02 Jul Cedar Key
The Cedar Keys are a cluster of small islands located on the West Coast of Florida, about 50 miles southeast of Gainsville. This is a neat area to canoe. There are numerous small estuaries leading back from the bay. The East Pass of the Suwannee River enters the gulf just north of Cedar Key and is fun to explore, as it is totally undeveloped.
This is a fisherman’s paradise, and a lot of them use air boats, which are noisy, and can be dangerous if the operator isn’t paying attention to where he is going. However, because it is so far out of the normal tourist traffic, you can still experience solitude along this section of the coast.
You can launch at the City Park and Beach in downtown Cedar Key, and paddle out to Atsena Otie Key, then over to Dog Island where you can walk the beach and explore the woods, and play your own role of Robinson Crusoe. It is great. Paddle around the north end of Dog Island, and check out the exposed section of the shell mound where the tides are slowly changing the shape of the island.
Another neat area to paddle is just North of Cedar Key. Put in at the ramp at Shell Mound County Campground. You can reach it from Hwy. 347, then travel west on Highway 326 for about 3 miles. The road will dead-end at the Shell Mound Campground. From the ramp, you can paddle North to Deer Island, and enjoyed Florida as it was. The gulf stretches out to the horizon, sparkling blue. No traffic noise, no jet skis, and no ‘no trespassing’ signs!
Continued to paddle down the gulf-side of a chain of islands that stretch towards Cedar Key, and then you can head back through a very shallow water area to the campground.
While paddling around the Cedar Keys, be mindful of the tide. If you aren’t careful, the tides can catch you and strand you in the middle of a mile of mud flats till the next tide.
A nice time to visit Cedar Key is during the Annual Cedar Key Small Boat Festival – the first full weekend each May.