Canaveral National Seashore contains cultural resources that reflect Florida history since 2000 BC.
HISTORY OF THE COUNTY OF BREVARD
BREVARD CONTY, FLORIDA – Cape Canaveral and the central Florida coast were among the first North American lands encountered by European explorers in the early 16th century. Spanish adventurers named the region Cape CaÃ±averal, which means canebrake. The area north of Cape Canaveral, the Spanish called Los Mosquitos for the stinging and pesky insect that still thrives in the area.
The 57,661 acres of Canaveral National Seashore are located on Florida’s Atlantic coast approximately 25 miles south of Daytona
Beach and just over 50 miles east of Orlando. The Seashore owns land in Brevard and Volusia counties.
The communities of Edgewater and New Smyrna Beach are just beyond the northern limit of Seashore, Oak Hill adjoins Seashore to the northwest, and Titusville is just west of the southern limit. Along the eastern edge of the Seashore is a narrow ribbon of barrier island.
Behind the dunes of the island, the Mosquito Lagoon estuary washes the shores of the oceanfront island and Merritt Island to the west, which is actually a peninsula stretching south of Oak Hill and separated from the mainland by Indian River.
Canaveral National Seashore was authorized by the 93rd Congress in the Act of January 3, 1975 and a general statement of the purpose of the Seashore is included in Section 1 of the Act:
That in order to preserve and protect the outstanding natural, scenic, scientific, ecological and historical values ââof certain lands, shores and waters of the State of Florida and to enable the use and enjoyment of outdoor recreation by the public , it is hereby established the Canaveral National Seashore.
The Seashore evolved from land acquired by the federal government to house its aerospace program facilities at Cape Canaveral. A belt of vacant land around the facilities was necessary for safety and security, so today these lands are available for public recreation, unless the aerospace program requires it.
While the needs of the space program may have been the immediate spur to the creation of the Canaveral National Seashore, the National Coastal Initiative dates back to the 1930s.
While the NPS underwent substantial expansion after 1933, serious thought was first given to setting aside undeveloped parts of the country’s coastline as units of the national park system, but before the entry of the country in World War II, only the Cape Hatteras National Seashore had been licensed.
The rapid commercial development of seaside communities after the war prompted the NPS in 1954 to undertake another survey to identify “exceptional stretches” of relatively undeveloped coastline in the eastern United States.
Some 126 areas were reviewed, of which 16 were identified as having the highest priority for government procurement. The Mosquito Lagoon area which later became Canaveral National Seashore was among 16. The report noted that the 24 miles of undeveloped beach, with vegetation approaching âthe natural and pristineâ was a scarce commodity in Florida and that the area had great potential for recreation. .
However, the coastline designation did not take place until after the vast expansion of the US space program in the 1960s. Cape Canaveral had been a missile test site in the United States since 1950, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) began operations at Cape Canaveral in 1958.
As space programs developed, the government acquired tens of thousands of acres around the Cape, and part of that area was set aside as a National Wildlife Refuge in 1964.
Mosquito Lagoon, which runs along the back of Seashore Barrier Island, is separated from the northern part of the Indian River by an isthmus; the Haulover Canal allows boats to travel between the two bodies of water.
Mosquito Lagoon and its many small islands make up two-thirds of the Seashore’s area. The lagoon is one of the most diverse estuaries on the entire east coast and has been designated by the Environmental Protection Agency as an estuary of national significance. Mosquito Lagoon has also been declared Outstanding Florida Water by the State of Florida.
In the realm of superlatives, Canaveral National Seashore is home to more federally protected plant and animal species than any national park except the Everglades, and it has the longest stretch of waterfront undeveloped along the east coast of Florida.
The barrier island system near Mosquito Lagoon is relatively recent in origin, having formed six to eight thousand years ago. The elevation of Merritt Island between the lagoon and the Indian River varies from 2 to 15 feet above sea level. The soils are sandy in
composition. The main vegetation regimes within the coast are hammocks3, flat pine forests (west of the lagoon), scrub, dwarf palm meadows and marshes.
Many areas of swamps and marshes have been drained since 1900. Annual rainfall in the region averages 54 inches, and although the climate is subtropical, the region is subject to periodic droughts and occasional winter freezes.