Tucked away in Atlantic Beach along the Intercoastal Waterway is Dutton Island Park and Preserve. The land was purchased from the estate of Walter Dutton by the City of Atlantic Beach in 1998, and developed into a preserve and canoe/kayak launch, as well as a nice long walking trail, some picnic tables, and about 8 parking spaces, including one handicapped space. If you didn’t know it was there … you’d never know it was there.
Fortunately, I know it’s there, but I’d never been. So, with Andie working today, I thought I’d go see it, and show it to you.
This was one of the last pictures I took this afternoon. I’d walked about half way around the loop that is carved out of the upland hammock looking for something near the water. Having not been to the preserve before, I didn’t have any idea what I was looking for. But when I found it, it was everything I’d hoped it would be.
I love things in the water … as long as they’re not contaminating things. On closer inspection, I think this may have been part of an old duck blind … used to hunt in the marsh. I hope the hunting took place before the houses I cropped from the shot were built. I think I’d be a little nervous if guys wearing cammo were sitting in the rain with shotguns 50 yards from my house. Now, it’s simply some old boards sitting in the shallows of the Intercoastal Waterway, although I supposed someone could pull a boat up behind them. But not at low tide. The water in this estuary is no more than about 6 inches deep. A canoe, maybe. But if you go aground, you’re going to be waiting for rising water or have very, very muddy boots.
Along the path were several fallen trees which had been cut up by the park caretakers. You have to look at this one big on Flickr … but I swear there are two little beady eyes peering back at me out of the hollow log. I didn’t see them until I had gotten the pictures home I was trying to get the grain of the log and the patten of the hollowed out center. I was surprised when I got the chip out of the camera and looked at the capture in Windows Photo Editor and saw something looking back at me. It might have been a little creepy, but I’ve seen enough episodes of “Ghost Hunters” to know it was just the light reflecting off the eyes of some little critter. A possum or maybe a raccoon. It may be out of it’s den right now looking for small crustaceans, or digging through the trash of one of the nearby houses.
At low tide, the oysters are out of the water, little razor-sharp shells that have sliced open the feet of many unwary waders. I doubt these would be an issue, since you’d have to wade through probably feet-deep muck to get to the oyster beds … but when dredge spoils from the river were used to re-nourish Jacksonville Beach … and the oyster shells were spread out with the sand … there were so many complaints from beach-goers that the city and Corps of Engineers were forced to go out and sift as many of the oyster shells out of the beach sand as they could. But you still find more than you’d expect walking along south Jacksonville Beach. As I said, I for some reason like things sticking out of the water … and these oysters caught my eye. The only thing better than photographing them would have been shucking and eating them … but not from this water. I’ll leave them safely in the mud.
I’ll go back to Dutton Island, when I have a little more time. I’m not going to wait until high summer when the mosquitos and no-see-ums from the marsh would likely carry me away, or leave me a drained and bloodless corpse among the scrub oaks and palmettos. But it is very nice to know that such an exceptional place is so close to home .