Calusa Heritage Trail – Randell Research Center at Pineland

The Calusa Heritage Trail is a one mile interpretive walkway that leads visitors through the mounds, canals, and other features of the Pineland archaeological site.

The Calusa were once the most powerful people in all of South Florida. For many centuries they accumulated huge shell mounds, engineered canals, and sustained tens of thousands of people from the fish and shellfish found in the rich estuaries west and south of Fort Myers. All that is left of their culture today is a dwindling number of shell mound sites dotting the estuarine landscape between Charlotte Harbor and the Ten Thousand Islands region of the Everglades.

On the Calusa Heritage Trail, visitors can tour an internationally significant site and learn about Calusa culture and their environment. Museum-quality interpretive signs along the Trail provide visitors with detailed information regarding the Calusa Indians who inhabited the Pineland site, their culture and environment, and the history of Southwest Florida after the Calusa left.  The trail also features observation platforms atop the site's tallest shell mound, in addition to benches and a boardwalk and bridge over low-lying areas.

The Calusa Heritage Trail was sponsored by Dwight and Susan Sipprelle and funded in part by a Special Category Grant from the Florida Department of State, Office of Cultural and Historical Programs, Division of Historical Resources, and through in-kind services and the efforts of many volunteers.  In 2001, the Friends of the Randell Research Center was created as a giving society to support the programs and activities of the RRC through its endowment and operating funds. The Friends organization provides an important component of the financial stability of the Randell Research Center.

The Pineland site complex is located in coastal Lee County, northwest of Fort Myers.
It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places, and is a designated County Historical Resource.

The motto of the Randell Research Center is "As We Learn, We Teach."

The Randell Research Center (RRC) is a program of the Florida Museum of Natural History, which has conducted research and education programs in Southwest Florida since 1983. The RRC has existed since 1996 when Donald and Patricia Randell gifted more than 53 acres of the Pineland archaeological site to the University of Florida Foundation. This property is now state-owned. The RRC leases an additional 8½ acres from Lee County. The County property contains environmentally and archaeologically significant resources, as well as the Pineland Post Office and the RRC headquarters in the historic 1920s Ruby Gill House. The Florida Museum of Natural History has undertaken archaeological and ecological field research at Pineland since 1988. The results have been published in both professional and lay-public forms. The RRC is more than just the Pineland site. It is a coordinated research, education, and publication effort that involves and serves southwest Florida. LEARN MORE ABOUT IT

The Pineland Site Complex is located on Pine Island in coastal Lee County, northwest of Fort Myers.

The site was a Calusa Indian village for over 1,500 years. Enormous shell mounds still overlook the waters of Pine Island Sound. The remains of many centuries of Indian village life blanket the former pastures and citrus groves. Remnants of an ancient canal that reached across Pine Island sweep through the complex. Sand burial mounds stand in the woods. Historic structures representing Florida's early pioneer history also still exist at Pineland. Native plants and animals characteristic of coastal hammocks, pinelands, wetlands, and shell mounds are in abundance. Pineland is important to archaeology and ecology for several reasons. First, its waterlogged deposits preserve artifacts not found in dry sites, including ancient botanical remains found nowhere else in North America. The remains of many centuries of Calusa daily life reveal a fascinating, complex world that existed before the arrival of Europeans. Second, Pineland provides a key to understanding larger, global issues. Its accumulated deposits hold information on sea-level fluctuations and climate changes of interest to scientists all over the world who study the earth's environmental history. Third, it has proven to be an ideal location for teaching students and the general public about Florida's environment and history.

The RRC provides educational programs for students from grade school through university levels, for teachers and the general public. The learning opportunities include hands-on environmental training and supervised archaeological digs.

Students can walk the Calusa Heritage Trail of the Randell Research Center (RRC) with a trained docent or staff member. The Trail provides an exciting opportunity for students to experience 2,000 years of civilization preserved in midden mounds, the Calusa canal, and other features on an internationally regarded archaeological site. Artifacts, tool replicas, and museum quality trail signage also bring the past to life for the students. The tour is recommended for students in grades 4 or 8 and can be tailored for other groups.  RRC requests a per student donation of $4 for the services of staff and docents and to support the mission of preservation.  Portions of the trail are wheelchair accessible.  RRC offers bus parking, restrooms and picnic tables. Students should dress for outdoor weather conditions and wear sturdy tie-on shoes, no sandals. Chaperones are welcome. Schools are responsible for all transportation arrangements and costs. To Schedule, call Cindy Bear, Programs and Services Coordinator, at 239-283-2157 or email



Randell Research Center
13810 Waterfront Drive
Pineland, Florida 33945

239-283-2062 (main office)
239-283-2157 (book store)


The Calusa Heritage Trail is open daily for self-guided visits from sunup to sundown. Restrooms, book and gift shop, and classroom are open Monday-Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Guided tours are offered to the public during peak season (January-April) on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. Groups may also schedule guided tours at other times by calling the RRC at 239-283-2157. Requested donations for visitors to the Calusa Heritage Trail are $7 for adults, $5 for seniors, and $4 for children. 

Learning about one's surroundings and history is not just for children - the excitement extends to adults of all ages. Many newcomers are fascinated by Florida's environment and history and are eager to learn about them. Thus, the RRC at Pineland has become a destination for "eco-tourists" and "heritage tourists," offering exciting programs for the visitor who stays just a few days as well as meaningful activities (such as environmental monitoring and supervised archaeological excavations) for the longer-term visitor or part-year resident.

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