Mound Key Archeological State Park

Unnamed Road, Estero, Florida, US, 33928 | Directions
Framed in forests of mangrove trees, the shell mounds and ridges of Mound Key rise more than 30 feet above the waters of Estero Bay. Prehistoric Native Americans are credited with creating this island's complex of mounds with an accumulation of seashells, fish bones, and pottery. Mound Key is believed to have been the ceremonial center of the Calusa Indians when the Spaniards first attempted to colonize Southwest Florida. In 1566, the Spanish governor of Florida established a settlement on the island with a fort and the first Jesuit mission in the Spanish New World. The settlement was abandoned three years later after violent clashes with the Indians. The only access to the island is by boat; there are no facilities. Interpretive displays can be found along a trail that spans the width of the island. Located in Estero Bay, several miles by boat from Koreshan State Historic Site or Lovers Key State Park.

Bird and marine wildlife viewing are limitless. Dolphins and manatees are common sights along the island.

Mound Key Archaeological State Park is an archaeological island managed directly by Koreshan State Historic Site. This 125-acre island is located in the Estero Bay, and was created over 2,000 years ago by the indigenous tribe known as the Calusa, or 'fierce people'. Acquisition of Mound Key by the State, began in 1961. Of the 125 acres, 113 of those acres are managed by the park system.

The Calusa were a non-agricultural hunting and gathering Kingdom that inhabited the entire coast of Southwest Florida. Sustenance of the Calusa was composed primarily of shellfish and fish, which is apparent through the composition of the mounds that are the structure of the island. The substrate of the entire island is a composition of the remains of this amazing culture. The Calusa formed an extensive structure of mounds, water courts and canals whose features still exist today. Mounds were constructed by the collection and organization of 'midden' which is a collaboration of shells, fish and animal bone, and artifacts such as pottery. Islands that were created by the Calusa, such as Mound Key are sometimes called 'trash-heaps' as their composition is made from waste products of their culture. They are not however, just 'heaps of Calusa garbage' simply tossed aside, but intricate compositions of substrate that were used for a display of power, religious monuments, and as burial memorials. The intact state of these mounds is used by archaeologists to tell us the story of their culture, which is why it is important not to disturb any features on the island.

Mound Key, known as 'Calos' by the Calusa, was believed to be the center of their Kingdom. The Kingdom was comprised of an extensive network of shell islands that totaled into the hundreds. The Calusa dominated this area until Europeans encountered them in the 1500's, which ultimately lead to their demise. Mound Key was not only inhabited by the Calusa, but there were many groups of settlers, such as the Koreshans, that made use of this indigenous-created island. The first Governor of Florida was appointed on Mound Key in 1566, and it was also the site of the first Jesuit mission, however short lived, in 1566 known as San Antonio de Carlos.

Saltwater fishing is always a popular pastime in the bay. There are several spots along the river for fishing. The Estero River is bracish with Snook, Mullet, Redfish, and other popular game fish. Freshwater fishing is also popular in the river. Freshwater Bass can be found as you paddle inland away from the Gulf. The Estero Bay is located about 3 miles by canoe down the river. It offers abundant saltwater fishing and wildlife viewing opportunities. The bay is home to Bottlenose Dolphins, Manatees, and several game fish.

Pets are welcome at Mound Key if they are kept on a six-foot, hand-held leash and are well behaved and maintained at all times.

Mound Key is managed by Koreshan State Historic Site. Koreshan State Historic Site is located off exit 123 on I75. Go west on Corkscrew Rd. cross US-41. Koreshans entrance is 1000 feet west of US-41 on the right. Mound Key is accessible by boat only. It can be reached by the Estero River and accessed at the Koreshan State Historic Sites boat ramp. It is approximately 3.5 miles from the boat ramp to the island. Also Lovers Key State Park on Estero Island offers a boat ramp which can be used as a starting point.