South Florida is loaded with Calusa Indian mounds that are ready for you to explore. From Ussepa Island to the Ten Thousand Islands, there are remnants of the extensive mound complex society all over South Florida. While serving many of the same purposes as Meso-American pyramids, Calusa mounds are often unmarked and hidden among the mangrove forests. It may be necessary to venture off the beaten trail and discover the treasures hidden in the underbrush.
Mound Key Calusa Indian Destinations: The Calusa civilization dominated South Florida from Tampa Bay to the Florida Keys since prehistoric record. Other tribes from both coasts payed tribute to the Calusa who held power until the arrival of the Spanish around 1500. Theirs was an society based on aquaculture, specializing in the collection of fish and conchs. These shells, including mainly Lightning whelks (Busycon contrarium) are the primary component of the mound debitage. The mounds are stratified with bones, shells, and sand and layers were added with subsequent generations. Trust me, these folks ate plenty of conch meat.
Tips For Going On A Calusa Adventure
- Getting There: Mound Key Archaeological State Park is located off the southeast end of Estero Island (Fort Myers Beach). Drive south over Little San Carlos Pass and park one the left side of the road in the Lover’s Key State Park. This is the launch for kayaks and canoes. Make sure you launch from the seawall next to the bridge. If you try and walk to the beach through the mangroves, the ranger will accost you for damaging an environmentally sensitive area. If you are mechanically inclined enough to have a boat with a motor, drive to the next island and there is a free boat ramp on the same side of the road. Using the following map to navigate the mangrove island, the paddle should take no more than thirty minutes.
- Exploring: The island has places to land a boat on the south and north side. Look for the state park marker at the south launch. The trails are clear and well-marked. It is illegal to take any flora or artifacts from a state park so, take only photographs. The following picture shows examples of Calusa pottery, net weight, and fish vertebra.
- Use Your Imagination: As you traverse the island you will note that you are steadily walking up and down ancient Calusa Indian mounds. This part of Florida has very little elevation so anytime you feel yourself walking up, take note, you are walking up a mound. The complex covers the entire island and with a little imagination, you can see where ancient canals used to run in between the mounds. Explore.
- Fishing: Don’t be afraid to drop a line in the water on your way to Mound Key. There is an ocean of trout, redfish, and snook is all the mangroves and back bays. Your day can only be more complete with some fresh fish for supper. Maybe you can talk someone else in to paddling the canoe while you troll for Spanish Mackerel. It can’t hurt to ask.
Keep a sharp eye for tools. The Calusa used conch shells for both hammers and cutting tools. Bivalve shells were used to weigh down the bottom of their mullet nets.
The pieces of pottery are fired and often times colored. Rim shards are pieces of the lip of a container and can be used to estimate the size of the vessel. Once the size is determined, brainstorm as to how the container was used.
Remember that Southwest Florida was the center of Calusa society. This was downtown. Consider activities such as trade, housing, religious ceremonies and civil operations that occur downtown in any city.
- Stanley Adventure Cooler: No adventure would be complete without this 16 quart ice chest. Stanley product are made to last so you’ll be able to use it for every one of your epic adventures. It fits neatly in the back of a kayak and will keep your beverages and sandwiches cool and your fish fresh if you happen to strike gold. You can cook up a little fish stew on The Adventure Camp Cook Set back at Lover’s Key. The cooler will keep 21 cans cool for 27 hours. It’s a fact. Stanley products are among the essentials for all your summer adventures. You’ll need them when you explore other Calusa sites such as Pineland and Gault Island. #stanleyness
Visit the REI landing page and check out the adventure cooler and other quality products. Follow Stanley on Facebook and Twitter. Remember, as long as you’re on state park property, take only footprints and leave only photographs.