Looking for the backcountry in Florida can sometimes be difficult. This is one of those opportunities if you have access to a paddleboat or motorized boat. Begin your journey at the end of County Road 30A, where you will find a public boat launch. Launch your boat here and travel about a quarter mile across Indian Pass to reach the island.
The island was privately owned until the late 1960s when the federal government purchased it and began restoration efforts. Previous landowners created a small jungle filled with animals from around the world. Still inhabiting the island are sambar deer. The native white-tailed deer inhabit the island as well. The difference is obvious. The sambar deer is an Asian elk weighting about three times as much as the white-tailed deer and has much larger ears.
The island is a network of abandoned roads that have become very overgrown. You may hike throughout the island, and even swim, scallop or surf fish from the white sandy shores. The interior is dotted freshwater lakes and ponds that prove to be good wildlife viewing spots. Biking is permitted and is actually a good way to cover the 12,000+ acres. Two obstacles are: 1) getting your bike to the island, and 2) negotiating the non-maintained roads.
While hiking east - west, you might notice the natural ridge terrain. This is caused by the occasional floods and winds. The vegetation on the island varies from a mixed hardwood forest to beautiful lush stands of cabbage palm to windswept dunes lines with scrub oak.
This fabulously gorgeous spot serves many birds as the last stop before the transGulf flight. Bird watching along the shores and interior will reward the hiker with a long list of sightings that includes a variety of warblers, raptors, long-legged waders, shorebirds and more. Restricted hunting is permitted.
Several important notes: The island is open for exploration from sunrise to sunset. A rare wildlife viewing opportunity awaits; the endangered red wolf, once a common species throughout the southeastern U.S., has been reintroduced on this island. And lastly, be sure to take plenty of drinking water and bug repellent.
Directions: From Apalachicola, FL, Take U.S. Highway 98 to County Road 30A approximately 8 miles west. A boat launch is located at the end of the road. The island area dominates the view.
Elevation: 5 - 10 feet
Elevation Gain: Minimal
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