To the modern eye a trip down State Route 24 west of Highway 19 headed for the Cedar Keys is just a glimpse into a charming earlier Florida. Something like Key West, when Hemingway was writing there. But that stretch of rural highway is also a trip into America’s heart of darkness; a study in the light and shadows of our history. It is
an important trip to take.
The Cedar Keys are a complex of more than 100 closely spaced low lying small islands with irregular outlines, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle thrown down by a child. They are surrounded by the waters of the Gulf of Mexico, and covered with pine, cypress, cabbage palms, palmetto, swamp grasses, and wild flowers. In the brackish channels along the road and around the islands grows a rich crop of water hyacinth. The air is filled with birds, great and small.
The largest island is Way Key — about 640 acres, one square mile. – the only Cedar Key with a permanent settlement on which, confusingly, the town of Cedar Key is located.