Egmont Key State Park and National Wildlife Refuge
|Egmont Key State Park & National Wildlife Refuge|
IUCN category IV (habitat/species management area)
|Location||Hillsborough County, Florida, United States|
|Nearest city||St. Petersburg, Florida|
|Area||328 acres (1.33 km2)|
|Governing body||Florida Department of Environmental Protection|
|Website||Egmont Key State Park|
|Area||450 acres (182 ha)|
|NRHP reference No.||78000946|
|Added to NRHP||December 11, 1978|
Egmont Key State Park and National Wildlife Refuge is a Florida State Park located on the island of Egmont Key, at the mouth of Tampa Bay. Egmont Key lies southwest of Fort De Soto Park and can only be reached by boat or ferry. Located within Egmont Key State Park are the 1858 Egmont Key Lighthouse, maintained by the U.S. Coast Guard, and the ruins of Fort Dade, a Spanish–American War era fort that housed 300 residents. Egmont Key is located in Hillsborough County Florida on a narrow strip of the county that extends along the Tampa Port Shipping Channel.
Located on the south end of the island is the Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge, which was established in 1974. The entire 328 acres (133 ha) island is all part of the Refuge. Egmont Key is one of the three 'Tampa Bay Refuges', along with Passage Key National Wildlife Refuge, and the Pinellas National Wildlife Refuge, that was administered as a part of the Chassahowitzka National Wildlife Refuge Complex but changed to the Crystal River Complex headquartered in Crystal River, Florida. The complex also manages the Crystal River National Wildlife Refuge.
Egmont Key was listed as a Military related place of significance in the National Register of Historic Places on December 11, 1978 with reference #78000946. Only 2.75 miles North West from Egmont Key is the Historic Register #100003048 U.S.S. NARCISSUS Tugboat Shipwreck that can be toured.
Among the wildlife in the park are box turtles, gopher tortoises, dolphins, manatees, hummingbirds, and seabirds such as osprey, brown pelicans, white ibis, royal and sandwich terns, black skimmers, American oystercatchers as well as a colony of laughing gulls as the south end of the island is a nesting area closed to the public.
There are no state park fees for visiting the island (this is excluding ferry tickets or boat rental fees).
Egmont Key is only accessible by boat and has no drinking water, restrooms, or shops due to the remote nature. Because of this visitors are advised to bring food and water for their visit. No alcoholic beverages, glass, kites, drones, fireworks, hunting, or pets of any kind are permitted on the island due to the island being a Wildlife Refuge.
Visitors needing transport to the island can utilize the Egmont Key Ferry Cruise provided by Hubbard's Marina departing from the Bay Pier located within Fort De Soto. The ferry departs daily at 10am and 11am for a 4 hour trip; 3 hours on the island and 30 minutes travel each way. On Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday there is also a 2pm ferry. Ferry tickets are $30.00 for adults 12 and up, $15.00 for youth ages 3-11, and free for those under age 3. Snorkeling gear can also be rented.
GPS coordinates include:
- Ranger Station: N 27 36. 032 W 82 45. 623
- Lighthouse: N 27 36. 047 W 82 45. 634
- Fort Dade: 27.5953° N, 82.7637° W
Activities include sunbathing, swimming, shelling (shell collecting - collecting of live shells is prohibited), boating, picnicking, snorkeling, and wildlife viewing within designated areas. Visitors can also tour the fort ruins, lighthouse, and gun batteries. Amenities include beaches, nature trails, and picnic tables.
Egmont Key is open 365 days a year from 8am until sunset.
Egmont key was surveyed by Spanish explorers in 1757. In 1761, the English named the island Egmont Key for the Earl of Egmont. As with the rest of Florida, Egmont Key transitioned between rule by Spain and England multiple times before finally becoming part United States in 1827.  In 1847, concerns with hazardous navigation at the mouth of Tampa Bay led to the construction of the first lighthouse, but the Great Gale of 1848 swamped the island and all but destroyed the original lighthouse. The lighthouse keeper reportedly rode out the storm in a rowboat tied to a palmetto. After the storm had passed, the keeper rowed to Fort Brooke and tendered his resignation. In 1858, the lighthouse was replaced with the lighthouse that still stands today.
During the 19th century, Egmont Key was used as a camp for captured Seminoles at the end of the Third Seminole War and later in the century the island was occupied by the Union Navy during the Civil War. Defense considerations during the Spanish–American War led to the construction of Fort Dade on the island in 1898 and Egmont Key remained a military reservation until 1923. In 1974 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took over Egmont Key and turned the island over to the State of Florida in 1989 when it became a state park. Budgetary concerns in 2009 led to a proposal to close the park.
Harbor pilot station
Since 1926, Egmont Key has been the location of the Tampa Bay Pilot Association's Pilot Station operation guiding ship traffic safely into and out of the port of Tampa, protecting the wildlife and environment from damage.
- "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. March 13, 2009.
- "Egmont Key State Park". Florida State Parks. Retrieved 2021-03-15.
- Tidewater: Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge and State Park- Retrieved 2017-12-26
- Crystal River Complex- Retrieved 2017-12-26
- Department of the Interior. National Park Service. (3/2/1934 - ) (2013–2017). Florida SP Egmont Key. File Unit: National Register of Historic Places and National Historic Landmarks Program Records: Florida, 1/1/1964 - 12/31/2013.
- "Experiences & Amenities". Florida State Parks. Retrieved 2021-03-15.
- Tomalin, Terry. "Tampa Bay's sentinel, Egmont Key, about to be left unguarded." page L2. The St. Petersburg Times. Online. February 6, 2009. Online.
- Straub, W. L. History of Pinellas County. page 27. The Record Company. St. Augustine, Florida. 1929.
- Baker, Rick. Mangroves to Major League: a Timeline of St. Petersburg, Florida. page 18. St. Petersburg. Southern Heritage Press. 2000.
- "Tampa Bay Online: Harbor Pilot's Egmont Key Station". Archived from the original on 2011-07-22. Retrieved 2011-05-15.
- Egmont Key State Park at Florida State Parks
- Egmont Key State Park at Absolutely Florida
- Egmont Key National Wildlife Refuge at U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
- Hillsborough County listings at Register of Historic Places
- Hillsborough County listings at Florida's Office of Cultural and Historical Programs
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