Recently on a weekend morning, I had the pleasure of an adventure of a free kayak excursion at Cedar Point Environmental Park. Led by trained Florida Naturalists, these small kayaking trips explore the Cedar Point area of Lemon Bay to learn about the marine ecology of the estuary.
I joined 7 other individuals from the area plus a lady who is vacationing in Englewood from Washington D.C. at 9am at the park. Our two Florida Naturalist guides, Eileen and Mike, gave us a brief presentation about kayaking safety and with a life jacket in hand, walked about ½ mile down to Lemon Bay. Along the way, native shrubs, plants and trees were pointed out, including my personal arch-enemy – poison ivy! We sampled seawort which is very salty and was used by early settlers as pickles. As the terrain changed from pine flatwoods and palmetto thickets to brackish areas with mangroves, we examined fiddler crabs, so named because one claw is much bigger than the other which he waves around like he is playing a fiddle to attract females. One tidal pool had hundreds of fiddler crabs making it look like they were holding a convention! We smelled the aromatic fragrance of southern red cedar tree cones (aka juniper berries) which one person said reminded her of her uncle’s Old Spice lotion and are used to flavor gin.
At the bay, our kayaks awaited us. After a brief lesson to acquaint individuals new to kayaking about how to paddle, we launched our kayaks out into Lemon Bay. We kayaked along the shoreline of Cedar Point, viewing the mangroves and marine life before paddling out to a bird rookery in a group of mangroves at the mouth of Oyster Creek. We were fortunate to be there at the end of the pelican nesting season and saw light-colored baby pelicans, fledging pelicans with their buffy heads and plus the adult pelicans – 3 generations in one place! We also saw a baby great blue heron as other birds use the location for nesting and the species of birds using the rookery to nest changes throughout the seasons. Next up on the nesting schedule are double-crested Cormorants.
After leaving the rookery, we paddled a short distance up Oyster Creek and could view the oyster beds at the creek mouth and up the creek that prompted its name. Our naturalist guides pointed out a public kayak launch that is across the road from Cedar Point at the western end of Ann Dever Regional Park if we wanted to bring our own kayak to explore the waters. We retraced our steps to the bay and after skirting the shoreline mangroves, took a break at a sandy area where we waded to find sea shells, crabs, small fish and sea grasses. Most of the sea shells found had the living crown conch snail (a type of mollusk) inside and those that didn’t were home to small striped hermit crabs who moved in after the original shell inhabitant was gone. An osprey did its fishing right in front of us and we saw wading birds as well.
We returned to our launch site, finishing up our excursion around 12:30pm. My group was friendly and congenial and some new friendships were initiated among the participants. My group is pictured here. Our two guides were very knowledgeable and presented the information in an interesting dialogue. These periodic free kayak excursions are offered through the summer and early fall. Kayaks and life jackets are provided. If you are interested in learning more and signing up for an excursion, contact Cedar Point Park at 475-0769. The Park is located at 2300 Placida Road, just south of Lemon Bay High School on the right. It offers trails for walking as well and educational programs. Visit the website at www.checflorida.org.