Monday, April 8, 2024

Why is it called Carney Island?

Being the unofficial SLBC resident historian I am often asked "why is Carney Island called Carney Island when there is no Island?" Well, it's proper name is Carney Island Recreation and Conservation Area. So think of it as an island recreation and conservation area named after John Carney. And, by the way, there are two islands.

Around 1870 Captain John L. Carney had seen that wild sour Seville oranges planted by Spanish explorers were still growing after a couple of centuries which led him to believe it would be a good location for citrus groves. In '74 he bought 400 acres of property on Lake Weir which consisted of most of Hammock Peninsula and two islands to the south, Orange Island and Lemon Island.
1883 map by T.M Shackleford showing peninsula and islands
Carney's business was successful and his groves on the Hammock Peninsula still exist but the island groves have long been abandoned. Over the years the Lake Weir water level has fallen and the islands now resemble hammocks in wetlands and maps no longer name them. However the southernmost tip of what today we'd call the peninsula is still identified as Lemon Point.

Peninsula and Islands - 1973 water levels
Where the road in the park ends there are trails which will give you access to Lemon Point and the two islands which are identifiable. I rode these trails after a dry period on 35mm gravel tires and while there can be areas of loose sand you can easily skirt them by riding on grass. It is well worth visiting.