Nestled deep within the 3,700 acre Weedon Island Preserve located on Tampa Bay, is the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center. It is dedicated to reconnecting people with the environment. The center focuses on the natural, cultural, and archaeological history of the area. Exhibits feature interactive displays on the ancient and present-day history as well as the unique wildlife habitats found within the preserve.
Weedon Island Preserve is an approximately 3,700-acre nature preserve that extends along the west side of Tampa Bay in Pinellas County, Florida. It is the largest estuarine preserve in Pinellas County, and is comprised of aquatic habitats with mangrove swamps, shoreline, and seagrass beds along the eastern edge. The landward sections contain some xeric and mesic upland communities of pine flatwoods, scrub, scrubby flatwoods, and hammocks. Visitors can hike over 5 miles of trails covering both wetland and upland habitats. The home of countless species including gopher tortoises, armadillos, native shorebirds, oyster beds, mangroves, pines, palm trees, saw palmetto, and cacti, the habitat is a special wonder in one of Florida’s most populated counties.
The extensive cultural history of the preserve helped shape the land with shell middens and mounds as well as a pine timber logging industry and the patchwork of mosquito ditches made in the mid 1900s. On June 13, 1972, Weedon Island Preserve was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places. In 1974 the state of Florida purchased Weedon Island and its surrounding islands and it officially opened for public use in December 1980. In 1993, the state created a lease agreement with Pinellas County to manage and maintain the preserve. The county's Department of Parks and Conservation Resources presently manages the area.
A GRAND CANOE
In 2011, archaeologists and volunteers excavated an ancient dugout canoe from the shoreline of Weedon Island Preserve. The canoe was first discovered by a local resident in 2001. Initial arrangements to document and investigate the canoe, revealed a pine dugout canoe measuring 12.17 meters (39.9 feet), from bow to broken stern. The Weedon Island canoe is far longer than any other dugout found in Florida and is the only one directly associated with a saltwater environment. The canoe has suffered damage from mangrove roots and oyster growth, and the sides are deteriorated. Radiocarbon testing yielded a date of AD 690 – 1010. The makers of the canoe are considered to belong to the Manasota culture, a prehistoric Native American people who hunted and fished the bay, leaving shell mounds along the coast. Interpretation on how the canoe was used is still under study and analysis.
Friends of Weedon Island and the Alliance for Weedon Island Archaeological Research and Education are partners in the preservation of the canoe, a lengthy and expensive process. A specially constructed conservation tank funded by the FOWI and overseen by AWIARE held the sections of the canoe in a special bath of polyethylene glycol. Once the slow wood penetration treatment was completed, the canoe was reassembled and put on display at the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center.
page information credit: Pinellas County, Weedon Island Preserve, AWIARE, Friends of Weedon Island, Wikipedia, University of South Florida
photos from the sources listed above, as well as publicly posted online sites with thanks to the contributors