Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park, 12/17/2016

This 166-acre park is located on a mile-long barrier island near Naples, FL, and is about 10 miles from where we are staying in Bonita Springs. Beach activities are the primary draw with most folks coming here to sunbathe, swim, hunt for shells and observe the many bird species. 

Fishing is also popular in Turkey Bay and at the pass where the Cocohatchee River empties into the Gulf of Mexico. Our first stop was at the boat launch onto the bay. Although the park is undeveloped, there are high rise condos across the bay. 

Kayaks, canoes, paddle boards, and beach gear can be rented. But as you enter the bay at the launch area you must be cautious of alligators! The bayside is a mangrove swamp where West Indian manatees are frequently spotted (we didn't see any, though, during our visit).

We followed the boardwalk trail (no dogs allowed) through the hardwood hammock to the (rickety) observation tower. Signs state "climb at your own risk."

The view from the top is somewhat disappointing as you can barely see the Gulf from the top. It needs one more story!

The boardwalk leads to the beach and Wiggins Pass, and we saw this gopher tortoise in the hammock along the way. No swimming is allowed in this part of the park due to strong currents at Wiggins Pass. Nonetheless, the white-sand beach was beautiful.

As we drove to another part of the park we saw this gopher tortoise on the side of the road. I am not sure what that thing is on the shell, but it looks like it may be some kind of tracking device...strange.

When we pulled into the parking lot near the Gulf beach, we encountered this tortoise crossing the road...you really have to keep an eye out for these endangered animals as many are killed by motorists. He crossed the road at a leisurely pace to the wooded area. 

Shaded picnicking areas are located throughout the park with tables and grills. There are five parking lots along the park road with beach access at each. 

We really enjoyed all of the gopher tortoises we saw here. The park is a safe haven for this endangered species. They are the only tortoise in North America found east of the Mississippi River. They dig burrows (up to 9' deep and 40' long) that provides shelter for not only the tortoise but over 300 other species. The sandy soil here is perfect for digging their burrows. 

For additional information about Delnor-Wiggins Pass park, check them out online at https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Delnor-Wiggins.

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