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Day 130-131 - Fort Pierce, Beaches and Frogmen

Fort Pierce has a Manatee Center and Navy Seal Museum, which we visited - as well as a dandy beach. We held over an extra day at the Long Point campground to take care of some business.

sunny

Shortly after we headed out this morning, I spied a Toyota Dealership on the right side of the road with a really tall service entrance door! I've had the RV serviced several times during the trip, but have generally had to use a generic quick lube type places. For some reason, the Toyota dealers in the northeast do not like to service RV's. However I prefer to go to a dealership on occasion so they can check for odds and ends that a generic service place wouldn't know to check. Since I hadn't had the oil changed since Delaware, we pulled in. They fit us in and didn't complain about the height or weight of the rig (as a previous dealer had done), and got us back on the road again for much less then I'd expected. We should be good to go now for another trip around! (just kidding)

With the rig properly serviced, we got back on Hwy 1 heading north. I figured we weren't going to see any water or scenery on Hwy 1, so attempted to head east again to Hwy A1A - but found another unscheduled route change instead (our term for getting lost). A few traffic circles and zig zags later, we were back on Hwy 1 going north. Not one to learn my lessons quickly, I took yet another road to try to go East. It didn't take us to Hwy A1A, but did run into Hwy 707 which follows the waterway that separates the barrier islands from the mainland. I finally found what I was looking for in Florida - an undeveloped section of waterway (it won't be for long, they're putting in new homes along there also).

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This was a lovely drive even after we got back to homes lining the road. At least they were single family homes rather then condo's. There might have been some more expensive ones as we approached the town of Port Saint Lucie, but were more old style high end homes rather then the over the top mansions we'd seen further south. There is a nice 1913 fixer (complete rebuild actually) for sale for $850,000 if you're interested? No? Well then we'll move on to Fort Pierce.

Fort Pierce was established in 1837 on the Indian River Lagoon and named after it's first Commander, Col. Benjamin K. Pierce (President Franklin Pierces older brother). However, the homesteaders who first tried to settle in the area moved to St. Augustine after an altercation with the local Seminole Indians. Homesteaders didn't return again until the 1860's, making Florida one of the last frontier territories to be developed.

For our purposes, Mom just wanted to visit the Manatee Center, which is located in Fort Pierce. This does not keep manatee's in tanks, but is a place where they can be frequently seen and had exhibits and information about them, including an excellant video. It is located at the outlet of a creek where the power plant discharges slightly warm water. When it's cold, the manatee's like to hang out there because of the warmer water. The day we visited was quite warm and sunny and no manatee's had been spotted in the harbor all day. They prefer the open bay when the water's warm enough. But we went through the center and enjoyed learning about the 'sea cows'.

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While we didn't see any manatee's, we did see some rather odd looking fish. The volunteer said they are needle fish and quite common in this area.

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Across from the Manatee Center is the Visitors Center for Fort Pierce. This is located in the 1905 Seven Gables House, one of the earliest homes in the county. (The original did not have glass doors, those were added for the Visitors Center).

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The folks at the visitors center were kind enough to straighten me out from going completely around in circles. It seems there are two separate barrier islands across the "Indian River", North and South Hutchenson Islands. There are separate bridges to each one - and if I'd gone the route I was planning (to the bridge I could see), it would have taken me to the South Island and back southwards again. They gave me directions to the North Bridge, which we took. Both bridges are draw bridges and the span I was on was open when we got there. I had just enough time to hop out and take a picture of the South Bridge (Identical, just goes to a different island). I'm sure the cars behind me were scratching their heads... Tourists!

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Eventually all the boats passed under and I had to get back in the RV, which I managed to do before the draw span closed. Shortly after arriving on the other side, we saw signs for a Seal Museum. We weren't sure what this was exactly, but it was still early so I decided to check it out. (The earlier brown signs didn't have as much information as this.)

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Yes, this is a museum about the U.S. Navy Seal's, or Frogmen. The program was started in WWII to provide troops skilled at underwater demolition and water-reconnaissance. This is an example of a WWII Frogman's equipment:

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There are exhibits showing more information about how the unit was formed, the types of equipment and weapons used (and also used against them). They are organized by era, WWII, Post WWII, Vietnam, and modern. Outside are some standing exhibits of the types of craft used.

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While the museum was built just to be a museum, it is located at the site where the units originally trained - the beach at Fort Pierce. This is now a county park and the beach is open to the public.

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Take a close look at the bottom of this sign. I believe this will be my new catch phrase -Dept. of Leisure Services!

Anyway, we're in Florida to experience the Country, so of course we had to spend some time on at least one more beach...

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ps - I did find out what these birds are finally, they are Royal Terns.

In the dune plants along the walk back to the RV, I did manage to snag another butterfly.

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So with a little beach time in, we decided to head north about 40 miles to a State Park and see if they had any camping sites left. We drove along a stretch where the road was close to the water (Indian River, the portion of the Atlantic between the islands and the mainland) and saw quite a few Heron, Egrets, Ibis, and Brown Pelicans. Although I was tempted, this time I didn't stop for pictures. We got to the State Park and fortunately they did not have any spaces available. And why was this fortunate, you might ask?

The State Park suggested we try a county park two miles farther up the road. The county park is Long Point and they did have space available right on the water at a very reasonable rate. They also have lots, and lots of birds - Wood Storks, Heron, Great Egrets, Ibis and many others. The birds seem to have gotten accustomed to people being in their park and the county has set aside special areas for them, including a wildlife pond and Scout Island (which you can walk around, but not camp on).

A lot of folks who stay here like to fish and the birds have figured out that if they hang out where the fish cleaning is done, they can get a cheap meal - including the camper next to us. We've had wood storks hanging out by our RV all day - also Ibis and a Great Heron. And yes, we stayed an extra day here. It is such a nice spot and I really had to get some work done (4th qtr est. taxes due, add more screws to the door, among other things). These are the pic's from the first night.

Disclaimer: ALL of the pictures from here down were taked from within 25 feet of the RV!

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Here are some pic's from today (Thursday). BTW - this is just a small sample...

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And finally, while we were eating lunch I spotted a fin out on the water. I grabbed the camera (of course) and think I captured a dolphin swimming near a brown pelican. Mom thinks it's a shark, but we're not sure. I took some video also (not uploaded) where it shows three separate fin's (dolphin's again, I think. They didn't swim like dolphin's however?). Actually, now that I'm editing the pictures and can zoom in a bit more, it looks more like an Orca?

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(This isn't really a bird or any sort of wildlife in the normal sense, but he flew overhead while Mom & I were outside for a few minutes and I just couldn't resist taking a shot at capturing the flight. Nothing special, just capturing some ambiance from today.)

Logistics:

Miles Driven - 81
Camped at Long Point County Park

ps - thought I'd move this to the end, gets you into the meat of the blog sooner. Also, since Travellerspoint puts the weather in automatically, not sure why I was also doing it except to help the C vs F impaired (such as myself). Let me know if you want it changed back.

Posted by jl98584 21:07 Archived in USA Tagged family_travel

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Comments

It continues to look like so much fun. And your pictures are great. After James's graduation 4 years ago, we went over to the bird sanctuary next to Cape Canaveral (Merritt Island, I think), and on the way out I saw a sign to a manatee place, with an arrow to the right, so I took the next road to the right, and it was all sand. We kept going just far enough to decide this surely couldn't be it and we didn't want to get stuck. We did get turned around and back to the highway, but we never did see where the manatees were, so I've never seen one yet, either.

by msj

sorry you didn't see any manatees, but the museum looks interesting anyway. looks like you ended up in bird heaven to get your paperwork done. how did you concentrate? your trip almost makes me want to go to florida again. i've only ever been to orlando and its a totally manufactured town in the middle of the state. i hate it. maybe parts of the coast are more interesting.

by drque

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