Learn the History of the Caloosahatchee

Proposed canal connecting Lake Okeechobee to the Caloosahatchee

SCCF’s Policy Director, Rae Ann Wessel, is to be featured speaker at the Captiva Island Historical Society’s final program of the 2017 season. Rae Ann’s passion for the river’s current condition stems from a long time understanding of its history. Join the Captiva Island Historical Society on Wednesday, April 5th, at 5:30 pm.

The Caloosahatchee was once a meandering stream which started in a little area known as Lake Flirt just east of LaBelle. The need to get vegetables and fruit to market as well as efforts to drain the swamp, advanced the concept of an inland canal network.

Farmers, many of whom moved south when several frost events further north, caused an increase in settlement along the banks of the Caloosahatchee. Steamers plied the waters laden with citrus and vegetables shipped downstream were bound for markets out of ports at Punta Rassa and Boca Grande.

Rae Ann’s recounting of the history of food to market and changes to the river will take place at the Captiva Civic Association building on April 5. The Captiva Island Historical Society event, sponsored by Sanibel Captiva Trust Company will start with a reception on the patio at 5:30 followed by Rae Ann’s presentation at 6 pm.

Rae Ann Wessel, SCCF’s Natural Resource Policy Director, works diligently with decision makers and motivating local residents to become engaged in the political process. This is a program of a different sort for Rae Ann allowing her to express her deep understanding of the waterway’s changes and honor her mentor Charles Foster aka River Rat whose life on the river spanned nearly all of the 20th century.

Caloosahatchee Oxbow and Riverlore Cruises Underway


Join SCCF on an Oxbow and Riverlore Cruise to experience the historic Caloosahatchee. These guided trips provide a relaxing opportunity to gain a personal perspective on the river, its history, folklore, issues and solutions, as we explore the meanders of the historic upriver Caloosahatchee. We follow the river back to a time when a waterfall served as the headwaters of the Caloosahatchee and settlers braved living amongst the wilderness.

The 2.5 hour adventure begins by locking through the W.P. Franklin Lock in Olga. Heading east toward Alva, we enter the historic bends of the river and revisit the activities of the pioneers who traveled the same river to find paradise. Stories of the settlements and their adventures are blended with an understanding of the river’s oxbows, the wild creatures that call it home and the challenges the river faces.

Tours are guided by Rae Ann Wessel, a river researcher, long-time river advocate, historian and SCCF (Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation) Natural Resource Policy Director. The boat is a stable and spacious 41 passenger pontoon boat. All seats have a great view for photographs and wildlife viewing.

Cruise Dates:

Sunday, February 12, 2017 1:00 to 3:30 PM
Sunday, February 19, 2017 1:00 to 3:30 PM
Sunday, March 12, 2017 1:00 to 3:30 PM (daylight savings start )
Sunday, April 9, 2017 1:00 to 3:30 PM
Sunday, May 14, 2017 1:00 to 3:30 PM

Location: Address: 1660 South Franklin Lock Road, Alva, FL.

Directions: SR 80/Palm Beach Blvd. east past I75 (exit 141) 6 miles to light at Old Olga Rd.
At light turn north/left onto Old Olga Road. Follow road around east 2.2 mi.
WP Franklin Recreation Area is on the left.
A map with directions will be sent to each e-mail address  by Inge Santos or Wendy Kindig a week prior to the trip.

Boat Information: The boat is a very stable 41 passenger pontoon boat with canopy shade over the majority of the seats. There is a bathroom on the boat. We are not able to take electric wheelchairs, but you can get on with standard wheelchair down a steep ramp with a small step at low tide. No dogs are allowed except service dogs that have on their official vest & may be restricted if boat limit is exceeded as determined by the boat captain.

What to Bring: Sunglasses, camera, binoculars, hat, sunscreen, water, snack and a
sense of adventure! Arrive 15 minutes before departure.

Reservations: Required and Pre Paid at $45 per person. Please call SCCF.
Coast Guard requires each passenger’s name – No Mr/Mrs

Questions: Call SCCF at 239-472-2329

Your Donations at Work: Ensuring No Child is Left on Shore

unnamedSCCF’s environmental educators reach thousands of residents and visitors every year with programs that encourage the conservation of coastal habitats and aquatic resources on Sanibel and Captiva and in the surrounding watershed. Of all the educational programs supported through the Annual Fund Drive, the No Child Left On Shore outings are unquestionably among their favorites.

Designed by SCCF educators Kristie Anders and Captiva Cruises’ Richard Finkel and Paul McCarthy, NCLOS is a collaborative outreach project between SCCF and Captiva Cruises, the anonymous “Boat Lady,” the Schlossman Family, and many other supporters of SCCF’s annual operations.

unnamed (1)This program addresses the real need to provide the children of Southwest Florida experiential knowledge of the Caloosahatchee watershed and estuarine environment.  Shrinking school budgets have drastically reduced the number of educational field trips previously funded.  Many Southwest Florida families, especially those with language, cultural, physical and economic barriers, do not have opportunities to get out on the water.  Their children have never held a live sea star, shrimp or snail.  They have never waded in shallow sea grass beds and observed a horseshoe or spider crab. Thanks to No Child Left On Shore’s on-water educational field trips, that is beginning to change.

“This is a fantastic way to foster environmental stewardship that will last a lifetime,” said SCCF Executive Director Erick Lindblad.

Among the groups on past outings were a youth group from The Immokalee Foundation, YMCA summer campers from Fort Myers’ Dunbar neighborhood, and children from the Brightest Horizons Child Development Center in Harlem Heights.

As Lee County educator Dr. Charles O’Connor wrote after his students joined Richard Finkel on a Cayo Costa field trip:
“Wow, what a fantastic No Child Left On Shore trip! Just a beautiful outing with all types of neat estuarine creatures gracing our day. The dolphin below generated an unusual water halo, just from the speed and power of his watery exit.  We had groups of dolphins cavorting in our wake. Lots of sea creatures in the seine net – lined seahorse, horseshoe crab, striped burr puffer, pinfish, and a menagerie of other critters.”

unnamed (2)Seeing these happy learners really demonstrates why our members support SCCF’s day to day operations.

We look forward to sharing more stories that illustrate how your operating support is making a difference. If you have not yet given to the Annual Fund Drive, please donate today. If you have questions, please contact Cheryl Giattini at 239-395-2768 or cgiattini@sccf.org.

donate now

SCCF Open House Monday

aquariumMeet the scientists, field biologists, and others that make SCCF leading experts for water quality, snakes, sea turtles, shorebirds, freshwater fishes, prescribed burning, and more. SCCF is opening its doors on Monday, February 15, from 11-1 pm.

Along with exhibits, aquariums, and casual conversations, SCCF will once again be cooking up its famous hot dogs and other snacks while supply lasts.

As a cornerstone of the celebration, the 30th annual Nature Sounds Contest will take place at 11:45. Started originally as a bird call competition, this event has been expanded to include all sounds of nature. Elephants, babbling brooks, Rhone Island Red roosters, cows, cats and monkeys have all been part of the fun.

The tables get turned when ten-year-olds are encouraged to have their parents participate at well. For a two year old it may be the first time to be heard with a microphone. For a fifty year old it may be the first to publicly and unapologetically give their best for their elephant call. The contest is divided into age groups where everyone is a winner. It makes for great entertainment.

All of SCCF’s Marine Lab staff will be on hand to answer questions. With recent issues about our beaches and water, this is an opportunity to speak one on one with those who have been studying the issues for almost a decade. Our 24/7 River, Estuary and Coastal Observation Network monitoring “robots” can be demonstrated. There will also be nature crafts and other interactive activities.

WHM Indigo 9-15 (2 of 7)At 1 pm Habitat Manager Chris Lechowicz will be doing a talk in the auditorium about one of his most passionate topics, the Eastern indigo snake. The exhibit hall’s normal, captive bred indigo is off for a while, but there is now one similar to the two-year-olds that were hatched here thanks to Chris’s skills and understanding of how theses snakes live and grow. The snakes raised here at SCCF eventually are given to other educational institutions around the state. The captive bred snake may not be released into the wild. The last sighting of an indigo in the wild on Sanibel was 1999. Ask Chris about the Pine Island Sound Indigo Snake project and success in identifying indigos on North Captiva and Pine Island. Viable populations there still exist. Come learn why this animal is in peril.

Join us from 11 am to 1 pm on Monday, February 15. Then plan to stay for Chris’s talk.
It’s a holiday, Presidents Day!

“Critter Tales”: Helping SCCF

IMG_6343Each week programs are presented at the Nature Center on the various species found on the islands. Their purpose is to teach island residents and visitors how to live in harmony with the many types of wildlife we are fortunate enough to have on Sanibel and Captiva.

Some of the popular subjects include bobcats, alligators, plovers, sea turtles, and reptiles. These programs are an excellent way of bringing visitors to SCCF and raising awareness of our mission.

To help, check out our Gift Catalog, that directly funds all our wildlife talks. 

A Fourth Grader’s Perspective – Immersion in Nature


4th grade Pick Preserve Field Trip November 2015SCCF’s Pick Preserve, located directly across the street from the Sanibel School, is an ideal setting to incorporate Environmental Education into all facets of classroom curriculum. The Pick Preserve’s nature trail is contiguous with State land managed by the J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge and is a wonderful example of Sanibel’s interior wetlands and mid-island ridges habitat. Students from The Sanibel School are led through the Pick Preserve by an SCCF Educator who conducts grade specific activities that are integrated with their Teacher’s curriculum. On a recent fourth grade Pick Preserve field trip students wrote about their experience.

A Fourth Grader’s Perspective – Luke Crater

4th Grade Pick Preserve Field Trip November 2015,5The Pick Preserve is a great place to visit. You can see an Eagle, Hawk and a variety of other birds. You can also see aquatic critters such as tadpoles, shrimp, and water bugs. The plants are fascinating as well. There are Gumbo Limbo’s, Strangler Figs, Sea Grapes, and Sabal Palms. The Pick Preserve is quiet and a great animal nursery. When I went I saw birds of all types like Egrets, Hawks, Ospreys, and many more! I saw fish, frogs, shrimp, and other aquatic creatures.

I learned a lot of facts. Did you know that the average level Sanibel is above Sea level is 3.5 feet?

My trip was amazing and your trip can be cool too! The Pick Preserve is a great place to see and observe nature anytime.

A Fourth Grader’s Perspective – Kyle Klaric

Today I got to experience the Pick Preserve industry. In the beginning of the walk we identified trees that hinted we were in high elevation. We saw trees such as Strangler Fig, Gumbo Limbo, Sea Grape, and Cabbage Palm.

After identifying the trees and the importance of them we got into what parts you need to call an area a habitat. We came to figure out that you need food, water, shelter, and space. Our awesome tour guide Mr. Finkel, had us say it super fast so that we remembered it.

We kept on walking along the trail and then got up on a wooden platform overlooking lowland areas. We got into the subject of low land area plants. During the trip we heard sounds of cicadas and learned interesting facts such as the highest elevation of Sanibel is 12 feet. We also learned the Cattail, Leather Fern, and Spartina all are plants that give a descriptive overview that when you see those plants you are in low land areas.

Next, out tour guide put on his boots and went into the wet land areas. He brought us up Fishing Spiders, Tad Poles, and Aquatic Plants and Soils. While doing the activity we saw many birds such as the Red Shouldered Hawk, Osprey, Frigate Bird and Cat Bird. I learned so much at the Pick Preserve Trail and I hope to learn more on my next experience next year!

If you are interested in finding out more about SCCF’s educational programs or to sponsor a SCCF Pick Preserve School Field Trip or No Child Left On Shore field trip contact SCCF at 472-2329.

*Richard Finkel works full time with Captiva Cruises conducting a variety of Natural & Cultural History tours within Pine Island Sound as well as Night Sky Astronomy Cruises. Richard has led Environmental Education programs on behalf of SCCF since 1991 and can be reached at RichardFinkel@captivacruises.com

Landscaping for Wildlife

Imagine creating a mini-habitat in your yard where butterflies and birds stop to feed and rest. Wouldn’t it be a treat to sip your morning coffee while watching a Zebra Longwing nectaring on a Firebush, or a Cedar Waxwing feeding on the fruit of a Wild Olive, all in the comfort of your yard?

Landscaping for Wildlife is a home gardening program with the goal of increasing quality habitat for native wildlife, primarily birds and butterflies, throughout the neighborhoods of Sanibel and Captiva. Participants make a commitment to implement in their yards four principals that SCCF employs on its preserved lands. In a nutshell those principles are: elimination of invasive non-native plant species; the installation or preservation of native plants to support native wildlife; the cessation of the use of harmful chemicals including fertilizers to reduce runoff into surface waters; and the implementation of landscape water conservation practices.

Landscaping for Wildlife participants are encouraged to view their yards and neighborhoods as wildlife corridors among the island’s preserved lands, and as a way to enjoy wildlife without traveling to a refuge or conservation site.

Landscaping for Wildlife participants receive all the information and support they need to meet the program’s goals through workshops, house calls, information packets, landscape designs, and tours of native plant gardens. To get started, the property owner and a Foundation staff member meet for a house call. Together, they identify plant species that already exist in their landscape. Identification of invasive non-native plants and methods of removal are discussed, Maintenance practices, including pruning are reviewed from the standpoint of wildlife needs such as food, breeding areas and cover. During the LFW housecall, specific recommendations and alternatives are prescribed for reduction of water and pesticide usage. Additions of new native plants species to attract birds and butterflies are also agreed upon.

When a homeowner’s yard reaches the point where it incorporates all the principles of Landscaping for Wildlife, their yard becomes part of the native plant garden tour circuit.

Landscaping for Wildlife Housecalls
The Native Plant Nursery also offers “housecalls” on Sanibel and Captiva Islands as a benefit of  membership to SCCF. During a housecall, a nursery staff person visits your yard and may give advice on recommendations for appropriate native plantings, environmentally friendly landscaping practices, or identification of any unknown plant species. The visit is tailored to the needs of the homeowner, and nursery staff is willing to give environmentally friendly advice on any aspect of gardening.

A membership gift of $100 or more entitles you to a complimentary housecall.  If you’ve already received a housecall but would like to schedule another, you may arrange for an additional visit with a $100 donation to the Foundation (limit one per year).

To schedule an appointment, please call the nursery at 239.472.1932.

Nature Trails

center tractSCCF has 4 miles of trails at the Nature Center on Sanibel-Captiva Road, a .6-mile trail in the Periwinkle/Blue Skies Preserves on Periwinkle Way and two short (around 500 feet) trails on the Bob Wigley Preserve that are open to the public. There are also trails in the Sanibel Gardens Preserve, managed by SCCF and the City of Sanibel, which are accessible from Island Inn Road.  PDF map showing locations of all walking trails on Sanibel (SCCF, “Ding” Darling and the City)

Nature Center Trails
Shipley Trail
Periwinkle Blue Skies Preserve Trail
Bob Wigley Preserve

The Center Tract is a restored cross-section of rare and unique interior, wetland and upland habitats. It is open to members (free) and visitors ($5/adult, children under 17 free) and includes 4 miles of nature trails, boardwalks and an observation tower overlooking the Sanibel River. Guided trail walks are offered regularly throughout the year, but visitors may take self-guided tours. At the beginning of the trails an ethnobotany garden contains plants that have been used by humans for centuries and interpretive signage describes medicinal properties of the plants.

Click here for a printable PDF of the Nature Trails map


Lolly Cohen Memorial Butterfly House Open Daily

The Butterfly House was conceived by the Native Plant Nursery as an extension of our Landscaping for Wildlife program. It was constructed by Foundation Volunteers (the screen enclosure was subcontracted), and financed through the Lolly Cohen Memorial Fund and donations.

One of the exhibit’s primary functions is to educate residents and visitors about butterfly biology and wildlife ecology. One can observe butterflies at all stages of their life cycle, from egg to caterpillar to pupa to adult. Plants within the exhibit provide nectar for adults from flowers and leaves as food for their caterpillars. The larval plants for the caterpillars are essential to the completion of a butterfly’s life cycle. We hope that if homeowners become interested in creating butterfly habitat, they will expand their native landscaping to attract other species of wildlife.

Butterfly House Tours are Tuesdays at 10 a.m. for a suggested $1 donation. A guide will teach you about the life cycle and behavior of butterflies. The butterfly house is open year-round to all visitors without a guide.