The Calusa History and Estero Island

As far back as 12000 BC, small nomadic tribes began migrating from the frozen tundra of the northern continents to the warmer weather of what we now call Florida. At the time, the state was twice as large as is it today, but increasing temperatures caused glaciers to melt around 7500 BC, which caused the sea levels to rise, eventually leaving much of Florida under the ocean. Though the native settlers struggled during these tumultuous times, they managed to establish the first permanent coastal villages and mound buildings on what eventually evolved into Estero Island.


Known as “The Shell Indians,” the Calusa forged tools and weapons from scavenged shells, and then discarded them after their purpose was served. These shells amassed themselves into the 2,000-year-old Calusa Indian Shell Mound that Mound House is built on today. While societal progress, advancements in construction, and the birth of the United States have greatly transformed this land over the centuries, the Mound House museum will take you on a journey to the earliest documented days of this land, showcasing how the Calusa lived here, and how they — along with a sprawling cast of foreign settlers — transformed Estero Island into what it is today.

Mound House Facilities

Mound House is not only an active archaeological dig site, but it’s one of Fort Myers’ most
celebrated museums and a coveted venue for special events.

The oldest standing structure on Estero Island — the William H. Case House — was recently restored, complete with the furnishings and finishes that it would have had in its heyday of 1921. The house serves as a multi-level museum, showcasing Calusa artifacts and interactive exhibits. The Ancient People exhibit displays tools and weapons that were excavated on site, as well as recreated replicas that allow you to get hands on just like the Calusa. You can then explore the Settlers on the Shells exhibit, which shows life on Estero Island after the Calusa, highlighting the settler’s fishing culture. Even the bathrooms feature an exhibit, entitled Digging Deeper, that displays interactive photos and ancient crafts within the walls.

Our oldest and most celebrated museum, Stories Beneath Our Feet, is located underground, immersing guests in ancient Calusa life. The centerpiece of the exhibit is a large cutaway of a shellmound, outfitted with video narration and LED lights. Surrounding the shellmound is a breathtaking mural of this Calusa village as it may have stood over 2,000 years ago.

You can also enjoy fishing or wildlife watching from the expansive Observation Pier, start your paddle-powered adventure from the kayak launch, take a relaxing stroll through the historic gardens, or have a picnic on one of the many tables or open grasslands.

In addition to one-of-a-kind attractions, Mound House makes your visit convenient with plenty of parking spaces for vehicles, as well as a boat dock if you prefer to travel by water instead of by road.

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