Sweetwater Keys

Here’s a map and some background info on Blood Isle and the Sweetwater Keys as featured in the short story,  A Night on Blood Isle. (Click on the image to full size.)

sweetwater_keys_map_webThe Sweetwater Keys are a group of islands located approximately 12 nautical miles west of Bennett Bay, Florida. Blood Isle, the main island so named due to its connection with the notorious pirate captain Caesar el Rojo, is about five miles in length. It consists of several limestone outcroppings and a freshwater springs, which made the island an important stop during the age of exploration. Archeological studies have found evidence of native campsites dating back 1,200 years, but no signs of permanent settlements. Many ritual artifacts were discovered leading scientist to believe it was a site of religious pilgrimage or rite of passage rituals.

The main island’s western side is mostly white sand beaches. The interior higher ground is coastal pine wood mixed with palmetto transitioning to mangrove estuaries on the east side of the island. The smaller outlying islands are little more than sandbars and stands of mangroves. The north end of the island contains a limestone outcropping consisting of several caves, the springs, and the ruins of a fort used by pirates in the 1700s.

The light station, on the southern end of the island, was the result of the tragic loss of the SS Magnolia during a storm in 1883. The steam shipping company Sterling-Bennett successfully lobbied the government to establish a lighthouse on the remote island. It was completed in 1885, constructed of cast iron with a skeletal framework with a central cylinder painted with a black and yellow spiral design. Along with the tower itself, the station consisted of a small house for the keeper’s living quarters, a building for equipment, and a small boathouse and dock. The station was automated in the 1960s and decommissioned in 1987. A high chain link fence was built around the station but vandalism and the weather have taken a toll on the buildings. Recent hurricanes have destroyed the boathouse and dock. The Bennett Bay and the Florida Historical Societies have been working to raise money to restore the light station and turn the island into a park. Due to the Key’s remoteness there has been little interest.