History Spotlight: Calusa Days Festival

The rangers at Everglades National Park are digging up the past during the seventh annual Calusa Days Festival on March 28-29. A celebration of the Calusa Indians, some of Southwest Florida’s earliest inhabitants and part of the Caloosahatchee culture, and coordinated with Florida’s Archeology Month, Calusa Days gives visitors a chance to experience Florida’s pre-European history, and learn how these people adapted to point in Florida’s natural history that somewhat mirrors that of today: rising sea levels, changing environments and increasing populations. The festival will shine a spotlight on the Calusa, their native home, the Everglades, and how they adapted to the environment through new technologies and their way of life. The two-day event will include a number of actives and events, like ranger-led tours and interpretive demonstrations that will take visitors back in time to Florida’s earliest days.

Artist's conception of Calusa people preparing for fishing in the estuary (Art by Merald Clark.)

Artist’s conception of Calusa people preparing for fishing in the estuary.

Photo courtesy of the Florida Museum of Natural History/Art by Merald Clark

Calusa Days Festival activities include:

Guests can explore the swampy interior of the Everglades as a boat tour to the Turner River Shell Mounds snakes its way through a mangrove forest. Wildlife sightings abound on this tour, including alligator, raccoon, bob cat and a variety of bird life. Once the boat arrives at the Turner River archeological site, guests will disembark for a 20-minute, ranger-led hike of the area. The Turner River boat tour embarks at 9, 9:15, 11 and 11:15 a.m. on Saturday, March 28. Admission is $40 per person; to reserve a spot, click here.

Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias National Park Service Photo by Rodney Cammauf

Great Blue Heron, Ardea herodias
National Park Service Photo by Rodney Cammauf

Explore the saltwater portion of the Everglades in the Sandfly Island boat tour. Cruising into the Ten Thousand Island area, guests will visit Sandfly Island, home to a large shell midden that was created by the Calusa hundreds of years ago. The 90-minute boat tour embarks at 1:30 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday. To reserve a spot, click here.

For land-based fun, rangers will lead visitors on Calusa Nature Walks around the Gulf Coast portion of the Everglades National Park and the Ten Thousand Islands. Designed to give visitors a better understanding of not just the wildlife and plant life in the park, but also how the Calusa lived in this unique environment, thriving off its natural bounty. The 45-minute hikes will leave from the Gulf Coast Visitor Center at 11 a.m., 2 and 3 p.m. on both Saturday and Sunday.

Also at the Gulf Coast Visitor Center, guests can participate in demonstrations and exhibits on net and rope making, basketry, pottery, shell tools, atlatl spear throwing, a simulated archaeological dig site, and lots more. Demonstrations and exhibits will be open all day.

The Everglades National Park’s Gulf Coast Visitor Center is located at 815 Oyster Bar Lane, Everglades City, 34139. For more information about the Calusa Days Festival, visit nps.gov/ever.


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