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Living Sanibel: Bowditch Point Regional Park offers natural treasures

By Staff | Sep 2, 2015

A reddish egret stalks the beach at Bowditch Park. CHARLES SOBCZAK

The small, but amazing Bowditch Point Regional Park compresses a bounty of natural treasures into a compact package. It is named after Nathaniel Bowditch, an American mathematical genius and author of The New American Practical Navigator, published in 1802 and still used today.

Somehow, Bowditch Point has been spared from development. In the early 1970s there was a serious attempt to develop the site, but the plans never materialized. In December 1987, Lee County purchased the entire parcel, and the park had its official grand opening in February 1994.

The first thing a visitor notices about the park is its elevation, reaching 22 feet above sea level. Though the park’s small hills may look like the Calusa-built mounds on nearby Mound Key, they are nothing more than large spoil mounds created by the continual dredging of Matanzas Pass. The views are impressive from atop these manmade hills, overlooking the Sanibel Lighthouse, the Sanibel Causeway, and the boats traversing San Carlos Bay.

The park is divided into two sections. The seven-acres directly south of the 75-car parking lot are built for recreational use. This area has restrooms, a small snack bar, outside showers, decks, grills, picnic tables, butterfly gardens, and a raised boardwalk to the gulf beach. A 10-slip boat dock can handle vessels up to 28 feet. Adjacent to the dock is a sandy canoe/kayak launching area that is part of the Great Calusa Blueway.

The other section of the park consists of 10 acres of trails, observation areas, and bay and gulf beaches. Well-manicured footpaths crisscross the park and take you through several distinct terrains. The park is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail and abounds with osprey, bald eagles, and a host of shorebirds, gulls, and terns.

A sea trout caught at Matanzas Pass. CHARLES SOBCZAK

The channel markers that guide boats through Matanzas Pass and into the back bays of Estero Island border the park. You can easily spend an entire afternoon beside the water watching the comings and goings of powerboats, sailboats, shrimp boats, and Coast Guard cutters. Nearly the entire northern point of the park is surrounded by sandy beaches, making for great sunbathing along the gulf side and fantastic shore fishing along the edge of Matanzas Pass and on the Estero Bay side. Catches include sea trout, snook, mangrove snapper, and shark.

Though Bowditch Point is not exactly what this land may have looked like hundreds of years ago, the park still offers visitors the chance to find a small mangrove forest, some tropical hammock species, and various dune plants and animals amid the otherwise commercialized Times Square section of Ft. Myers Beach. Bowditch Point Regional Park is a welcome respite from the condos and high-rises that dominate the nearby landscape.

This is an excerpt from The Living Gulf Coast – A Nature Guide to Southwest Florida by Charles Sobczak. The book is available at all the Island bookstores, Baileys, Jerry’s and your favorite online sites.