We are restless when traveling. We want to see as much as possible! When on Maui in Hawaii, we drove 660 miles in our rental car. On Kauai we drove 440 miles… So it shouldn’t be surprising to anyone that knows us that we’d do a bit of exploring beyond the boundaries of the town of Apalachicola.
We’d started with St. George Island just to the east of the Apalachicola River…
Immediately upon returning to the mainland from St. George’s Island, we noticed the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve. We were curious so we decided to check it out...
This is the museum/nature center at the Reserve. All exhibits are on the second floor but there is an elevator off to the left for those that need it.
I definitely learned something new on this day.
It turns out that this is just 1 out of 28 protected areas that comprise The National Estuarine Research Reserve System. These reserves/protected areas have been established through partnerships between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and 22 coastal states plus Puerto Rico.
These reserves represent different biogeographic regions of the United States. The National Estuarine Research Reserve System protects more than 1,300,000 acres of coastal and estuarine habitats for long-term research, water-quality monitoring, education, and coastal stewardship.
This Oyster fishery boat welcomes visitors on the second floor. Notice the tongs used for harvesting oysters manually from the floor of Apalachicola Bay.
The Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve protects the biological diversity of the Apalachicola Bay as well as the economic value of the natural resources and pristine conditions. Between 60 and 85 percent of the local population make their living directly from the fishing industry, most of which is done in reserve waters. Seafood landings from the Apalachicola Reserve are worth $14–16 million dockside annually. At the consumer level, this represents a $900–$800 million industry.
The Nature Center is open Tuesday through Saturday from 9AM to 4 PM. Visitors can view and explore a variety of educational, interactive and live exhibits. Aquariums stress the interconnection between local fauna from the river, estuary, bay and the Gulf of Mexico.
The Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve encompasses two barrier islands and a portion of a third, the lower 52 miles of the Apalachicola River and its floodplain, portions of adjoining uplands, and the Apalachicola Bay estuarine, riverine, and floodplain systems. The acreage protected covers 234,715 acres…about the same number of acres that are in Mt. Rainier National Park.
This fine specimen of an American Alligator is available for all to gawk at and get up close to…
Staff at the Reserve conduct and coordinate educational programs for local schools. In addition, a number of professional workshops and public programs are offered.
I believe that this partial skull and partial rib came from a fin whale. Its size gives one an idea as to just how big a whale can be!
Over 25 different species of whales and dolphins can be found swimming, living and traveling through the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The warm weather, connecting rivers and waterways and abundant food supply makes the Gulf of Mexico an ideal place for whales and other marine mammals to travel through whether for breeding purposes or to reach another destination.
Some of the most popular whale species known to inhibit the Gulf of Mexico include the blue whale, fin whale, humpback whale, minke whale, northern right whale, sei whale and the sperm whale.
This rather unusual looking item is a piece of baleen from a ‘baleen’ whale. The baleen in these whales are keratinous plates. They are made of a calcified hard α-keratin material, a fiber-reinforced structure made of intermediate filaments (proteins).
The baleen is crucial in these whales feeding as it is a filter-feeder system inside their mouths. This system works by whale opening its mouth underwater and taking in water. The whale then pushes the water out, and animals such as krill are filtered by the baleen and remain as food source for the whale.
· There are several types of baleen whales. These include minke, blue, fin, bowhead, gray and right whales.
There are about a half mile of elevated boardwalks that visitors can follow through the natural areas around the Reserve’s Nature Center. In addition, there is a viewing platform looking out over Apalachicola Bay, a park and a fishing pier with a parking area.
To learn more about this facility, go to http://www.dep.state.fl.us/coastal/sites/apalachicola/pub/Nature_Center_Recreation_Brochure.pdf. To learn more about The National Estuarine Research Reserve System, go to https://coast.noaa.gov/nerrs/?ResID=APA.
Following our visit to the Estuarine Reserve Center east of Apalachicola we headed west along US Hwy. 98 and FL Hwy. 30. Despite the fact that few amenities such as restaurants, grocery stores, gas stations and the like exist along this route, we were surprised to find a shoreline that contained vacation home after vacation home. While the area wasn’t packed and it was very laid back, I just didn’t expect many homes or rentals in the area.
At one point we wandered onto Indian Pass Road which followed along what appeared to be an inshore island to its end right across from St. Vincent Island. St. Vincent Island, a barrier island, is a National Wildlife Refuge. Access is limited to boat traffic, and the refuge rarely sees large concentrations of people. The island was purchased by The Nature Conservancy in 1968 for $2.2 million and U.S. Fish and Wildlife repaid them with proceeds from Duck Stamp sales and the St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge was established.
· Since 1990, St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge has been one of several coastal islands in the southeast where endangered red wolves are being bred. For more on this refuge, go to https://www.fws.gov/refuge/St_Vincent/.
This is the general store located right at the end of Indian Pass Road. Talk about the look of ‘old’ or ‘lost’ Florida…this is it!
· For a ride from the end of the road to St. Vincent’s Island or for a charter fishing experience, you can go to http://www.stvincentisland.com/index.cfm.
From Indian Pass Road, we followed FL Hwy. 30 and 30E out as far as we could go on Cape San Blas. The road ends at the T.H. Stone Memorial St. Joseph Peninsula State Park. Wherever there was enough land, between the road, the Gulf and St. Joseph Bay, one could find homes to rent or purchase. At one point, the space between the road and the water was quite narrow. The wind was blowing and the light was right so we took these photos of a couple of fishermen sitting on the rip rap looking for dinner…
To learn more about the St. Joseph Peninsula State Park, just go to http://www.stateparks.com/saint_joseph_peninsula.html.
Just click on any of the photos if you’d like to enlarge them…
Thanks for stopping by to see what we’ve been up to!
Take Care, Big Daddy Dave