The Hidden Coast
The Last of Old Florida
Chiefland Watermelon Festival Saturday, June 2nd Train Depot, Chiefland Florida
See Pages 12-13 for more info! Suwannee Hotel Pg. 6
“Local Flavor” Pg. 14-15
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PERRY, YANKEETOWN & All In Between!
Cedar Key Marina II & “Hooked Up” Charters
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The Hidden Coast
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4 • Florida’s The Hidden Coast
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THE SUWANEE HOTEL A FIRST CLASS HOTEL OF THE 1880s Visitors to the Cedar Keys in 1883-84 could read an advertisement which appeared in the FLORIDA STATE JOURNAL newspaper about THE SUWANEE, a newly renovated hotel. Located on Lots 23 and 24 of Block 1, the corner of 2 & “A” Streets, the hotel was conveniently located next to the Florida Transit and Peninsula Railroad train depot. According to the 1884 Sanborn Insurance Map, the hotel was a three story building constructed of concrete. Two shops were located on the first floor with a long entry hall in the center leading into the lobby. The dining room was located at the rear of the first floor and the kitchen was located in a separate building at the rear of the hotel. Owned by Dr. Robert H. McIlvaine and his family, McIlvaine acquired the hotel at a Sheriff ’s Sale held on the Levy County Courthouse steps in Bronson on December 3, 1877 for the sum of $125.00. The hotel, formerly owned J.J. Philbrick, had been named the EXCHANGE HOTEL and was sold at auction for unpaid debts. Robert McIlvaine, his wife, Margaret Jane, and their six children moved to the Cedar Keys from North Carolina in 1856 and two more children were born to the couple. In 1858, Robert and two partners, Isaac Brown of Maryland and Zephemiah Britt of North Carolina, owned the Suwannee Lumber Company located on Atsena Otie. He also was a Trustee of the Town of
6 • Florida’s The Hidden Coast
Atsena Otie. In addition, McIlvaine was editor of the FLORIDA STATE JOURNAL for a time. Showing her love and affection for the wives of her sons, in 1880, Margaret Jane, assigned one equal and undivided one-fourth interest in all of the real and personal property known as The Suwanee Hotel. The one-fourth interest was granted to Ada M. McIlvaine and Pauline McIlvaine, wives of William B. and Frank McIlvaine. Granting a married woman ownership of property in her name only was an unprecedented move for the time. However, it appears the ladies ran the hotel of 80 to 100 rooms quite well for a number of years. The 1890 Sanborn Insurance Map notes that the building was “partially occupied” and the 1909 map states that the building was in ruins with no roof. Since the building was construction of concrete, it would appear that a fire destroyed the roof and by 1920, Lots 23 and 24 are shown as vacant. Dr. Robert H. McIlvaine died in 1889 and he and many of his family members are buried in the Cedar Key Cemetery. Kalsomined = (calcimine) whitewash with calcimine Want to learn more? Readers can go to levycountyhistorical society.com to learn more about the Yulee family and also historian and author, Toni C. Collins. You may also email her directly at email@example.com.
6470 SW 80th Ave • Trenton (352) 463-0800
Over 600 Acres of Natural Beauty in Gilchrist County
Where the Suwannee River meets the Gulf of Mexico!
RV & Tent Sites, Cabins • Electric, Water & Sewer •Heated Pool Hiking Trails •Suwannee River Access • Meeting Facilities Boat Ramp Nearby
23440 SE Highway 349 | Suwannee, FL | (352) 542-7072 Hours 4:00PM - 10:00PM
Saltwater Scallop Trips Shrimping Trips
Licensed & Insured
Captain Jason Lowe 352.362.0656 www.JLowesGuideService.com | Jason@Jlowesguideservice.com
Welcome to the Withlacoochee Gulf Area Chamber of Commerce
331 Dock St. Cedar Key, FL (352) 543-9992 (Pet Friendly)
Withlacoochee Gulf Area Community, home of Yankeetown & Inglis and the beautiful Withlacoochee River designated as one of Florida’s Outstanding Waterways. Our small towns are located at the south end of Levy County and are part of the Nature Coast of Florida. We consider our beautiful “old Florida” towns your gateway to the Gulf of Mexico where you can actually “Follow That Dream” to an abundance of outdoor activities including boating, sailing, fishing, camping, hiking, bicycling, paddling, and birding on the river or on the Gulf. When you visit Florida, be sure to come see our neck of the woods as Florida was meant to be.
TheHiddenCoastMag.com • 7
4TH GARDEN SHOW &
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We offer Gulf Front Rental Properties!
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8 • Florida’s The Hidden Coast
Sleep up to (8) People, Docks, Fish Cleaning Sinks, Fire Pit, Bikes, Crab Traps, Fishing Poles, BBQ... All Units Are Non-Smoking. Call Dennis Buckley 386-235-3633 or 352-498-5986
Spectacular Sunsets! Fish or Crab off of Your Own Deck! See Back Page For More Information!
The dolphins of the Nature Coast In 2001 Stefanie Gazda, then an M.S. student at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth under the guidance of Richard Connor, came to Cedar Key, Florida to study a unique feeding behavior by bottlenose dolphins that a local fisherman had captured on video. This driver-barrier behavior was the first documented case of a division of labor with role specialization with a marine mammal and the second one in any mammal. Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) exhibit remarkable population-specific feeding tactics, including kerplunking, mud-ring feeding, and associations with fisheries. Beyond the basic documentation, we know little about the origin and development of these behaviors. Only one of these unique foraging tactics in dolphins is cooperative and involves a division of labor with role specialization: driver-barrier foraging. This tactic is observed in the shallow coastal waters near Cedar Key, Florida and nowhere else in the world. This behavior is initiated by one driver dolphin, who startles and herds a school of fish towards several barrier dolphins. These barrier dolphins then line up to block the escape of the fish. The trapped fish leap out of the water, where the dolphins raise their heads to catch their meal. Interestingly, different groups performing the behavior have slight differences in strategy. From this research, the work has expanded to include the social structure, foraging ecology, and the habitat use of bottlenose dolphins in Levy, Dixie, and Taylor counties. Stefanie received her Ph.D. in 2016 from UMass Boston and soon after formed the Cedar Key Dolphin Project, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to continuing research on the native dolphin population. This summer, the Cedar Key Dolphin Project plans to continue our population studies to further explore the area and catalog the population. We will also be running an acoustic project in the waters around Cedar
Key, Wacassassa, and the Withlachochee. Most acoustic work is done in water deeper than 30 feet, and anyone who fishes along the Nature Coast knows that the waters around here are not that deep! The development and deployment of hydrophone arrays from our boat should allow us to identify vocalizing dolphins and correlate those sounds with observed behaviors, including differentiating vocalizations produced by driver and barrier dolphins. No other project has investigated individual dolphin vocalizations during a cooperative task in the wild, making this project innovative. The discovery of role-specific vocalizations would be very exciting, and correlating sound production with driver-barrier feeding events would be an important breakthrough.
The dolphins of the Nature Coast hold a wealth of research opportunities and may provide valuable information on the health of the ecosystem of the Gulf of Mexico, as they frequently eat the same species of fish that humans do. Dolphins are a long-lived species that can live up to 40 years the wild, and as a result they are suited to long-term research studies. You can help with this goal by donating to the Cedar Key Dolphin Project. All proceeds go directly towards research expenses.
Beth Davis Owner
Catching the Captains Drift
May’s fishing How to, where at and just what for!
434 2nd St., Cedar Key Phone: (352) 543-9779
firstname.lastname@example.org Hours: 10a–5:00p Monday – Saturday thesaltyneedlequiltshop.com
Donuts and A Whole Lot More! 510 2nd St, Cedar Key, FL 32625 (The Pink Building)
450 2ND ST. CEDAR KEY, FL
Upcoming Events: Cedar Key Small Boat Meet May 4-6
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10 • Florida’s The Hidden Coast
So the what for side of the inshore here in Horseshoe beach will be the speed Damon Spanish mackerel. The where to is 4-12’ feet over grass flats as well as the deeper grass patches off of outlaw and red-bank reef. This is a fishing good time of year. Steel leader and any thing flashy will produce good strikes. Trout and a and a few jack Crevalle will be mixed in so you are bound to catch a few silver trout as well as speckled trout in the hunt for the Spanish Mac attack! Look for action on the top like birds diving and or fish striking the surface. This is a tail-tail that the predators are pushing bait to the top and all you need to do is set up just a head of the schools and cast to them. You will be sure to put some tasty treats in the box. You may even find your self one fortunate few to catch a king Mackerel. May will be open season on AJ’s in the gulfs offshore big fish category. Catch the Drift,
Capt. Brett Up the Limit Fishing Adventures
A Local Perspective
JASON LOWE Owner/operator J. Lowe’s Guide Service
The Hidden Coast is... getting away from it all. Disappearing from the normal every day and enjoying a slower pace. While you are here... take some time to do nothing. Make a schedule but don’t live by it. Just get out there and enjoy the slow pace in Cedar Key. Do some fishing or take a kayak out and enjoy some of the scenery. Take some time to walk around and eat some good seafood and visit the local shops. Just relax!
Serving Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner! 213 10th Street • Steinhatchee, FL
Open 7 Days A Week 6am-2:30pm
One of my favorite things... I love to fish Cedar Key! I have been fishing here over 30 years and fished from the older pier that has now been replaced. I love the thrill of casting out and never knowing what that cast will hold. Locals know... the pace is slow and kicked back. Cedar Key is a special place that can take you off the grid. The salt air and smell of Cedar Key is something special and something that I love.
Photo courtesy Carrie Mizel
Come Visit Hart Springs, One of the Largest Spring-Fed Swimming Areas in the State of Florida!
4240 SW 86th Ave Bell, Florida 352-463-3444 • HartSprings.com
Dixie County TheHiddenCoastMag.com • 11
Chiefland Watermelon Festival Saturday, June 2nd | Train Depot, Chiefland Florida
Schedule of Events
Vendor check-in .................................... 7:00 – 9:00 Watermelon Weigh-in ...................................... 8:00 Vendor booths open ........................................ 9:00 Presentation of the Flag .................................11:00 Jamey King entertainment �����������������������������11:00 Parade .............................................. 12:00 – 12:45 Introduction of Royalty ................................... 12:45 Crowning of 2018 Queen ��������������������������������� 1:00 Seed Spittin contest ......................................... 1:30 For more information please visit
Live Entertainment by Jamey King!
LocalFlavor 420 Dock St., Cedar Key (352) 543-5142
Open 7 days a week Lunch and dinner Fresh Clams and Oysters
23440 SE Highway 349 Suwannee, Florida (352) 542-7072 Hours: 4:00PM - 10:00PM
Where the Suwannee River meets the Gulf of Mexico!
Featuring maple Donuts and bacon donuts! A Whole Lot More!
510 2nd St, Cedar Key, FL (352) 477-5022 The Pink Building
Jake’s Waterfront Pub At The
262 3rd St. • Horseshoe Beach (352) 498-5405 Florida’s Last Frontier
Watch the Shrimp Boats Come In and Have a www.themarinainhorseshoebeach.com Cold Beer!
14 • Florida’s The Hidden Coast
YOUR BUSINESS HERE! Restaurant & contact information
YOUR BUSINESS HERE! Restaurant & contact information
Serving Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner! 213 10th Street • Steinhatchee, FL • 352.498.8115 Open 7 Days A Week • 6am-2:30pm
331 Dock St. Cedar Key, FL Great selection of local clams (352) 543-9992 and oysters! The grouper (Pet Friendly)
sandwich is excellent!
1-352-498-8088 7022 SW 358 HWY Steinhatchee, FL goodtimesmotelandmarina.com
Be a part of our "Local Flavor" page • Covers Yankeetown to Steinhatchee • Social Media Updates • 70K Distribution • Available at I-75 Welcome Center • Online Presence • Published Six Times a Year
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Be a part of our "Local Flavor" page • Covers Yankeetown to Steinhatchee • Social Media Updates • 70K Distribution • Available at I-75 Welcome Center • Online Presence • Published Six Times a Year
For information on our next edition call
386-719-1354 TheHiddenCoastMag.com • 15
16 • Florida’s The Hidden Coast
The Hidden Coast
Find Your Way Around
TheHiddenCoastMag.com â€¢ 17
Map Courtesy: River Graphics Maggie Valley, NC 2875 | Tel. 828.944.0134
The Last of Old Florida
CEDAR KEY, FLORIDA
MAY JUNE 2018
18 • Florida’s The Hidden Coast
TheHiddenCoastMag.com â€¢ 19
Cedar Key Country Store 598 2nd Street | Cedar Key, FL | 352.543.9697 Hours: 10-5 Thur, Fri, Sat, Mon, 11-3 Sun
Thanks to everyone for a
Great First Year In Business!
Locally Made Items, Island Home Décor, Memorabilia, Jewelry, Unique Finds & So Much More!
Capt. Tom Cushman | 386-623-0243 email@example.com
Runnin’ Out Fishing Charters
• 7 Wildlife Management Areas • 9 Public Boat Ramps for small boats and kayak/canoe launching • Phenomenal Fishing and Scalloping • Restaurants, lodging, gift shops, grocery, hardware & marinas • Year round events and more! www.steinhatcheechamber.com
We offer guides for fishing & scallop season, vacation, boat and kayak rentals and restaurants for both Jena and Steinhatchee.
Photo Courtesy of: Kim Kennedy @simplysteinhatchee
Start Scalloping Early with Us! The 2018 bay scallop season for Steinhatchee will be open from June 16 through Sept. 10!
Steinhatchee is the place to settle for a night, a month or longer. 20 • Florida’s The Hidden Coast
Download the app!
599 Second Street South St. Petersburg, FL 33701-5005
The Florida Humanities Council’s free “Florida Stories” walking tour app transports you through the past and the present, step by step. Packed with photos and intriguing details, “Florida Stories” will open your eyes to many of Florida’s cities and towns in a way you’ve never experienced before. Download the “Florida Stories” app today, available in the iStore or Google Play Store. Come along with us on a journey through these unique communities. Need help downloading the app? Visit FLStories.org.
Share the Real Florida Experience With Us!
Taylor County has what you need to have a memorable vacation. Experience the most wild, untouched coastlines in the state with the best fishing, scalloping, boating, kayaking and cultural events and festivals you’ll find anywhere. Experience Florida the way it used to be:
www.TaylorFlorida.com 1-866-584-5366 February: Fiddler Crab Festival April: FL State Bluegrass & Moon Pie Festival September: Smokin’ In The Pines BBQ Festival October: Florida Forest Festival
TheHiddenCoastMag.com • 21
LITTLE KNOWN GULF COAST HURRICANES By: Toni C. Collins
Of all the recorded hurricanes to hit the United States since 1851, 36 per cent of them have made landfall in Florida. However, the state did have 18 hurricane seasons pass without a known storm impacting the state. Although hurricane season officially opens on June 1st of each year, the month of highest activity has historically been September followed by October and then August. Weather officials began using female names to identify hurricanes in 1953 and followed with males names in 1979. The Saffir-Simpson scale for measuring hurricane strength was created in 1975. Much has been written about the 1896 hurricane which hit the Gulf Coast at the Cedar Keys on September 10, 1896. The intensity of the storm when it made landfall was 110-mph or a category 3 storm. The storm swept on through Levy County, ruining the cotton crops sitting in cribs and damaging individual truck gardens. Local residents were left without food and the County Commissioners sent a plea for help to the Disaster Relief Agency in Jacksonville. The AME Church of Adamsville, just east of Chiefland, was blown over as was the Ft. White Methodist Church in Columbia County. The track of the storm continued northeast and passed out to sea along the Georgia coast. However, some early storms which hit Florida’s Gulf Coast have gone virtually unnoticed. The September 9, 1837, edition of The Floridian newspaper published in Tallahassee contained a small note that the Seahorse, an English brig of 73 tons, was lost in the Cedar Keys during a storm. The vessel was a total loss; the cargo consisting of cedar and mahogany. The same storm, referred to as a gale, went on up the coast and hit St. Marks “without its parallel in the history of that place,” according to the same newspaper article. The storm also ravaged Newport, Apalachicola, and as far up the Apalachicola River to the Town of Magnolia, washing much of the cotton awaiting transport to market out to sea. Another storm that hit the Gulf Coast occurred two months after the hostilities of the Second Seminole Indian War had ceased. According to military reports, during the night of October 5, 1842, a powerful hurricane swept across the Gulf Coast. The officer in charge, Captain J.M. Hill stated that the water rose twenty-seven feet on Depot Key (Atsena Otie), carrying everything before it. Seahorse Key did not suffer as much damage, perhaps because of its height. Following that storm, Captain Hill recommended that the islands be abandoned for military use. Local historian, Lindon Lindsey remembers how his home in Cedar Key was buffeted by the fifth tropical storm of the season on September 3, 1935.
22 • Florida’s The Hidden Coast
The photograph above is believed to have been taken following the destructive 1935 Labor Day hurricane which hit the Florida Keys with winds of 185-mph, gusting to 220-mph. The storm continued up the coast slamming into the Gulf Coast a day later. Pictured are the destroyed homes which came to rest in Goose Cove. Photograph courtesy of the Florida State Library and Archives photographic collection.
This was the same storm which killed 409 people in the Florida Keys. Many of those killed were workers on the Overseas Railroad. After buffeting the Cedar Keys with 145-mph winds, the storm continued on to hit the Panhandle, leaving behind knee deep water on 2nd Street in Cedar Key and a great deal of property damage. At the time, the Lindsey family lived in a one-story house on 3rd Street between E and F Streets, one of the highest points on the island. When the government hurricane spotter plane flew over the Cedar Key dock and dropped the red flag attached to a block of wood, the system used to warn the residents a storm was close, many of the neighbors came to the Lindsey home for safety. As the storm roared overhead, everyone crowded into the back bedroom of the house to try and escape the deafening noise. The group collectively held their breath as they watched the two-story house next door slide off its foundation and slowly slide toward the corner of the house where everyone was gathered. Miraculously the house next door came to rest within three feet of the Lindsey home. Some of the older Cedar Key residents may remember the category 3 hurricane named “Easy” which roared ashore on September 5, 1950, at 105mph. It would be interesting to learn the background of the hurricane’s name. Unlike the early days, today’s high technology gives advance notice of approaching storms to residents in harm’s way and directs them to move to safety. When the all clear is given, residents return to their homes, communities dig out, people repair and replace, and everyone does their best to return their lives to normal. Some regard the inconvenience as the price of living in paradise.
Solo Kayaking to the Pepperfish Keys I first saw the Pepperfish Keys area from the air. On February 27, 2016, I rode with Mike McCaskill as he flew us in a grand loop tour of Dixie County down along the Gulf coast. On April 18, 2018 I tested a Wilderness Systems Tarpon 100 fishing kayak by paddling from the concrete bridge over Cow Creek at the Road to Nowhere. The Tarpon is remarkably stable with a very comfortable seat and a strong backrest, two storage hatches, two bottle pockets and a rear gear well. It tracks well without a rudder. The northern key is a refuge where white pelicans, egrets, herons, cormorants and small shorebirds presented a delightfully expectant gallery patiently watching two fishing boats. Seen in the 2016 aerial photo Little Grassy, Big Grassy are available to explore. The Refuge is off limits 300 yards out from shore. Binoculars or a zoom camera aid bird watching.
By: Jeff Cary
Google Earth Pro shows the refuge 2 miles from the bridge. Cowâ€™s mouth is the halfway point. A 900-foot wide grassy area near the refuge is a popular scalloping destination. My four-hour photography trip straddled the 3:47 PM high tide. The creek and ocean bottoms were visible from the kayak. Depths ranged from 2 to 8 feet. I paddled against the incoming tide and the outgoing tide in the creek. But the open water was low flow easy travel. Two ammo boxes kept gear dry: 2 underwater cameras and 2 zoomable video cameras. A pair of sunglasses with a builtin video camera and a small battery pack tucked inside my hat allowed four hours of continuous video. A small dive bag placed behind the seat held snorkeling gear, water, snacks and dive light. I plan to return and test a pedal drive kayak before scallop season to film the grass beds.
Jeff Cary, Cary On Destinations, Inc., Dixie County (352) 440-2056 | Jeff.Cary@CaryOnDestinations.com TheHiddenCoastMag.com â€˘ 23
The Bay Scallop
By: Capt Mike Farmer
As you read the title many of your minds will immediately of flora and fauna for you viewing pleasure. It is almost envision the large Sea Scallop. But this article will be all like diving into an aquarium and becoming a part of the about its more petite cousin, the Bay Scallop. The Bay ecosystem that thrives in the local waters. Most wildlife Scallop is a bivalve mollusk which thrives in a small that you encounter isn’t bothered by your presence, area of the grass flats in the Gulf of Mexico and along some of the creatures are actually quite curious and the Florida coast. The only areas with a population many may follow you around just observing you. that allows a legal and sustainable harvest are from During your time underwater you can just forget about Hernando county to the south and Gulf county to the the rest of the world while becoming totally consumed north. Although this is the legal parameters which will by the aquatic environment surrounding you as your be open to harvest, located about half way in between worries just drift away with the tides. lies the area that is generally the epicenter of the scallop hunt. Here you will find the sleepy If you haven’t previously participated in Words in a little community of Steinhatchee, Florida. the incredible sport of scalloping, don’t be The population of this little community is intimidated. Only some basic equipment short article just over 1,200 residents but once scallop is needed. First of all a boat, whether season opens each year the temporary do not even come it be yours, a rental boat or a charter population increases to upwards of 8,000 close to giving you captain. From that point you will only during peak periods. need a mask, snorkel, fins and a mesh all of the details of collection bag to place your catch. As What is it about this little creature that hows, whys and the with anything you get what you pay for cause population booms filling the town but if your a first timer there isn’t a need joys involved. to spend a fortune on equipment. Usually and the local waters with thousands of men, women and children ? What can you can find a combo set of everything possess them to spend countless hours on the needed for $60 or less. water in search of a tiny mollusk ? I can’t speak for what makes everyone tick, but for me it’s more about Once you are equipped and on the water then the fun the hunt and the family fun that stirs my passion than begins. You will be on the lookout for good habitat the actual harvest of the scallop itself. in which the scallops live. Find a good grassy area in 3-5 feet of water. There will be three main types of There is just something about immersing yourself in vegetation found here, wide bladed turtle grass, thin the bathwater warm waters of the gulf as you swim bladed needle grass and moss. A combination of all around in pursuit of those dang little scallops. As you three types of these vegetation is usually a jackpot and swim along taking in the scenery that the gin clear prime habitat for your quary. waters hold beneath its surface you soon find that Once you have found these areas you will anchor your the scallops are only a bonus to the hunt. Once you vessel, put up your dive flag then slip into the water. have entered this aquatic wonderland you will see an Once you are in their world then the game of hide and abundance of aquatic sea life including starfish, many seek begins, scalloping has been referred to many times species of crabs, sea turtles, many species of fish and as an adult Easter Egg hunt. Some days are easier than various types of aquatic vegetation. There is a plethora others but just remember that they have the home field
24 • Florida’s The Hidden Coast
advantage. I suggest swimming against the current, as it makes the scallops easier to see in the grass as the tidal movement pushes it over and also so that if you stir up any silt then it is carried away behind you. You will want to keep your fins off of the bottom as much as possible to reduce the amount of silt that is loosened up and reduces your water clarity. At times the scallops will be sitting up on top of the grass and can be easily seen while at other times they may be hiding down in the grass. The main thing to keep an eye out for is just looking for there basic shape as well as their beautiful eyes. Yes I said eyes, they have approximately 32 pairs of gorgeous bright blue eyes that protrude from their shell. Once you have spotted one then its only to just reach down and grab it, then place it securely inside your collection bag. Once you have harvested one donâ€™t swim away to hastily as normally there are several more in close range awaiting you. Words in a short article do not even come close to giving you all of the details of hows, whys and the joys involved. I have tried to give you a brief overview and hope it has inspired you to bring your family or friends of all ages and come join what others have already fell in love with. Whether you come on your own or call me to guide and educate you on this experience I believe you will be very glad you came and are able to take the experience and memories back home with you. You can check out www.myfwc.com for all of the current rules and regulations. If your looking for something new to try for this years family vacation then please come visit and give it a try. The season in Steinhatchee this year will be open from June 16th and remain open until September 10th. Lodging in town is booking up quickly and if you plan on getting in on the fun then you had better make your plans now. If you would like to book me to take you on this adventure then please give me a call. Capt Mike Farmer Salt Addiction Charters 352-210-1551 www.saltaddictioncharters.com
TheHiddenCoastMag.com â€˘ 25
HORSESHOE BEACH, FLORIDA
26 • Florida’s The Hidden Coast
TheHiddenCoastMag.com â€¢ 27
By: David Mather applicators he had cut into a point. “I use these, as well as brushes, for detail.” “How many times would you ‘fix’ your work if someone messed with them,” I asked. “I don’t know. As many times as my energy lasted. But, I got to say that I get pretty charged up painting these walls. I mean, how many people get to paint their art on walls like these for everybody The other day I rode my bike on the Dixie Mainline, to see. And maybe if it looks nice they’ll leave it one of the principal limestone roads of the Lower alone.” I told him that I had been biking out Suwannee Wildlife Refuge. I have been bicycling here for twenty years which led to our mutually that road for twenty years now and I was hoping to bemoaning the changes. “There used to be ducks catch sight of a boar, coon, deer, or maybe even an otter or bobcat. As is not uncommon these days, and birds everywhere,” Clint said. “Years ago I was skunked in the large animal department, there was constant movement. I still come out not even an armadillo. Yet, there’s always a little here early in the morning when it’s just turning something going on in the refuge—maybe a bald light. That’s when all the action should begin. But eagle on a dead limb, buzzards cruising, blue crabs these days it’s as quiet as it is now. I mean, what or mullet in the creeks, a barred owl hooting off in have we seen or heard since we’ve been talking? the distance. What I didn’t expect, though, was to Nothing.” He shakes his head. “I guess it’s the meet up with an extremely interesting man who is birds I notice the most. Think it’s like the canary in the mines. They’re gone and one of those people I classify as a I don’t believe they’re coming “giver.” He was painting wildlife back. But I hardly talk about scenes on the concrete walls of it anymore because people just one of the bridges that span the say, ‘Oh, I got plenty of birds in tidal creeks in the refuge. my backyard.’ I mean, even on Clint Wynn is sixty-six the power lines at the edge of a years old and has been coming recently turned-over peanut field to the Dixie Mainline area of you might see a half-dozen dove. the Refuge for thirty-one years. I mean a half-dozen! You used Tan and weathered, unshaven to see a thousand! People just that day, he is lean and looks fit. don’t seem to look. There was an He also has a smile that lights eight year old kid in the back of up his whole face. I watched a truck that stopped here the other day. He looked him as he started painting a white-tailed deer. He at the paintings and said, ‘Mister, that’s awesome.’ had already pretty much completed a manatee, sea I thought, wouldn’t it be cool if the kid looked turtle, a bear, and a boar. There was also the triple marsh scene of a heron, turtle, and otter. The boar beyond the painting on the wall, looked around at was definitely my favorite. Over the years, before all the marsh and trees here,” Clint said, sweeping Clint’s paintings, the bridge walls were limestone- an arm, “ and had said THIS was ‘awesome.’ I just dust-coated, plain and dull, or later, painted yellow wish young people would look more, take notice with graffiti added here and there over time by about what’s disappearing. It bums me out that whomever. Clint’s Pogolandia scene was quite an many don’t seem to care. They don’t know what improvement. After complimenting him, I began they’re losing.” From the birds and animals, we shifted asking questions. Why was he doing it? Wasn’t he concerned about vandalism? Was he hired to do to water quality. We agreed that it was a huge it? We must have talked for an hour. The next day problem and fertilizer was the biggest culprit. Even I can remember Manatee Springs not so long I returned and we talked for another two. “Why do I do it? I love life, I love everyday ago when there was eel grass and sandy bottoms I wake up, I love it out here. I guess I just want to and turtles everywhere in the the flow that went give back.” He doesn’t get paid for the time spent out to the Suwannee. Now it’s all slimy algae. It painting and all the cost of materials comes out of seems nothing gets done about it because it affects his pocket, and his pockets aren’t deep. He pointed the pocketbooks of ‘important’ people. I told Clint to the different Luan stencils he used so he could that I had kayaked up one of the creeks here in the quickly spray paint the large shapes of the different refuge recently. On the way back, the tide began animals. “I made these so it can be a pretty quick to go out, exposing a mire of slimy green algae fix if someone messes up the paintings. That, or if tendrils that made paddling a real chore. I wasn’t they fade.” He sprayed some paint on some foam sure if I’d have to drag the kayak to the pullout,
“Why do I do it? I love life, I love everyday I wake up, I love it out here. I guess I just want to give back.”
28 • Florida’s The Hidden Coast
even though I can normally paddle in just a few inches of water. Clint first worked at building boats: he reckons that he built 165 birddog boats as a young man. He then became a lineman for Florida Power-A Progress for fourteen years where he was licensed to handle live120,000 volt wire barehanded. While tending to a power outage in Madison, Florida, on a Thanksgiving night, he was struck by a twenty-foot long, very thick oak branch that drove his head into the bucket. Besides caving his face in, seven ribs were busted, and his arm crushed. He had to have steel rods inserted into his arm. Eventually he went back to work, but it didn’t last long. As he put it, when something like that happens, ‘you lose the edge.’ He then helped to build houses before becoming a chainsaw carver. He made his living exclusively for ten years as a chainsaw artist, and during this time also became proficient in martial arts. He sold his carvings all over, including during the big April craft fair at Cedar Key. I’m sure many visitors recall seeing the large carving of a manatee at Manatee Springs State Park— a prime prop for ‘selfies.’ The carving is his work and, like these bridge paintings, he did it for free. If you go to the Visitor Center of the Lower Suwannee Wildlife Refuge a few miles below Fowler’s Bluff, you’ll see two four-foot carvings on the wall—one of a manatee, the other of a heron and a manatee. The heron is quite intricate and the composition interesting with a sun carved out of a large knot at the top. These, too, were freebies for the refuge. Clint’s family settled in Florida way back in early statehood days. Florida became a state in 1845, his family received and worked a homestead south of Palatka in 1848. His father was a marine
on Iwo Jima. His sister was one of the first mermaids in Weeki Wachee. His wife is a nurse at the Tri-County nursing home. But I’m getting off track—I meant this to be about Clint’s generosity and his concern for the environment. It’s just that there’s sort of a peace and a harmony talking to him and, consequently, we talked at length about a lot of things. He’s an easy-going backwoodsman who is also very well informed. But, as I stood there, it dawned on me that I was interrupting his work. I also felt that I was infringing on his cherished solitude here in the refuge. So, I said goodbye and we shook hands. I felt richer for meeting him. As I pedaled away, I fervently hoped that whoever travels this road enjoys Clint’s paintings. I also hoped that they would respect them. For more information on David Mather please visit www.onefortheroad-mather.com
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