Egmont Key Information
Egmont Key was named in honor of John Perceval, the second Earl of Egmont Key, who played an active part in Tampa Bay history. Egmont Key witnessed the passing of Spanish Conquistadors and English Privateers in wooden sailing ships. This was the struggle between brothers in blue and gray with ships of steam and iron, and finally the giants of today, steel hulled, oil driven and satellite guided.
In the 1830's the town of Tampa had begun to develop into a bustling seaport. As the shipping increased so did the number of groundings on the sandbars off Egmont Key. To remedy the situation the citizens of Tampa petitioned the Federal Government for construction of a lighthouse at the entrance of the bay. On March 3rd, 1847 Congress authorized funds to erect a lighthouse on Egmont Key. The Egmont Key lighthouse construction was completed in May 1847 at a cost of $7,050.00 by Francis A. Gibbons of Baltimore, Maryland. At the time it was completed the Egmont Key Lighthouse was the only one between St. Marks and Key West. The first lightkeeper, Sherrod (Marvel) Edwards, did not remain on the island very long. The great hurricane of 1847 struck between September 23 and the 25th, 1847 and did extensive damage to the Egmont Key Lighthouse.
The tides during the hurricane were reported to be almost 15 feet above normal and the island had over 9 feet of water over it. Edwards and his family sought refuge in a small boat he had tied off to a cabbage palm. They rode out the storm in the boat and after the winds and the seas had subsided, Edwards rowed the boat to Tampa and resigned on the spot. Damage to the Egmont Key Lighthouse by this and subsequent hurricanes in 1848 and 1852 prompted Congress on August 10th, 1856 to appropriate $16,000.00 to rebuild the Egmont Key Lighthouse and also the lightkeeper's dwelling.
In 1848 the second Egmont Key Lighthouse designed to "withstand any storm" was completed. A tribute to the men who designed and built it, this tower still stands today. The new Egmont Key Lighthouse was approx.120 feet tall and it's lighting equipment was the most modern of its time. The lantern consisted of a fixed fourth order fresnel lens with an Argard lamp which burned whale oil.
Who should and why visit Egmont.
This tour is one of the more physical tours we offer. The ride is over 8 miles from the King Fish boat ramps to the Egmont lighthouse can be a bumpy ride. The lighthouse area is a great place to start a hike around the north side of the island where a majority of the ruins can be explored. Climb on the cannon emplacements and other structures that span from rubble on the ground to standing barracks where military personnel lived on the island.
You will see all types of sea birds and many spot bald eagles flying around the fish rich waters. As you walk around the island, keep an eye out for some other wildlife including gopher tortoises, yes tortoises not turtles. Why are they here on a 300 acre isolated island? They were brought to the island as a renewable food source. No Publix around during the Spanish American War so keeping the soldiers fed was a challenge. The turtles made a good stew and the remaining population are the ancestors to the ones brought for food.
Beaches are as beautiful that the ones on on AMI but with only boaters visiting, the shelling and exploring is excellent.
This part of Florida is not known as a great snorkeling destination. Unless you like sand. BUT, one of the cannon emplacements sits in about 12 feet of water offering small fish ans sea creatures shelter from the others that are looking for a meal. Schools of 1000's of bait fish, crabs, grouper, snapper, and dozens of other fish can be found as you float in the clear water. Your captain will keep a close eye on you as the currents can run fast through this area. If you are not a strong swimmer, we suggest that you wear a PFD as you play on the water.
So this tour is best for:
- Groups that like physical activity
- People that enjoy a short (about one mile) hikes
- Active people that want to snorkel or learn to snorkel
- History buffs that want to see and touch part of US history
- Beach lovers that love shelling
- During the summer, people that can deal with the heat, do well
- Family mix of active kids and other that want to relax and watch
- people that bring their own food and drink since there is no place close to buy anything,