Thursday, June 6, 2013

Indian Key State Historic Site


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Indian Key State Historic Site 




Above you see Autumn with Indian Key in the background. We have just left our campsite at Long Key State Park where it was raining. We camped at Bahia Honda State Park the previous 5 nights, and after two full days of rain were lucky enough to have some sunny days. Long Key obviously had not been so lucky. It seem that everyone was happy even thought they had been in rain for days. While driving through the park everyone smiled, and waved. I mean, we usually get a lot of attention, but not this much. There were even a group of campers who had taken refuge under the bath house. They all cheered, clapped and waved as we drove through the park. It was nice to see a group of happy campers, and they diffidently made us feel welcomed!



We love strapping our kayak on the top of the bus when traveling around Florida. It give you the opportunity to be spontaneous. On one of our trips after traveling through the Everglades, all we wanted was a dip to cool down. Stopping at a beach on the weekend ended up with no luck on a parking place. As we were about to give up, we crossed a bridge when I had an idea. We had our kayak on top! Pulled over at the bridge (free parking), put our kayak in the water. It was a short kayak to a beautiful beach were we cooled down. After checking out the cove, we jump back in the kayak for some adventure. Another short paddle we ended up on the backside of an island with nice tall sand dunes. We ended up kayaking to Lovers Key! Oh what a wonderful and fun experience. Florida Oldscool Campers can add the kayak to your rental for a reasonable fee. Just keep in mind, the kayak has to be removed before you can pop the top on the VW Bus.


Trail of Florida's Indian Heritage LogoIndian Key is located on U.S.1 at MM 85.5  Islamorada, Florida 33036     
(305) 664-2540
If you have your own kayak, the best place to put in is right in-front of the island. There is a pull off where a monument with three rocks.
The island is right in front of you. Paddling out is rather easy. Head towards the south side of the island to the canoe launch. You will see it before the dock.

Tip: the bridge to the south you hold the same name. If you follow the channel on the ocean side, you will see the island a short distance of shore. 




Indian Key is rich in history, like many places in the keys.

In 1831, Jacob Housman arrived from New York. He bought Indian Key and set out to build his own wrecking empire. He wanted to compete with Key West, as they had the upper hand in all salvaging. At the time wrecking or salvaging cargo from shipwrecks was both legal and extremely lucrative. Indian Key became a thriving port with a store, hotel, dwelling with cisterns, warehouse, and wharves. Known for his shady business practices, he constantly feuded with other salvagers. In 1836 in an effort to become independent from Key West, Houseman had the Legislative Council establish Indian Key as the first county seat for Dade County. Unfortunately, Houseman's fortunes began to decline. He lost numerous court battles and eventually his wrecking license. At the outbreak of the Second Seminole War in 1835, he also lost his indian trade. He mortgaged the island to Dr. Henry Perrine who moved to Indian key with his family to wait the end of the war. Perrine wanted to use a government grant to cultivate useful tropical plants on the mainland. He planted hemp, tea, coffee, bananas, and mangos.  On August 7, 1840, a band Indians led by a famous Indian Chief named Chekika landed on the island and attacked the settlers. Houseman and his wife escaped but others were killed during the burning and looting. Dr Perrine's family escaped by hiding in a turtle crawl under the house. However, Dr. Perrine was hacked to pieces in an attempt to reason with the Indian party. Except for one building and the stone foundations all the homes and warehouses were burned to the ground. Houseman and his family left and did not return. Indian Key continued to be inhabit until the early part of the 1900's when it was abandonded completely. Houseman was killed in a salvage accident in 1841 and is buried on Indian Key. Dr. Perrine's grove have grown over many of the ruins. Indian Key is now an historical park and can be visited. The country was so enraged that they sent Lt. Harney from Fort Dallas (Miami) to catch Chekika. His band was surprised in the Everglades by Harney and his troops. Chekika was killed, scalped, and hung from a tree for all to see. Chekika park in the Everglades


Jacob Housman house. They would sit on the front porch that looked out over Alligator Reef, 
waiting for a ship to run aground so they could salvage the wreck.


Housman's cisterns    

Jacob Housman






It was awesome walking these old streets. I could not image living here, and every day wishing for someone to hit the reef so they could profit. Seems cold blooded to me, and hard to believe it was every legal.  And let's not talk about what they did to the indians...



The dock at Indian Key


The old streets running through the town. 


Areal view 

I love the history and the seclusion, but most of all I like the relative absence of bugs. If you have your own kayak, the easiest place to put in is right in front of the island. You will see a bike path with three rocks across the street from a boat ramp. A short paddle across the channel and south side of the island. You will see the dock. As you get close you will see the kayak landing before you reach the dock. We landed at high tide and put the kayak on the rocks, since there was no beach. We were lucky enough to have the entire island to ourselves. Since it had been raining for a week in the keys, we seen only three mosquitos the entire time we were on the island. We did not try to go to Lignumvitae Key because I have read the reviews that it is buggy. I will save that for my next trip. 

The water is shallow, with decent snorkeling all the way around the island. There was a strong current on the east side. The ranger recommended the area on the north end of the island, at second street where the bench is. Also, close to channel marker, there are PVC pipes in the shape of a ship. When I asked the ranger, i was surprised by his answer! When a ship runs aground and kills the sea grass (which is a really big problem in the keys) they place these PVC pipes with a wood block on top. The birds sit on the blocks and poop, which promotes the growth of the sea grass. Natural fertilizer. I never would have guessed that one!



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