Florida’s natural beauty is a constant state of wonder. As we drive down to Miami, we continue to explore the national park units of the state.
Indian River in Central Florida is more than oranges. It’s also part of what is called the “other Florida,” not the Disneyworld, Orlando, and Miami development but the home of hammock forests and estuaries. Canaveral National Seashore, created in 1975, is the best example of this habitat. Located at the end of New Smyrna Beach, 15 miles south of Daytona Beach, you can reach it by getting off I-95 and driving through a residential area for about 13 miles.
The maritime forest that I saw in the Outer Banks is generally the same here – palmetto trees, sawgrass, live oaks, and other succulents. We didn’t see any animals but we were here in the middle of the afternoon, not the best time to see wildlife. Still some biting insects, probably not mosquitoes, took advantage of my naked arms.
Besides the natural habitat, Canaveral National Seashore protects the few artifacts left from when this area was inhabited.
Eldora was a 19th century village in Central Florida, close to what is now New Smyrna Beach. Almost 100 people lived here but only Eldora State House remains. A freeze wiped out the orange crop one winter and that was enough to get people to move. Now the house is a museum.
Behind the house is Castle Windy, a shell mound. It looks like a garbage dump for oyster shell dating back to pre-European times so it’s protected. Further north, Turtle Mound is a 35 foot hill, hill by Florida standards, also filled with shells. The Park Service has built an elaborate boardwalk so visitors can “climb” the mound and not disturb it.
But how did the National Park Service get this land? For that, you can thank the space program. In the 1950s, NASA bought land to “buffer their activities.” In other words, they didn’t want a housing development next to their launching pads. So they bought the land around the Space Center. They turned over some of the land to the National Park Service and some to the Wildlife Refuge. Both agencies manage the land according to their mission.
All of this wilderness is in the north part of the National Seashore. Tomorrow, the southern part.