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Anclote Key Report
(Fred Howard Park)

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Report By:  ed    Date: 7/23/2009 
Rating:Trip Rating     Photos: See 19 photos     Map & Directions: View

Was November 2007 really my last trip to Anclote Key? Thatís way too long ago so I invited Staci from Florida Paddling Trails Association to explore the lighthouse and southern end of the island. Being the typical Ed trip, something always gets weird.

My Report:

Staci (staciwhite on Green Wave) and I met bright and early and headed to Fred Howard Park in Tarpon Springs. The beach at the end of the causeway is still closed for a couple more months so we put-in at the kayak launch on the mainland. Itís an area marked by shallow, twisty mangrove tunnels that eventually make their way to the open gulf. Thankfully the mosquitoes were not too bad.

On the way through the mangrove tunnels, Staci spotted something unusual but didnít tell me about it until the return trip. Iím glad she didnít, as I donít know if I could have made the paddle with her new kayak hood ornament.

Upon exiting the mangroves, the shallow water between the mainland and Anclote Key was smooth as glass. The bottom is mostly sea grass, with occasional sandy pockets adorned with clusters of sponges and many tiny fish.

We paddled straight to the northern beach at Fred Howard Park. Along the causeway you can see giant cranes and other road building equipment at work. With the tide out, a number of large boulders are exposed on the northern tip of the park. As I rounded the corner, a small hammerhead or bonnethead shark passed near my kayak. Grabbed the camera and shot a picture without focusing. Luck was on my side and a photo of shark and kayaker (Staci) appeared.

The boulders made for the perfect seaside aquarium and I managed to snap a few pics of a stingray and other small fish.

Much lollygagging and photo taking later, Staci and I made way for Anclote Key. The open water paddle is about 2 to 2.5 miles. On bad weather days it can be miserable and dangerous. Today, it was hot but otherwise perfect.

Once we reached Anclote Key, we paddled along the southern end near the lighthouse. At the southwest side (go in the lagoon), youíll spot a picnic area. The takeout is overgrown with weeds and not choice, but the covered picnic tables offered shade from the relentless sun.

Itís an easy walk from the picnic area to either the lighthouse or boat dock. Too bad we didnít spot one of the park service employees along the way; it would have been good to get permission to go inside the lighthouse.

After wandering around the lighthouse and boardwalk, we loaded up and headed out the lagoon and along a large sandbar at the south end of Anclote Key. For a weekday, there were quite a few people collecting shells. We felt obligated to participate and picked up some nice specimens. Check out the photo of a salmon-colored blob on the beach. Staci looked this up after the trip and reported itís actually Aplidium stellatum and commonly called Sea Pork. Donít think Iíll be making a BBQ Sea Pork sandwich anytime soon. Staci spotted another shark at the sandbar and I chased after it, trying to get a photo but nothing this time.

With the sun directly overhead we headed back across the open water to Fred Howard Park. The trip was hot, hot, hot. Fortunately the rock garden and aquarium was still at the north end of the beach and an inviting place to jump in and cool off.

Another half mile crossing and weíre back at the mangrove trail. This time as we go through, Staci says ďHey, there is a skull over hereĒ. Iím like, huh, thatís no skull. She insists and I get out of the boat and climb through some mangrove roots. Sure enough, itís a skull, complete with black mangrove crab in the eye socket.

No human skull Ė itís too big for that Ė and we recognized that it belonged to the sea turtle family. Staci washed the skull a bit and headed back to the kayak launch with her new prize. We quickly loaded the kayaks on the car and cleaned up at one of the park restrooms before heading to Hellas at Tarpon Springs for a well deserved lunch of delicious Greek pitas.

Epilogue: Staci took the turtle skull home with her and it measures over 13 inches in size. She will be donating it to a nature center or ecological park in the near future.

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Location Data:

Difficulty: Moderate
Location Type: Saltwater
Boat Type: Kayak
Distance (miles): 7.5
Fees/Costs $: Free

Photos from Fred Howard Park:    (Click image to view full size)

Fred How Kayak Trail Restricted
Fred How Kayak Trail

Our kayaks at the entrance to the kayak trail at Fred Howard Park. During low tide, water is very shallow.

Kayak Trail Crab Restricted
Kayak Trail Crab

We spotted this fuzzy little crab at the kayak trail / Fred Howard Park.

Oh that Flatwater Restricted
Oh that Flatwater

Smooth as glass on our way to Anclote Key from the kayak launch. You can see the Fred Howard beach on the left and Anclote Key on the right.

Reflections Restricted

Reflections of palm trees on smooth water near Fred Howard Park.

Sponge Basket Restricted
Sponge Basket

Pockets of bright yellow sponges can be found near Fred Howard Park.

Kayak and Shark Restricted
Kayak and Shark

A small hammerhead/bonnethead shark cruises along with Staci and Anclote Key power plant in the background.

Stingray Restricted

We spotted this stingray with his/her fish groupies in shallow water near Fred Howard Park.

Aquarium Restricted

The boulders at the northern end of the beach at Fred Howard Park make for an aquarium like scene.

Anclote Key Restricted
Anclote Key

And you thought we'd never make it. Anclote Key lighthouse in the distance.

Anclote Lighthouse Restricted
Anclote Lighthouse

Lighthouse as viewed from the picnic area.

Anclote Lighthouse 2 Restricted
Anclote Lighthouse 2

The Anclote Key Lighthouse up close. Too bad we couldn't go inside!

Staci cooling off Restricted
Staci cooling off

It's hot, hot, hot. What more can I say?

Anclote Ibis Restricted
Anclote Ibis

Spotted this young ibis on a sandbar at the south end of Anclote Key.

BBQ Sea Pork Restricted
BBQ Sea Pork

How about a nice Aplidium stellatum sandwich?

Anclote Sandbar Restricted
Anclote Sandbar

Some of the sandbars that didn't even exist 10 years ago now have vegetation on them.

Cracking Grackle Restricted
Cracking Grackle

Staci says they call them Grackle due to the sound they make not because they like eating Grackers. Which they do!

No Crowds Restricted
No Crowds

Only us and a few hundred birds at the beach at Fred Howard Park.

Turtle Skull/Kayak Restricted
Turtle Skull/Kayak

A turtle skull we found while paddling on the mangrove trail at Fred Howard Park.

Skull up close Restricted
Skull up close

This is a close-up of the turtle skull. Very strange find, don't you agree?

Post Date: 8/2/2009

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