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Blind Pass: Sanibel's Hidden Treasure

By Susan Kelley

Blind Pass is one of the coolest places to visit on Sanibel Island. Blind Pass is the area directly in between Sanibel Island and Captiva. It is a channel of water that separates the two islands.

Fourteen years ago when we first came to Sanibel, Blind Pass was very different. There was a huge amount of water that separated the island and passed under the bridge. Boats and Sea-Doo's could be seen all the time boating in and out of the pass. But some time around 2002 the pass began to fill in with sand and began closing up. Every year since then we would notice a dramatic change in how this beach was shaped. It was disappointing being I am a sheller and this used to be the best place to shell on the island. But let me take you back to our first experiences at Blind Pass and all the fun and adventures that we had.

The first years we visited Blind Pass we would bring our chairs, mats, cooler and umbrella. But after a few years we just brought the straw mats to sit on because we didn't sit that much, as we were usually in the water looking for shells. And the shells were awesome--more shells than I had ever seen in my life, piled at least a foot thick in areas! Our plan was to come at low tide because that is when you could get the mother lode of shells. Fred and I bought a net and that was a big help. The beach drops off dramatically when you get in the water, so some of the better shells, even at low tide are in the water. The net most definitely helped scoop them out, so then you could dump them on the beach and find out if you got anything good.

At low tide you could walk out into the ocean about 50-70 yards and be in about one foot of water. It was a little scary sometimes when you think at high tide you would be under water. Shellers always have to be careful of stingrays, which meant you needed to truly shuffle your feet in the water, especially if you could not see the bottom clearly. In fact, on the island, they call it the "Sanibel Shuffle." I have seen many sting rays and one or two smaller sharks at this location.

The shells we would find were amazing. Huge shells, from olives to fighting whelks and conchs--it was the mother lode for sure. There would be many people there during this time of the day (whenever it was low tide) and everyone was able to walk away pleased with the shells that they found.

We have had a few adventures at Blind Pass over the years. The most terrifying for me was watching Fred almost get run over by a Sea-Doo (like a Jet Ski). Fred had purchased a snorkel and was about 40 yards out in about 5 feet of water, he was floating at the top of the water looking for shells. Out of nowhere, this Sea-Doo with two passengers comes along and starts aiming right for Fred. I'm standing on the beach helpless and start motioning with my arms, trying to get their attention that they are about to hit someone, but they were clueless. At the last minute Fred heard the noise and lifted up and they just missed hitting him. I was on the beach thinking okay, I'm going to ask the man nearby to go call 911 while I jump in and save Fred! It was so frightening. But thankfully he was not hurt but very shaken up! I don't think those people ever realized they almost killed someone! After that Fred did not snorkel that far out in the water anymore.

Another year, Fred was snorkeling again at Blind Pass and, as it happens with all snorkelers, he sort of choked on the water and swallowed some. After we got back to the condo later that day all of a sudden Fred began feeling very ill. Then he began throwing up (a lot) and could barely get himself out of bed, he was so sick. I thought I was going to have to call 911 but Fred insisted he did not want that. He was sick for almost 24 hours. I was so worried because Fred never gets sick. He told me he had swallowed some water and we wondered if that could be the cause of his sickness. Then later I was watching the news and they were talking about "red tide" and how it was affecting Sanibel. Well, as many of you know "red tide" is a floating parasitic bacteria that is a reddish color and kills fish and damages the areas of the water it is in. We determined Fred had swallowed some of this "sick" water and that was why he was so ill.

He was better the next day but not great. We were leaving the day after that and it was a tough ride home, Fred just didn't have his energy back yet. So lesson learned, never swallow the water if you can possible help it!

The sunsets at Blind Pass are just spectacular. The beach faces Westward so the view is just perfect. Many people come to Blind Pass every evening to watch the sun go down. Bring your camera. It is a great place to get a beautiful sunset photograph. Last summer we were at Blind Pass close to sunset and there was a couple getting married right on the beach. It was very pretty and the weather was perfect. What great weddings photos those were going to be!

On the Sanibel side of Blind Pass there is a small pay parking lot for your use. The cost is $2.00 per hour. After you pay you will get a ticket to place in your car windshield. There is also a pay lot on the Captiva side of the bridge, but we normally park on the Sanibel side. Parking is free after 7 PM.

If you do chose to come during the later afternoon or evening hours make sure you bring the mosquito spray if it is during the summer. You don't want to get eaten alive!

We visited Sanibel this past January and at that time of year there are more birds on the island than usual. At Blind Pass there was one very large bird that was sort of stalking a man who was fishing. Whenever the fisherman moved, the bird followed. It was so funny. We took a few pictures and just the way the angle was on the beach, the bird looks taller than the six foot fisherman!

Because the pass has filled with sand, the shells are not as good at Blind Pass as they were when we first starting visiting this beach. It is disappointing. But Sanibel Island is going to do a project where they re-open Blind Pass again. Hopefully when they do this the shells will be more available as they were in the past.

Of course Hurricane Charley also was a big help (if you can call it that) in closing up the pass. Hurricane force winds and tides were a very powerful force in placing even more sand in this location. In fact the sand was almost up to the button of the bridge. Amazing!

Blind Pass is a unique location on Sanibel Island. Take a few snacks, drinks, check the tide chart and try it out. Remember, the beach is covered in shells and you will need something soft to sit on.

Bring your camera with you and a bucket to collect your treasures because Blind Pass is one of the great treasures of Sanibel Island.

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Sanibel Island Activities

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