Friends of the Lower Suwannee & Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges will be welcoming visitors to the beach during the Seahorse Key Open House from 9:00 to 3:00 on Saturday, July 6 and again on Saturday October 19. Be sure to hike up to the Light Station, cross over to its far side, and come down to the beach to say hello. The beach is a wondrous place. Volunteers at the Friends tent will answer your questions and you can walk along the beach to explore.
Seahorse Key is one of the 13 islands that make up the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge. The Refuge was established in 1929 to protect what may have been as many as 200,000 birds that came to Seahorse Key and the other islands for roosting, courting, and nesting. The protection was necessary at the time because massive numbers of birds had been killed in the 1800s for their plumage, which was used to make ladies' hats. Before the sudden abandonment of the Seahorse Key rookery in April 2017, there were still tens of thousands birds nesting there. Only a few have returned to Seahorse Key, but many birds have established a rookery on nearby, smaller Snake Key. It has almost reached its capacity.
Seahorse Key is the home of the Cedar Key Light Station, which will be open to visit during the Open House. Under a special use permit arrangement with the Refuge, the University of Florida manages about three acres of Seahorse Key, including the Light Station, for marine research. Visitors can also visit the research building during the Open House.
There is no charge to attend the Open House once you get to the island. Access to Seahorse Key is available to the public through Tidewater Tours, Cedar Key Boat Rentals and Island Tours, or you can come in your private boat during the open houses which happen about four times a year.
Following in the footsteps of the native people of our area, a group of Friends and staff of the Lower Suwannee Refuge gathered to celebrate summer solstice. Unlike the cold and blustery weather when we gathered in December to celebrate the winter solstice, this morning was delightfully breezy and warm. The photos show the progression of the sunrise.
To learn more about Solstice Feasts and Other Gatherings at Shell Mound, see the linked article by Dr. Ken Sassaman.