I'm not sure where to begin.
You can tell by the sheer volume of photos in this post that I wasn't sure what to put in and what to leave out ... this place, St. Joseph's Peninsula State Park, and the adjacent waters are just spectacular.
(photo by Mrs. FC ... she got a camera for her birthday)
We did go kayaking on the bay the next day, but this post is about the joys of just wading and critter watching in the crystal waters of St. Joe Bay. The peninsula partially encloses the bay in a thin sandy embrace. That barely there strip of sand coupled with a lack of large rivers or stream diluting the bay waters make St. Joe Bay a uniquely beautiful place.
The bay is very shallow and therefore, perfectly suited for wading.
All you need to enjoy this bay is a pair of bare feet.
The darker areas are seagrass beds. The bay bottom is a mix of seagrass meadows and sandy bottoms.
The bay bottom is just full of sea creatures ... which is why this post is just so darn long.
I couldn't help myself.
Let us begin, shall we?
Let us begin, shall we?
This tulip snail holds a hermit crab and not the original snail. The surface is being colonized by slipper shells.
He has the grouchy look of a crab who is probably "discovered" weekly and held up for pictures by happy waders.
There are a lot of live sea urchins munching their way through the seagrass meadows. They will be in another bay post.
THIS bit of beaded beauty is the test of the urchin, minus the animal and its spiny covering.
The neat critter on top of the test is a chiton.
I get wet in salt water quite often and chitons are not a common sight in my book.
That made finding this one extra special.
Here is the reason you can not book a motel or cabin reservation from July to early September along the bay. Florida's bay scallop season runs from July to September and it is very popular. Visitors snorkel or simply wade the shallows, picking up the delicious goodies.
Somehow, this lucky scallop survived last season and made it in to the new year.
I hope it spawned ... a lot.
Thank you oh long ago starfish class namer.
You made remembering this one really easy.
This looks like a Forbes Common Star.
These guys eat scallops too, but this one needs to grow a bit.
This brittle star has prehensile arms that are more like tentacles than the less wiggly arms of "regular" starfish.
You can call them seastars if you like ... it is very trendy to do so, but I prefer starfish.
Above is one of our most beautiful clams, the Sunray Venus. This species is a hot aquaculture research animal and may be the next big thing in clam aquaculture.
According to my friends at Harbor Branch, the shell turns pink when they are steamed.
That opens up a whole new marketing niche ... "Enjoy pink clams ", etc.
The aquaculture hurdle to be leaped is the more fragile shell of the Sunray Venus. Clam harvesting, grading, and shipping is not for the fragile shelled.
When they are alive, the pointy end of the pen shell is deep in the sandy bottom and only the very top is above the seafloor.
I like having empty pen shells in my saltwater tanks at school, because they provide neat habitat for blennies and the like.
This is not a live horseshoe crab. It may have died or it may just be a molted exoskeleton cast off by a growing member of Class Merostomata. We did not find any live ones while wading in the park waters, but there were plenty of live ones on our kayaking trip the next day.
I find it really hard to leave shallow clear water full of marine life, but breakfast was a Zone Dark Chocolate AlmondProtein Bar and some fruit, so around 1:30 pm, we headed out of the park to find lunch.
I say 1:30, but what time it was depended on how I held my cell phone. St. Joe Peninsula is so close to the central time zone line that my phone would sometimes pick up a tower to the west and I would gain an hour.
We had a remarkable hamburger at a joint called Coneheads right outside the park entrance.
I'll post it on Pure Florida Food later.
Look at that smallpox vaccination scar ... that dates me doesn't it?
After the most excellent burger, we headed back into the park and went to the beach side to catch some late afternoon rays.
The deeper ocean water was much chillier than the bay shallows and the breeze had a nip to it, so I just did the lazy beach sloth thing and flopped down on the sand.
Yes, I wimped out.
Yes, I wimped out.
At the end of the day, I hated to leave, but we had caught a rumor of an amazing pizza place in downtown Port St. Joe and I wanted to check it out. I dragged my feet on the way back to the truck, ... not wanting to leave such a magical place.
St. Joseph's Peninsula State Park has it all ... if all to you means beautiful beaches, crystal clear bay waters teeming with very approachable marine critters, biking, hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, camping, and fishing.
We tested the kayakanicity of St. Joe Bay the very next day.
I'll tell you about that next.