Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Indian Key and Lignumvitae Key State Parks

Robbies has a Monopoly, this is the only paid ride to Indian Key and Lignumvitae Key State Parks, you can go in your own boat or Kayak though.

Just part of Robbies

Kevin in Corpus once told us "No Bananas on the Boat!

Our Tour Guide was also a Boat Captain in Training

Indian Key

You can Kayak out here but watch out for the winds and Current!

All these Keys are Coral Rock

Indian Key has a much Storied past but the most talked about is that of  Jacob Houseman who challenged the Key West monopoly on ship wreaking. He set up shop here on Indian Key where he profited handsomely only to be ousted by pissed off Indians 8 years later. 

A old Cistern for collecting rain water

The streets are still in place but since all the structures were burned by the indians , the island  has overgrown with vegitation.

Jacob had a two story house with a look out area where he could scan the horizon for ship wrecks.

The view from a look out tower built by the park.

The ruins of the old warehouse where he stored his ship wrecked goods.

The old Town square, about 50 people lived on the Island year round during Jacobs days but that does not include the undocumented slaves. 

Ready to get back on the boat to go to Lignumvitae Key

Lignumvitae Key

You walk up this boardwalk to a big two story home where the tour begins, no one is allowed on this key unless there is a Park Ranger present since some have poached some rare snails and plants from here. 

Robbies has unusual Brew to wind down after a  long day touring Historic Keys. 

Robbies has all these old fishing chairs taken from Sportfisherman boats, excellant to see the view and watch the action of the tourist feeding the Tarpon and trying to shoo away the competing pelicans

The Tarpon just line up waiting  for the next tourist to toss them a  snack.

Plenty of pelicans hang out on the dock to steel the bait fish from  the hands of the tourist. 

This Egrete just helped himself to some of the frozen bait fish.

So did this Pelican

Notice his throat? He has to wait for his Popsicle fish to thaw a bit before he chocks it down! I bet  he has a cold headache!
Indian Key and Lignumvitae Key State Parks

The Admiral is always on the Net looking for the next thing to explore in the Keys. She read about Indian and Lignumvitae Key State Parks. You can go to these parks on your own by boat but If you pay the $40 per person you get a ride out on a power catamaran and a guided Tour. We like tours since if you go on your own you have no Idea what your looking at. Besides if a Burmese Python dropped on your head there would be help to get it off. So we got up early to make the 0800 departure time at Robbies of Islamaorada: http://www.robbies.com/statetours.htm Robbies is a very interesting place just on it's on. You would have thought this was a scene from the 1st episode of Gilligan's Island. While waiting to board the "Happy Cat" we perused around Robbies checking out the funky Marina, restaurant, sport fishing  Tarpon Feeding, Kayaking, snorkeling, diving, PLACE.
Once aboard the Happy Cat a very Florida Keys looking Captain released the lines as the young Roxanne traing to be a Captain took the helm and motored us the 3/4 mile to Indian Key on the Atlantic side. Roxanne was also our tour guide. There is a lot of History surrounding Indian Key but the tour centers on Jacob Housman's period when he bought the Island in 1831 to start his own shipwrecking business. .Short Story is 8 years later he had sufficiently pissed off the regions Indians so they came and burned his Paradise to the ground see it all at http://www.floridastateparks.org/history/parkhistory.cfm?parkid=149 So the tour centers on his 8 years on Indian Key and the ruins the remain on the Island. This tour definitely gets high points and gives insight to present day Key Life.
Roxanne took the Helm and we were off to Lignumvitae Key. Totally different story here. This excerpt is from the Florida Parks website: "The virgin tropical hardwood hammock that thrives on this island was once common on most of Florida's Upper Keys; most of these forests have been lost to development on other islands. In 1919, William J. Matheson, a wealthy Miami chemist, bought this tiny island and built a caretaker's home with a windmill for electricity and a cistern for rainwater. (this home has withstood all the Hurricanes) Today, his hideaway is the visitor center for this island forest. Ranger-guided tours are given twice daily, Friday through Sunday. " 
Lignumvitae is a hard wood. In fact is one of the Hardest. It is used as a bearing for really big ships propeller shafts. John Furlinger (He was a commercial ship engineer) told me about this wood on our sail down from Tampa.  The wood is dense and has a resin that it excretes as it heats up lubricating the shaft naturally. I wish I had a piece. The tour here is done by a Park Ranger since Poaching is an issue in the Keys and there are some really rare Lignumvitae Key Snails that are protected. He told us a story of another Key that had a rare snail and some due came in and poached a bunch of the snails then set the whole island on Fire so that he would have them to himself. Wow, think about that for a few nanoseconds. If he ever shows anyone his fine collection or sells one then he is Done! The tour centers on the incredible Hammock and all it's vegetation since it has been virtually untouched except by storms for centuries. Very cool tour and one thing you lean more about is the poison wood, kind of like poison Ivy but worse and there is no way to distinguish it from all the rest of the vegetation in the Keys (at least to us), at least Poison Ivy has a distinct three leaf group and shape: http://www.sfrc.ufl.edu/4h/poisonwood/poisonwo.htm
The Boat Captain took the Helm and returned us to Robbies where things had changed since the early AM, there were lots of people doing all the assorted things to do there. I found a mighty fine beer and kicked back  in a super comfortable fish fighting chair, the kind you see on the back on sport fisherman  It had a great few of the marina and especially the area where visitors go to feed the Tarpon. You can buy a bucket of thawed out bait fish and go out and feed the throngs of Tarpon lined up waiting for the next free handout. But the Pelicans compete for this bounty so there is a guy with a big noodle on the end of a pole who slaps the water to shoo away the pelicans so the people can feed the Tarpon and not the Pelicans. there are some really smart pelicans and they tune this show into a great circus. I advise coming here just to drink a beer and watch the show.

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