Fort DeSoto Park, Florida (1999)

I visit the Tampa Bay area for an enjoyable weekend. First, I meet a friend for a 3-hour bicycle ride on the Pinellas Rail-Trail. As always, the trail is enjoyable and filled with friendly people having a good time. And because Florida is flat, the exertion is minimal.

The next morning, we do some kayaking at Fort DeSoto Park (see photo at right). It is a Pinellas County park about 900 acres in size. It has 7 inter-connected islands (or thin, elongated keys). Five are named: Madelaine Key, St. Jean Key, St. Christopher Key, Bonne Fortune Key, and the main island, Mullet Key. Seven miles of waterfront and 3 miles of white sand beach. There are 4.2 miles of recreational trail, a large and historic fort (built in 1898), and 2.3 miles of canoe/kayak trail. The beach was recently ranked one of the 20 best beaches in the U.S. There is a 1,000-foot Gulf pier and a 500-foot Bay pier, where we saw a large number of people fishing. The entrance road to the park is interesting in the sense that it has an upscale residential vacation/tourist resort atmosphere-in many ways like the Route 1 drive through the Florida Keys. There appears to be a fair amount of recent residential construction.

We rent kayaks and engage in a leisurely 3-hour trip along the islands. Lots of flying mullet. The water is rather clear-probably due to the healthy and thick stands of mangroves we see along the shoreline. The water is turquoise in many spots, and we notice a large family campground along one of the narrow islands as we paddle by. The water is mostly quite calm and flat because it is protected by the keys, so the paddling is easy. Very little of the keys have buildings that you could see from the water. From the water, it is almost entirely mangroves.



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