Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Cedar Key Railroad Trestle Nature Trail... a delightful .6 mile trek (round-trip) along a narrow spit of sand with estuaries on each side, and represents the right-of-way used by David Yulee's Florida Railroad (later known as the Atlantic Gulf and East India Transit Company) running from Fernandina Beach on the Atlantic coast to Cedar Key from 1861 to 1932. Native vegetation and wildlife quickly reclaimed the land into the 1990s. Realizing that mushrooming development would impinge on this piece of local history and pristine natural habitat, the Florida Nature Coast Conservancy gained easements and volunteers built and now maintain the trail.

Placards identify dozens of plants along the trail, as seen near my knee. This lovely red plant is the Coral Bean -- something I learned from the placard. Also of interest, it relates how the Seminole Indians used the plant for medicine for their dogs, but as it is poisonous to humans, they strung the bright red beans as beads for themselves. Amazing what you can learn while trekking a trail!

Suddenly, as you round a bend, the spit of land ends, and posts are all that remain of the trestle that took the trains to the downtown of Cedar Key, and in fact, over a mile farther into the Gulf to Atsena Otie Key where the Faber Pencil Company loaded freight cars with cedar slats to be made into pencils.

Several rest benches dot the trail and occasional breaks in the trees allow views of waterfowl and fishermen in the estuaries. Turn off the main road (Highway 24) onto Grove Street, and about 50 feet later you'll see spaces for about 4 cars to park on either side of the start of the nature trail.

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