good to eat, at least that's what I hear. I'm glad you're enjoying your trip. Greg D.

  3. Thanks Nancy for the comment. It was a great day except for those little buggers.

    Hi Greg,
    Thanks so much for identifying the fish. I love it when readers can identify things and give me an education. Hope to hear from you again.


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