Spring is the best time of year to bring crowds outdoors to the Lower Suwannee and Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges (NWR). Last week, a group that wants to soak up Florida`s history and heritage made its way to the naturecoast for its own kind of exploration outside. Members of the Florida Humanties Council arrived Thursday night for a 3-day stay.
The group enjoyed its stay in Cedar Key and equally enjoyed the Cedar Keys NWR where they ventured out to the Cedar Keys Light Station on Seahorse Key. As the engines of their vessel quieted, they heard the voice of long-silent Catharine Hobday, mother of lightkeeper Andrew Hobday, and a light keeper herself, welcoming them to her island. The ghost of Hobday, our own county historian Toni Collins in period clothing, shared more about the 158-year old lighthouse than most historians ever knew. All were thrilled with their new knowledge of the little known lighthouse.
Later on, Tom Liebert guided the group on a paddle from Shell Mound past the ancient Palmetto Island, toward Clark Island. With a tail wind, the paddlers thought themselves mighty until they turned around to return across the wide expanse back to the boat ramp. The good sports laughing all the way, sunk their paddles deeper into the estuarine waters and made their way back to the Ranger who awaited the group for yet another tour within the Refuge.
The Refuge Ranger had southeastern tribal music playing and an exhibit arranged so that everyone could see the progression of cultures, mound-types, weapons, and shell ornamentation. After an orientation with visual aids, everyone walked to the top of the mound passing by the recent archaeological dig. When the group arrived at the top of the mound to the spectacular view, white pelicans kettled above the landmark to top off a great day in the outdoors along the gulf of Mexico.
For more information about tours of the Lower Suwannee or Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuges, call the Refuge at 352/493-0238, x223.