The Cedar Keys – Seahorse Key
Seahorse Key, located in Levy County, Florida, is a picturesque barrier island that has played a significant role in the state’s history. One of its most iconic features is the Lighthouse, a historic structure that has guided mariners along the Gulf of Mexico coast for over a century. Constructed in 1854, the lighthouse stands as a testament to Florida’s maritime heritage. It is now owned by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and in 1952, the University of Florida leased a three-acre parcel of land on the key, including the lighthouse, for use as part of its Seahorse Key Marine Laboratory. The marine lab is a research and education facility that studies the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem. The lighthouse is a popular tourist destination. Visitors can boat to the key or take boat shuttles and tour the lighthouse during yearly open house events.
The Lighthouse has seen its share of history. During the Second Seminole War (1835-1842), the island was used as a military base and internment camp for Native Americans who were being forced to relocate to the West. During the Civil War, it was used by the Union forces to monitor and control ship traffic along the coast.
A Delicate Ecosystem
Seahorse Key’s wildlife environment has evolved over the years, shaped by various factors including natural processes and human activities. One of the most important aspects of the Key’s wildlife history is the role it played as a vital habitat for nesting and migratory birds. The island was recognized as an important stopover and breeding ground for various bird species, including colonial waterbirds such as Egrets, Herons, and Pelicans.
It was also home to a population of Florida cottonmouth snakes (Agkistrodon conanti). These snakes are apex predators on the island, and they help to control populations of rodents and other small animals. The cottonmouth snakes on Seahorse Key had a unique relationship with the colonial nesting birds. The snakes often reside near the rookery trees, and they scavenge on marine fishes that are inadvertently dropped by the birds.
In 2015, the entire breeding colony of nesting waterbirds on Seahorse Key unexpectedly abandoned the island and have not returned. This decline in the number of birds has had a negative impact on the cottonmouth snakes. The snakes are now less abundant and smaller on average than they were before the birds left.
There is a small cemetery on Seahorse Key, near the Cedar Key Lighthouse. It contains the graves of several people, including:
Joseph Napoleon Crevasse, a blockade runner during the Civil War
Timothy Batiste Crevasse, son of Joseph Crevasse
Catherine Hobday, was the mother of lightkeeper, Andrew D. Hobday. Catharine was the only female to serve at the Cedar Keys Light Station. She served as an Assistant Keeper from 1873 until her death in 1879
Ephraim Hearn, a seaman on the USS Fort Henry, He enlisted in 1861 and died at 20 years old of pulmonary troubles.William M. Robinson, a US Navy sailor
William Wilson, Sr., lightkeeper at Seahorse Key from 1854 to 1855
The cemetery is a reminder of the island’s rich history. It is also a reminder of the people who have lived and worked on Seahorse Key over the years. It is located on a high point on the island, overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The graves are marked with simple tombstones, many of which are weathered and worn. Be sure to bring bug spray!
Today’s visit and a walk along the beach showed incredible erosion damage as well a widespread damage to the trees along the shore due to the devastating winds from recent Hurricane Idalia!…James
Cedar Keys Boating Map
The Cedar Keys – Seahorse Key Notes
Cedar Key Marina Gulf Side & Basin Side Boat Ramps
Dock & A Streets
Cedar Key, FL 32625
The Cedar Key Marina boat ramp basin side offers; 1 very wide launching lane & courtesy docks.
The facility overall offers; 43 paved boat trailer parking spaces for both ramps & restrooms on-site.
Launching fees are payable at the automated kiosks. $15.00 for cash, $16.00 for credit card.
This is open water and very shallow. Tides are important to know ahead of time and best to head out on a rising tide
There are numerous oyster beds around these keys and it is important to be familiar with safe, sandy beaches before venturing too close to any of the keys. Also along the southeast side of Atsena Otie Key, there are numerous, submerged tree trunks
The Seahorse Key Photo Gallery…
Guides, Maps & Info…
- Atsena Otie Topo Map…
- Cedar Key Tides…
- Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge…
- Atsena Otie History…
- University of Florida website for Seahorse Key Marine Laboratory…
- Seahorse Key lighthouse info…
- Seahorse Key Topo Map…
- Snake Key Topo Map…
- North Key Topo Map…
Crystal River | Homosassa River | Intercoastal Waterway | Lake Kerr | Lake Lochloosa | Pellicer Creek | Salt Springs | Santa Fe Lake | Silver Glen Springs | The Cedar Keys | The Ocklawaha River | The St Johns River | The Santa Fe River | The Silver River | The Suwannee River | The Rainbow River | Withlacoochee River