Friends of Lovers Key State Park

Together, we protect, preserve and support Lovers Key State Park

At the Park

You'll fall in love with Lovers Key

From the north, you arrive at the park when you cross Big Carlos Bay to Black Island; from the south, you come over the New Pass into the pristine habitats on the south end. Either way, you'll access hiking trails, picnicking, bike and canoe trails, boat ramps and more on in Lovers Key State Park. For a special treat, take the tram to the beach on Lovers Key. Once on the beach, look for shorebirds! See directions on Google Map here.

Preserving Our Natural Heritage

Accessible only by boat until 1965, Lovers Key and its neighboring Black Island had a early history enacted by lovers and pirates. After bridges linked the islands to the mainland, their landscapes were much altered by humans through dredging.

In 1983, the state acquired the islands and in 1996, merged with adjacent Carl E. Johnson County Park to become Lovers Key Carl E. Johnson State Park. Efforts were soon underway to remove the invasive exotic Australian pine to restore a more natural Florida environment for wildlife. The canals and trails were re-conceptualized to provide visitors with a nature experience.

The Park is open for day use from 8 am to sunset, every day of the year. Admission: $4 per single occupant vehicle, $8 per vehicle to a max of 8 occupants, $2 for pedestrians, bicyclists and extra passengers. Camping and campfires are not allowed. Download a large map (pdf 1.3mg) to plan your trip.

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Great park to bicycle to. Great place for a hike and a picnic. If you are quiet you will see a lot of wildlife including large tortoises.

M. Stewart - Google+ reviews
 

A Real Florida Treasure

 

Amenities

Lovers Key State Park features environmentally friendly restrooms, a concession with canoes, kayaks and bicycles and a courtesy tram provides convenient access to the beach and pavilion.

Beyond the two-mile long beach on Lovers Key, Black Island has over five miles of multi-use trails, a gazebo, picnic areas, a boat ramp, and two playgrounds. The Friends of Lovers Key join dedicated volunteers and the State Park staff in upkeep and upgrades. See how you can help!

At a time when South Florida’s natural coastal areas are disappearing, Lovers Key State Park stands out as one of the finest examples of subtropical, coastal habitat remaining in Southwest Florida.

This area of the Gulf Coast of Florida is home to dolphins, manatees, bald eagles and roseate spoonbills, in addition to thousands of migratory wading birds, shorebirds and other waterfowl in season.

The 1,616-acre Florida State Park embraces Lovers Key and three other barrier islands—Black Island, Inner and Long Key. Visitors can hike or bike along the trails, comb the beaches, swim, kayak, fish or watch wildlife.

However you decide to explore the park, you will experience one of the most beautiful and tranquil nature parks in the country.

Get to know The Florida Fighting Conch

The name "fighting" conch comes from how a male jousts with another male – using their proboscises – if one comes close to the egg-laying female he is guarding.

The Florida fighting conch (pronounced "konk") is a species of warm-water sea snails and can usually be found in abundance on Fort Myers Beach. Strombus alatus is the scientific name; it is a marine gastropod mollusk in the family of Strombidae, the true conchs. There are over 60 types of sea snails that are described as a conch, such as the horse conch or king crown conch and the queen conch. Lots of royalty in the conch family! The term conch is generally applied to a sea snail that has a raised spire on one end and a siphonal canal on the other or if they come to a point on both ends.

The Florida fighting conch has a very thick shell and can reach lengths of 4 inches. They come in a variety of colors, from dark brown to a light pale yellow, with a combination of designs. No two are alike. The front end of the shell has two fluted edges that allow for the eyestalks to extend and look out from under the shell. The trunk like snout reaches out to collect food. Conchs are herbivores and eat mostly algae and other small marine plants. The Florida fighting conch lives in the shallow, sandy-bottom waters of the Gulf of Mexico here on Fort Myers Beach.

The Florida fighting conch will burrow into the sandy bottom with the knobbed spire down. At low tide you will find them uncovered or partially uncovered. They do not have the ability to glide along the sandy bottom like most other sea snails. They use their proboscis, which is similar to a spur-like foot, to propel themselves back towards the water in a flopping fashion. They also use the proboscis to protect themselves and have a unique mating behavior. The male will guard an egg-laying female and challenge any other male that comes close. The males will joust with each other using their proboscises, hence the name "fighting" conch.

The fighting conch can triple in size in one year, and once they reach sexual maturity the outer lip of their shell will begin to flair. The sea snail can retreat into its shell for safety by pulling its hard operculum closed, like slamming a door. The operculum is made of mostly calcium carbonate (like their shell), plus a protein called conchiolin, which is similar to the keratin in land animals’ nails or horns. Once the snail has closed its operculum, it is somewhat protected from predators. It also protects the conch from drying out when washed up on the beach, until the tides pull it back into the Gulf.

The Florida fighting conchs are not protected like their larger cousins the queen conch, but in Lee County, Florida, you may not harvest or possess this – or any – shells that contain a live organism. So, make sure you look and see if anyone is home before you decide to take your next shell home.

If you have a question, picture or shelling story you would like to share send it to ShellingWithSandy@gmail.com

Happy Shelling!
Sandy Sandness

References: Wikipedia, Florida Fish and Wildlife, Atlantic City Aquarium, Ostego Bay Marine Science Center

Shelling with Sandy is reprinted courtesy of the Island Sand Paper, SAND LIFE Magazine, and www.fortmyersbeach.news

The thick-shelled Florida fighting conch can reach up to 4 inches long. No two conchs are the same; they come in a variety of colors, with a combination of designs. They live in the shallow, sandy-bottom waters of the Gulf of Mexico here on Fort Myers Beach.

Learn More

Lovers Key State Park – The Florida State Park site provides a section detailing the news, programs, and opportunties of Lovers Key State Park.

Park Bird List – print this list before you visit to record your observations and know what bird to watch for.

Lovers Key State Park Brochure – Ready to print, this pdf file contains an overview of the history, ammenities and rules for our park.

Florida Master Naturalists– The Florida Master Naturlist instructors provide programs about Florida's environment using science-based information and interpretive techniques that prepare students to share their knowledge with others. Lovers Key State Park is a key training site for this program.

The Great Florida Birding Trail – Lovers Key State Park is a birder's delight, especially for shorebirds. Visit the website for the South Florida Birding Trail Guide. The Birding Trail is sponsored by Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission which provides a wealth of information concerning fishing, boating, wildlife, research, education and conservation in Florida

Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission for information concerning fishing, boating, wildlife, research, education and conservation