Volume 2 | February 2021
February's Piece Of Paradise:
If you've ever wondered whether February temperatures in Southwest Florida are ideal for wading waist-deep in a swift river, the answer is no. No, they are not. Nevertheless, we made a birthday promise to our son months ago that when the water was high enough, we would take our "future paleontologist" to mine for fossils in the Peace River. (Ben says the temperature wasn't horrible...)
The Peace River lived up to its name; even with our large group, the sights and sounds were tranquil.
The tour outfit we used offers tours departing from Arcadia, Wauchula, and Zolfo Springs. All are slightly over an hour's drive from Sarasota. We selected a full day canoe tour - about 9:30am to 3:30pm. There were a total of 8 canoes on the expedition, with participants ranging in age from 7 to 70ish. It was more people than we've been around in awhile, but we felt comfortably spaced in the great outdoors.
At $100 per adult, I had to remind myself that we were paying for two experiences. My family always loves an opportunity to get out and paddle on the water; today we were combining that with the new adventure of fossil mining.
There was also the feeling of a one-day gym membership. That current was not playing! The first leg of the trip was an upstream paddle. Our guide, Fred, shared that not all his customers are successful in reaching the prime fossil sites; however we muddled through with the extra 150 lbs of our kids in the canoe, so we think a person in average health with no extra bodies in the vessel could do it. There are also wade-in excursions that require no paddling.
Florida has been underwater for most of its history, which is why the gravel river bed hosts fossils of dolphins, dugongs, and megalodons. There are also exposed limestone shelves along the river banks (limestone is comprised of fossils from ocean animals that lived millions of years ago).
Florida submersion levels during the Oligocene, Early Miocene, and Pleistocene Eras.
Limestone isn't something you see every day in Florida.
The mining process was pretty simple. In addition to the canoes and knowledge, Paleo Discoveries provided a shovel, sifter, and apron to every participant. Fred showed us where to dig, and then it was basically a repeat process of scoop, sift, see, save or scrap. I managed to capture a not-super-exciting video clip of our crew in action.

We paused for a BYO picnic lunch before paddling to a second site. Our son was really hoping to find the skull of a Sabre Toothed Tiger... but he was very satisfied with the discoveries of fossilized shark teeth and miscellaneous pieces of bone and rock.
We were given a visual reference guide when the tour was over. Looks like the teeth (clockwise) might have belonged to a Megalodon Shark, Lemon Shark, Tiger Shark and Lemon Shark. And then in the left hand - a 'special" rock (?).
As much as the day was about fossils, it was about getting out of the house together and enjoying some serenity. The trip downstream was like hitting the reset button - very little paddling required, allowing us to take in the sights and sounds. Let us pause here to remember the zen...
If you think fossil hunting is an activity you'd like to take on sans guide, you could purchase a $5 fossil collecting permit and visit the Peace River on your own. Orrrrr you could settle for much smaller shark teeth with a trip to Casperson Beach in Venice, "Shark Tooth Capital of the World." I will say this: we always end a trip to Casperson Beach with a visit to Bob's Twist and Shake for some of the area's best ice cream. I mentioned this to Fred and asked where we could get ice cream after our tour... He is very knowledgeable when it comes to local natural history, but less confident in his ice cream expertise. He said he would have to think on that. He may still be thinking...
Nearby Considerations
He never did come up with a recommendation for ice cream. We tried searching Wauchula for a restaurant with outdoor seating, but came up short - which wasn't too surprising, considering this introduction to the town from www.visitflorida.com:
"In the middle of vast orange groves and fields of grazing cattle, there's a main street in the center of Hardee County. It has a store that sells artsy gifts, a tiny Italian restaurant, a coffee place, an ice cream shop. Just a block away is a quaint B&B called Quilter's Inn.

And there you have it: Downtown Wauchula."
There is one nearby attraction that we'd recommend for any adult with a punny sense of humor, an affinity for fantasy or just those who respect a man that follows his dreams: Solomon's Castle. We've been several times, though not in the past decade... and unfortunately, we didn't have enough time to get there between the 3:30 end of our tour and the Castle's 4pm closing time. The timing might work better with a 1/2 day fossil mining tour, but even years later I DO remember a special menu item in their one-of-a-kind restaurant: a float on the Boat in the Moat. Maybe we'll be back to Wauchula soon for that ice cream.
This image from Gulfshore Life shows just the beginning of a whimsical world that awaits you in Wauchula.
Homeowner Tip
Automatic Timers
In your absence, use automatic timers to turn lights within your home on and off at times that mimic your daily household routine. If you have remote access to Smart lighting system, manually operate it every so often for a less predictable pattern. The best way to make it appear that there is a live person in the home is to invite a Home Watch Professional for regular visits.
Coastal Haven Home Watch of Sarasota delivers peace of mind when you're away, and a piece of paradise when you're here. Share your Sarasota pieces of paradise with us! We'll include them in an upcoming newsletter for other Home Watch clients to consider during their next stay in Sarasota.