All > Field Notes >

Cedar Keys NWR - Atsena Otie Key

Birding / Hiking / Adventuring Roadtrip Info


Mar 2019
 Typical view [?]
Photo Galleries
Typical View (35)

Snapshots! (10)
GRADES: Click each for info, * = Note
How Big D
Importance A
Revisit? C
Birding C
Wildlife D
Summer Heat B
Terrain B *
Fun Hike B *
Maintained D *
Mosquitos C
Biting Files A
Ticks B *
NOTE: Parts were abandoned. Trail to cemetary was okay.
NOTE: Interesting cemetary
NOTE: Shocking for a national park when I was there - old hurricane damage.
NOTE: I didn't go off trail in tall grass but assume low ticks
 LOCATION: Accuracy: Read me
Map On Big Map: Click map (or on google maps). Address: Atsena Otie Key, Cedar Key, FL, Levy, USA, 32625

1) What It's Like

It's an island a boat has to take you to. Cedar Key is one of the few authentic island towns left in Florida. Up until 1890 after one too many deadly hurricanes the town was one island further out: Atsena Otie key. When you read descriptions of it it sounds like a jungle island you can explore and maybe run across all kinds of 19th century ruins. In reality there is zero option for exploration (the path and beach is very constrained) and high chance of tetanus from all the incredibly dilapidated boardwalks etc (watch close for rusty nails). Can be interesting but tell the boat you only want 1 hour out there and be careful where you step.


2) Kinds of Birds

There are rookeries out in the islands around here so you can see flocks of oddball sea birds flying by. Also there are just a ton of birds around cedar key period so you might run into a warbler on the island. I'd say just wandering around the town of Cedar Key you'll see more birds though.

3) Wildlife

There is probably a racoon somewhere. I wouldn't expect much else.

4) Amenities

There is a hole in the ground to poop in - that is literally the extent of the amenities - a composting toilet. And I'm not even sure they meant that to be active. "keep out" signs have fallen down so you accidentally end up places you shouldn't be. There is no toilet paper or anything like that at the poop hole. Even decks to be able to get to the trails are one stiff wind away from blowing over. The level of "fuck this place" is impressive honestly. It may have been repaired by your reading this but the hurricane damage had been there for awhile already when I was there.


5) Directions

Drive to Cedar Key, get a drink at a bar on the pier, swim or boat to that island you're looking at. Note - the pier you're looking at is a lie... it only looks intact from a distance.

6) Dear Ranger

Federal land is usually very well maintained so this was very unexpected. I haven't seen places this bad in Mexico in terms of having a "screw it" attitude towards safety and threats of inevitable lawsuits. Huge heavy street signs standing only by being stuck in rotted palm stumps next to the main path (almost took my head off when I bumped it), uncountable number of exposed rusty nails on the remnants of the boardwalk you must take to reach anything, boards missing or about to break through. Signs coming one way saying KEEP OUT, DANGER - then if you go the other way you stumble into that same area and can find the keep out signs blown over from some previous storm. Also I found it heartbreaking that those old tombstones were knocked over and sitting in sand.

7) Time Requirements

Since a boat takes you out and a boat has to come get you this is important - don't stay for more than an hour. Well I wish I didn't. Like I said you can't wander around so we were just there poking things with sticks and sighing after calling the boat asking for a quicker pickup.



The idea of visiting a real historic place sounded great. And when reading about it I thought we'd go out hiking and stumble upon a cemetery. But what I didn't expect was the combination of having all individual adventure and exploration totally eliminated (you can't even walk around the perimeter of the island) but it's just in a almost vindictive state of disrepair. For one the graves are just not tended in such a way that wear is going to escalate (stone laying in sand). That would be fine to let time do it's thing but not when you advertise it and shuttle people out there to traipse around. Just seems like shitty behavior. For another... I'm fine taking risk like walking on an old boardwalk but they advertise this place hard - businesses are set up for the purpose of going out here - and they bring kids - and it's like someone made a dare to see how quickly they could give kids tetnus from rusty nails on half gone boardwalks. And it's such an oddity to have signs warning you they'll murder you then throw you in jail if you walk past this point in the sand.... then on the other side all the signs fell down years ago and you stumble into the area you aren't supposed to go to. And even all that I might be okay with but they make SURE that that big sign announcing the place is pristine. Like whoever manages it gets money by saying how they provide these things to the public then don't spend a nickel on maintenance or even bothering to go out there.  And this is a national wildlife area - they have money.


Have More Info?
Tell Us We're Wrong!
Say Hello!
Suggest A Location!
Suggest A Topic!

All images and data © 2016-2023 Andrew Thoreson unless otherwise noted.