Description - Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge is rich in history dating back nearly 2,000 years. The pristine area is home to a plethora of birdlife enhancing the marine research and environmental education conducted by the University of Florida. Twelve islands host diverse habitats from maritime wilderness to seagrass beds. Low impact recreation is permitted on this Gulf coast refuge.
Copyright: - US Fish and Wildlife Service
Common Birdlife at National Wildlife Refuge
- Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge is in Levy County, Florida approximately 60 miles southwest of Gainesville. The refuge is comprised of 12 islands ranging in size from 1 to 165 acres. Four of the islands, Snake, Deadman's, North, and Seahorse Key are designated as wilderness areas. The most recent addition to the refuge is Atsena Otie Key. This island is owned by the Suwannee River Water Management District and managed as part of Cedar Keys refuge.
The refuge islands have a long and interesting history that began with the native Indians who occupied the "Keys" for at least 1,000 years from 450 to 1,800 years ago. In the past, Seahorse Key was used as a military hospital and it served as a detention camp for Indians during the Second Seminole War (1835-42). A lighthouse was built on Seahorse Key in 1851 and it was later used during the Civil War as a military prison by the Union Army. The light was extinguished in 1915 and since 1952, the lighthouse has been leased to the University of Florida for use as a center for marine research and environmental education.
From 1938 to 1842, Atsena Otie Key was the site of a military depot and was the location for the signing of the treaty that ended the Second Seminole War in Florida in 1842. The island later became the location for the first town of Cedar Key. It was home to a cedar pencil mill and a pine saw log mill and supported a population of 200-300. A hurricane destroyed the town in 1896.
The refuge ranks as one of the largest nesting areas in north Florida for colonial birds. The more abundant nesting species include while ibis, brown pelican, common and snowy egret, great blue and tri-colored herons, and double crested cormorants. Ospreys are common nesters on the refuge and can regularly be seen diving for fish. Several hundred magnificent frigatebirds and a few roseate spoonbills also spend their summers here.
The interiors of most refuge islands are dominated by maritime forests. Shorelines are bordered with narrow bands of sandy beaches alternating with salt marshes. All of the islands are surrounded by mud flats and seagrass beds which make them relatively inaccessible during low tides.
Recreation - Comprised of 12 islands, Cedar Keys offers the outdoor enthusiast an opportunity to boat, fish, hike, partake in an environmental education program and / or tour the visitor center. Protected wilderness areas provide enriched wildlife, plant life and birdlife viewing opportunities.
Climate - Florida experiences mild, comfortable winters and warm to hot, humid summers. The area offers a great warm escape for outdoor recreation during the cold northern months. Summer temperatures average in the low 80's Fahrenheit and mid 20's Celsius. Winters are mild with temperatures averaging between the high 40's to the high 50's Fahrenheit. The average precipitation for the north central area is diverse. The central western area receives more than 60 inches per year while the central eastern tract receives about 50 inches. August and September are peak months of the hurricane season that lasts from June 1 through November 30.
The refuge is located in Levy County along the Gulf shore. It is approximately 60 miles southwest of Gainesville. Access is via State Route 24.