Stump Pass – like a Painting by Salvador Dali
Stump Pass State Park – the most amazing place. Expect endless wildlife… from Turtles, Egrets, and Ospreys, to Dolphins Frigate Birds and Manatees. The white sand stands perfectly in contrast with the emerald-green water of the Gulf of Mexico while the skeletons of Australian Pine trees are sticking out of the sand. They are white like snow – bleached by the sun. Even their shadows seem to have been bleached by the sun.
They look like fingers pointing into the dark blue sky. The scenery somehow appears surreal, it looks as if Salvador Dali has made arrangements for a new painting. Is he really still around?
A Trail Gets You to the Pass
A one-mile long hiking trail is cutting through a thick “jungle.” Sea grapes are bordering the Gulf of Mexico, and a lush mangrove forest grows on the bay side of this little peninsula. At high tide, small patches of the trail get flooded with lukewarm water from the Gulf. Small crabs are excited about the change of their environment, darting around, busy trying to find their dinner, busy to find a new mate. When approaching them, they are disappearing into little holes.
It is hot during the Summer Months…very hot
The mangroves are shading most parts of the trail, but the few sections without shade are hot like a cook-top when the sun is baking down during the summer months.
Beach-goers who are familiar with the park setting bring their flip-flops. Therefore, they walk gracefully and relaxed along the path. Beach-goers without shoes are “flying” along the path, screaming and yelling. They are trying to be as long airborne as possible.
Every little shade, even the shade from a tuft of grass, is welcome as a landing-place. Around noon time, the sand is so dam hot that you have the feeling that your feet are on fire.
If you want to avoid the pain during the hot summer months, you got to bring your shoes, walk the trail in the morning or late afternoon or wade through the knee-deep water of the Gulf of Mexico.
Lagoon and Pass
After you have mastered the obstacles of the trail, you will be rewarded with a beautiful view. At the south end is that little lagoon. It is a protected area for the nesting seabirds.
You can tell by watching the birds that they love their little paradise. They are bathing in the shallow water, snoozing in the grass or screaming at each other. They do not mind when people are walking around as long as they stay behind that fragile makeshift fence.
You can walk around that fenced-in lagoon until you reach the “Stump Pass.” The pass is the end of that little world, and it is the body of water between Manasota Key and Don Pedro Island where small to medium-size boats can go to the Gulf of Mexico. When the tide is rushing into the Lemon Bay or when the water is flushing out again, there is a powerful current in that pass. The current is so strong that it is continuously reshaping the tip of the peninsular. Every day Stump Pass will look differently. The sand is disappearing on one side and building up at another place until a storm is re-configuring everything all over again.
We’ve been watching this process for over 25 years now. It is amazing how mother nature is able to re-shape this little peninsula over and over. Nothing looks like it did when we saw it for the first time in 1992.
Once in a While, all Hell is let loose
Stump Pass is a favorite hang–out spot for the local boaters. On weekends and holidays, they are flocking to the pass. Everybody is up to the neck in the water and having fun in the sun – with or without more “fun” in the jar.
Boats are everywhere, and some boaters seem to bring their whole outdoor kitchen with them. A well-organized party with plenty of food and drinks keeps family and friends always happy.
The “Original” Florida
Stump Pass State Park is the “original Florida.” This place must pretty much look like the Sunshine State when De Soto arrived in 1539. However, there are no Indians anymore, although, some of the tourists look like Calusa Indians.
They are giving the name “Redskin” a whole new meaning. It always seems to be a good idea to apply sunscreen when baking in the summer sun. Maybe next time they will be more cautious… but maybe not.
The beach section along the Gulf of Mexico does not give any shade at all. Bring your umbrella, canopy or whatever sun protection you have. The east side does provide shade, though. But there are very limited spots where you can put your chairs.
You can find a place here and there but you are competing against the mangroves, and they usually win. They are protected by the way, don’t chop ’em down.
Sometimes parking is a challenge
Parking is a little limited, especially during high season, but the park rangers do whatever they can to get you a spot. The fee is $3 per car which is not too much for the day. By the way, Englewood Beach charges $.75 per hour. Well, that can add. There are restrooms, showers, gazebos and picnic areas in the park.
The first section of the trail is a boardwalk, however, the main part of the trail consist of sand and shells. When walking on those shells, it sometimes feels as if you are a fakir, therefore, it might be a good idea to take your flip-flops with you if you are not used to walk on blistering nails.
Sorry, no food available …and the only bar is a soda machine. Therefore, bring your own bottle (oops, glass containers are not allowed) and some sandwiches if you want to survive
your little Stump Pass Adventure.
For people who love nature, Stump Pass State Park is the place where you want to be. If your preference would be to be closer to civilization (bars, restaurants, and shops) Englewood Beach, just a mile further north, would be your choice.