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A least tern chick peeks out from under its mother's wing. These protected birds nest annually on the beaches at Lovers Key. Sea oats add to the beauty of the coastal landscape and help to prevent beach erosion. Red mangroves line Black Island, offering prime habitat for young fish, crabs and other sea life. Willets and other shorebirds take a moment to enjoy the sunset.
Lovers Key State Park
North end of Lovers Key.

History and Culture

In the early 1900s the islands were accessible only by boat. It was said that only lovers made the effort to get to this romantic island, thus the name Lovers Key. A road to the island was built in 1965. Local legend hints that Black Island got its name from Black Augustus, a pirate who had been captured by authorities, and later escaped, making this island his home for the remainder of his life. Fish camps were located on Black Island from the early 1900s until the late 1950s. Then, in the 1960s and 1970s, the four barrier islands were slated for development. Preparations for development damaged the islands. Mangrove swamps were altered to uplands by dredging a canal through Black Island. In 1983, the state acquired the islands and in 1996, merged with adjacent Carl E. Johnson County Park to become Lovers Key Carl E. Johnson State Park.

Private party canoes line the man-made beach on the banks of Craig River, a dredged waterway within Black Island.

Man-made Beach

Prior to acquisition by the state of Florida, Black Island was private property. Canals were dredged in the interior creating man-made beaches and paddling opportunities for visitors.

The canal within Black Island provided boating, paddling and picnicking opportunities.

Black Island Canal

As private property, the canals within Black Island were dredged in an effort to prepare the land for development. A resort-style community was originally planned for the property.

Taken circa 1960, this aerial photograph shows what is now Lovers Key State Park.

Lovers Key, 1960

Plans for a causeway connecting the small barrier islands between Estero Bay and the Gulf of Mexico to the mainland began in the late 1950s. Prior to the causeway's construction, the islands were accessible only by boat. Boaters favored Lovers Key as the place to watch a romantic sunset.

Australian pine trees dominated the landscape prior to their removal under state management.

Australian Pines

Exotic plant species have thrived in the disturbed uplands of Lovers Key State Park. Park management has worked diligently over two decades to eradicate Australian pines, Brazilian pepper, lead tree and other invasive species. Today, exotic removal is at a maintenance level and native plants dominate the landscape.

View from South Beach on Lovers Key, 1999.

South Beach, 1999

As is the nature of barrier islands, Lovers Key is ever-changing. A series of storms eroded large sections of the south beach between 1998 and 2003. In 2004, a renourishment project was completed, which added sand and vegetation to the shoreline. The continued removal of Australian pines from the beach, combined with ongoing planting of native sand-holding species (such as sea oats and railroad vine) has prevented further erosion. Today, the beach offers nesting habitat to loggerhead sea turtles, least terns, American oystercatchers and other shorebirds.