Living Sanibel: Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park
Rare among all the destinations along the southwestern coast of Florida, Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park offers viable snorkeling and even scuba diving off of its sugar-sand beaches. This is made possible by a remarkable section of hard limestone bottom located roughly 100 yards offshore in approximately 10-12 feet of water. The water clarity is generally good along this stretch of coastline, and with a little effort a snorkeler or diver can swim out to observe snook, sheepshead, mangrove snapper, and an assortment of fish and shellfish species thriving on this hard-bottom reef. Several marker buoys just offshore indicate the location of the reef.
Of course, the beach itself is unimaginably beautiful. Its fine, white sand stretches for more than a mile from the park entrance north to Wiggins Pass. The 166-acre park is perfect for sunbathing, swimming, and enjoying the surf. Fishing is permitted only in and around Wiggins Pass itself. Because of the strong currents and heavy boat traffic, swimming and snorkeling are prohibited at the pass.
The bay side of Delnor-Wiggins Pass State Park lends itself to kayaking and canoeing. A boat ramp to the east accesses Water Turkey Bay, which runs via the South Channel into the Cocohatchee River. A kayak trip up the Cocohatchee winds through mangrove forest and eventually leads east and south to the underpass off of Immokalee Road, approximately three to four miles upriver. Heading north you can explore the backside of Barefoot Beach Preserve all the way to Little Hickory Bay. Although you can paddle south from the ramp, that direction soon puts you into a canal-laced subdivision where boat wakes and the lack of wildlife viewing make for a less enjoyable journey.
The birding at Delnor-Wiggins is fantastic, and the park is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. Sightings of bald eagles, osprey, and warblers during the spring and fall are common. You will also find scores of shorebirds, plenty of gray squirrels, an occasional raccoon, and any number of reptiles. Be on the lookout for black racers, red and yellow rat snakes, and gopher tortoises. During the summer months, you may come across some sea turtle crawls and nests.
Park rangers offer programs throughout the year on topics as diverse as snook fishing, cast-netting lessons, sea turtle discoveries, and native plant walks. Picnic tables, a rentable pavilion, and a concession all help to make a trip to Delnor-Wiggins State Park a day to remember.
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.