Weedon Island Preserve... Paddling near St. Petersburg
Weedon Island Preserve, near St. Petersburg and Largo, Florida, is a 1,046 acre park listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. The preserve has two paddling trails, plus nature trails for hiking, and a cultural and natural history center. (Detailed map and photos below.)
The southern trail is a four-mile loop through mangrove tunnels, over seagrass beds, through quiet lagoons and bays, and along Tampa Bay. The marked trail is easy to follow, be sure to follow the markers as it's easy to get lost in the mangrove. Around marker 8 is a picnic area with access to the hiking trail. After marker 12 the route is through open waters. Due to tidal influence, it's best to paddle at high tide. Some of the mangrove tunnels are quite narrow, a take-apart kayak paddle or a canoe paddle are suggested. The mangrove also attract mosquitoes, so insect repellant is suggested.
The northern trail is a one-way trail about two miles long through mangrove habitat and along Snug Harbor, and ends at the beaches along the Gandy Causeway.
The 2-mile boardwalk follows the south paddling trail and leads to a 45-foot observation tower that offers bird and wildlife watching, plus a view of the Preserve and Tampa Bay. The home of several early Florida Native American cultures, be sure to visit the Cultural and Natural History Center which has videos and exhibits about the early residents of Weedon Island. Early shell mounds can also be seen. Other activities include fishing and picnicking.
Wildlife include egrets, herons, spoonbills, white ibis, manatee, dolphins, stingrays, and sharks. If you feel you're being watched, it's the thousands of small black crabs on the mangrove roots; one fell on and surprised Bobcat who almost tipped the kayak over but happy to report neither crab nor paddler was injured!
More information on paddling at Weedon Island Preserve (opens in a new window):
Paddling in Florida - Kayak, Canoe