In addition to seeing cormorants we also went kayaking through mangrove tunnels on last Saturday’s adventure!
The mangrove tunnels are always a highlight of the kayaking trip. Everyone loves gliding into the mangrove forests that are part of South Lido County Park and easing through the small channels that connect Sarasota Bay with a small lagoon in the park. Its doubly nice because we get to explore these beautiful forests and we get a break from the sun. It was hot on Saturday!
As I explained to our adventurers, these mangrove tunnels are man-made. Back in the 50’s the residents of Lido Key had a terrible mosquito problem. They brought in the Army Corps of Engineers to assess the problem. What they found was a large freshwater lagoon in what is now South Lido County Park. This fresh water lagoon was a perfect breeding ground for mosquitos. Then the Army Corps of Engineers came up with a really cool solution. They cut narrow, winding channels between the bay and the lagoon. The salt water from the bay filled the lagoon and since mosquitos can’t lay eggs in salt water, the mosquito problem was over! Not only was the problem solved but the residents of Sarasota got these beautiful mangrove tunnels to explore and to show to visitors.
There are many channels to explore through the mangroves. We went through three of them in our kayaks.
There are tons of examples of wildlife that you can see in the mangroves. Mangrove Crabs look like big black spiders but don’t be afraid, they won’t jump on you ;) They live on the mangroves and eat some of the plant life that collects on their roots. We saw two different starfish. One was a baby, it was tiny. We also saw a full grown one. Both were yellow and pretty easy to pick out on the bottom of the channels. Did you know that starfish can eat shellfish? How is that possible – you ask? What happens is they climb on top of the shellfish and apply pressure until the muscle holding the shell together gets tired and relaxes. Once there is a crack in the shell the starfish exudes its own stomach and inserts it into the clam or muscle’s shell and eats it! It’s a crazy way to get a meal but it’s worked for the starfish for a long time.
A lot of people ask me how I can tell the different mangroves apart. I look at their leaves. There are three types of mangroves; red, white, and black. The red mangroves have big, long, pointy leaves that are a little bit yellow on the bottom. The white mangroves’ leaves are round and have little black dots in them. Those dots are pretty cool because that’s one way the tree uses to release the salt it picks up from the water it lives in. The black mangroves’ leaves are small and narrow and are usually lighter on the bottom, almost like olive leaves.
We love kayaking through the mangroves in Florida. More on mangroves and kayaking to come!