Anclote Key Preserve State Park is a Florida state park located on the island of Anclote Key, at mile marker 67.5 on U.S. 1, 9 miles west of Punta Gorda and 3 miles east of Captiva Island in Charlotte County, Florida. It has such amenities as beaches, bicycling, birding, boat tours, cabins, fishing, hiking, picnicking areas, swimming, wildlife viewing and full camping facilities including bathhouses, picnic shelters and dump stations.
The park’s nature center offers exhibits about the natural and cultural history of the area. Amenities include an aquarium, two nature trails, four picnic areas, six kayak launch ramps, one group camp site, 44 primitive campsites, three picnic pavilions, one comfort station, one shower building with showers, one restroom facility and one water fountain. Visitors can also enjoy a variety of watersports activities at the public swimbeach which includes volleyball courts, playground equipment and a zero depth entry wading pool. A concession stand is present during high tide and offers refreshments, ice, T-shirts, hats, etc. Concessions are charged per item sold. No sales tax is applied to food or drink items. All other fees including permit fees are in effect except for those noted below.
On Sunday, July 15, 2011, Anclote Key was hit by Hurricane Mathew. Damage included downed trees, power outages, roads blocked by debris and flooding. In order to prevent further damage, visitors needing access to the key should bring their boats into the harbor between sunrise and sunset. Access to the dock after hours requires a security code which will be provided upon request. Any personal property left on the island when the owner departs the island with the last ferry of the day must be removed before the next morning’s ferry arrives or it will be considered abandoned and subject to seizure and forfeiture.
There is a $500 fine for each vehicle found on the island after regular ferry service has ended. No gasoline powered vehicles are allowed on the island. Only non-powered vehicles may be brought across the ferry. Powered vehicles require a special permit which can be obtained at the park headquarters. Permits are free but there is a charge for processing and handling the permits. Campsites cost $8 per night in addition to the daily Ferry Crossings pass charged above. Group Camp is open every weekend beginning Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day, unless posted otherwise.
The park hosts many events throughout the year including weddings, reunions, birthday parties, business meetings, family days, school graduations, company picnics and more. Anclote Key is a popular destination for scuba divers worldwide. More than 200 species of fish, over 100 mollusks and 50 crustaceans have been identified within its boundaries. Among the most sought after animals seen by divers are the giant grouper, black sea bass and sheepshead jonfish. Because of the large amount of marine life, especially sharks, in this heavily used part of the Keys, appropriate caution needs to be taken by all divers. Although there is plenty of underwater scenery to be seen, unprovoked attacks by sharks are rare. When they do occur, they usually target the unguarded hand of the diver rather than the guardrail or another diver. Even so, safety guidelines must be followed whenever possible.
As always, common sense dictates you should avoid any behavior that might provoke a shark. This includes wearing jewelry, having uneaten food in your mouth, and remaining in the water longer than necessary. Also, remember that bait, even the fresh kind, often attracts sharks because it is easy prey. If you find yourself in trouble, don’t panic. Call for help instead of trying to fight off the attacking shark(s), who will probably lose interest once their initial attack fails. If you’re lucky enough to get away without injury, try to remember where the shark(s) came from so you can avoid them if you return to the same place at a later date.
Shallow Water Safety Tips for Scuba Diving:
- Don’t dive alone
- Always check the weather forecast
- Know how much air you’ll need for your dive
- Ensure you have proper insurance coverage
- Be aware of current warnings regarding riptides, thunderstorms, and undertows
- Check the tidal charts for times of low tides and plan your dives accordingly
- Try to time your dives around low spring tides
- Plan ahead for hot summer months and make sure you have cold water storage for your tanks – Keep an eye on the weather reports!
Current Warnings & Advisories:
- Strong rip currents along the coast can exceed speeds of 25 knots (28mph) and pose a threat to swimmers and surfers. Rip currents become more frequent and dangerous towards the south western side of the island. Caution should be used at all times.
- Large amounts of surface runoff entering the ocean produce dangerously high turbidity levels. Visibility can be severely impacted. Oceanic storms passing overhead can stir up sand and sediment, increasing the danger of sudden closure of the roadways due to unexpected sandy patches. These closures could impact emergency services as well as traffic on local streets and highways.
Since the 1980s, there have been several significant developments taking place in the upper layers of the Everglades.
Scientists have discovered massive quantities of methane gas trapped beneath the surface of the wetlands. Methane gas is 20 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. The quantity of methane gas found in the Everglades is estimated at 2,300 cubic feet per acre, almost 10% of the total volume of the gas in the atmosphere. Studies show that nearly half of the methane gas comes from animal sources, mainly cattle. The remainder comes from decaying vegetation and landfills. The problem with the wetlands is that they are very difficult to reclaim. They have too much water and too much soil. Much of the shoreline is now lined with residential housing developments, farms and commercial enterprises.
It is estimated that nearly 75% of the original Everglades has been lost to development. What remains consists mostly of cypress domes rising from the murky brown water, saw palmettos scattered here and there, and some bald cypress tree tops still standing sentry against the southern sun.
Of the approximately 350 species of plants and animals known to exist in the Everglades, less than 150 are currently classified as threatened or endangered. Many of these creatures are small, cryptic, aquatic organisms that live in muddy waters and feed primarily on dead matter. Despite heavy use, particularly by humans, the Everglades ecosystem continues to function in ways similar to natural systems elsewhere.
- wildlife viewing
Notable exceptions to this rule include:
- American alligators
- nine-banded armadillos
- white-tailed deer
- eastern coyotes
- Carolina anoles
- pileated woodpeckers
- red-shouldered hawks