Deerfield Island is a 53.3-acre nature-oriented park offering outdoor recreational opportunities and environmental education. Accessible only by boat, this roughly triangular park is bordered by the Intracoastal Waterway and the Hillsboro and Royal Palm canals. The eastern portion of the area once included slash pines, while most of the western part was a treeless freshwater marsh. Today, remnants of the wetland are evident, although red and white mangroves are the dominant species. Many of the site's native plants and animals have succumbed to invasive, non-native species over the years, but native plants that provide food for native animals are being reintroduced.
A free boat shuttle transports park patrons from the dock at Sullivan Park to the island on the hour from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekends only. The last shuttle returning to the mainland departs the island at 3:45 p.m. Minors must be accompanied by parent/guardian to ride the shuttle.
Marina: There is a marina with six slips for boats no longer than 25 feet and available on a first-come, first-served basis. The park is wheelchair accessible at high tide only.
Nature Trails: The island has two main trails. The half-mile Coquina Trail, which includes an observation platform overlooking the Intracoastal Waterway, explores the eastern side of the island, meandering through what was once a pineland. The three-quarter-mile Mangrove Trail, which includes a 1,600-foot boardwalk, passes through a mangrove swamp along the park's western shore.
Picnic Shelter: There is one small picnic shelter (capacity 20-40), available by reservation, with tables, grills, water, electricity, an area for volleyball, and a horseshoe pit. Other picnic tables and grills are located along the boardwalk and are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Primitive Group Camping: An area is set aside for youth primitive camping for nonprofit groups, from November through April. Reservations and arrangements can be made through Quiet Waters Park by calling 954-357-5100.
Playground: The island has a small shaded playground available.
Pets: No pets are allowed on the island.
Fishing: Permitted in designated areas. Saltwater anglers who fish from shore or a structure affixed to the shore are required to purchase a shoreline fishing license, unless they already have a regular resident saltwater fishing license. License requirements for shoreline anglers can be found here.
A Little History: The 53.3 acres that make up this island park were once part of a peninsula bordered by the Spanish River on the east and the Hillsboro River to the southwest. A link with gangster Al Capone in the early 1930s led to the land being labeled Capone Island, even though the peninsula didn't actually become an island until 1961, when the Royal Palm Waterway (now the Royal Palm Canal) was dredged to connect the Intracoastal Waterway and the Hillsboro Canal. Capone, who lived part time in a home he owned on Palm Island in Miami at the time, indeed planned to build a quarter-million-dollar home on the peninsula, but he was foiled on two counts. First, residents of Boca Raton didn't like the idea of having Capone as a neighbor, and so the town council there tried to require that Capone build an access road, then blocked his ability to do so. And second, Capone's ongoing problems with the authorities finally landed him in federal prison in 1932.
Early in the island's history there were suggestions that it be made the site of a field laboratory for studies of beach erosion, but nothing came of the idea. Between 1954 and 1965, according to the Boca Raton Historical Society, there was a struggle between Palm Beach and Broward counties over the title to the land. Although Broward ultimately won, the island's fate was far from settled. A group calling itself the Society for the Preservation of Capone Island fought plans to develop the property as a park, recommending instead that it be maintained as a passive bird and wildlife sanctuary, and there was additional resistance from a developer who claimed, unsuccessfully, that he had held an option on the tract since 1952.
In 1974, Broward County unveiled an elaborate plan for the island that included dockage for a hundred boats, 275 campsites, a biking path, and areas for swimming and canoeing - within the island, no less, not in its surrounding waterways. Once again, the plan came to nothing. Then, in 1977, at the urging of the Florida Department of Natural Resources, the county came up with another, less extensive plan, and this time the Society for the Preservation of Capone Island decided not to fight it. Despite another brief power struggle for control of the island, this one with the City of Deerfield Beach, county development proceeded, and construction of everything but the marina was completed in 1979. The Florida Boating Improvement Program stepped in to fund the docks, and the park opened on September 15, 1980.
In the early years after the park was established, boat shuttle transportation to the island and guided nature tours were offered twice a month, and other groups were brought over by appointment. Scouts continued to be allowed to camp on the island, as they had for years. Today the island, which was designated an Urban Wilderness Area in 1982 and a Gopher Tortoise Refuge in 1983, provides a habitat for raccoons, squirrels, armadillos, and gopher tortoises, as well as a variety of migratory and indigenous birds.
Deerfield Island Park
1720 Deerfield Island Park, Deerfield Beach, FL 33441
Phone: 954-357-5100 (phone inquiries taken at Quiet Waters Park)
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