Weedon Island Kayak Adventure!

18 Jul

Weedon Island Preserve

Weedon Island may be one of central Florida’s most hidden treasures. I went on a Kayak trip with some friends on a Saturday afternoon. It turned out to be quite an adventure that any outdoor enthusiast would enjoy. While located in the middle part of Tampa Bay on west side of the Gandy Bridge, Weedon Island is a sanctuary where you’ll quickly forget you are actually in the middle of two major metro areas off a main highway. All that aside, let’s start with the most important part; how do you get there? The Weedon Island preserve can be accessed of San Martin Blvd about a mile east of 4th Street if coming from Pinellas County or 1/2 mile west of the Gandy Bridge if traveling from Hillsborough County. Just follow the winding road to Weedon Drive and you’re there!

Kayak Launch

Park at Discovery Center where you can get a quick overview of the island’s history. Human artifacts dating as old as 1800 years have been uncovered during excavations on the preserve. Creek Indians moved down from the north in 1700s eventually becoming the Seminoles. The natives took advantage of the abundant food sources the area presented from the plant life to extremely fertile fishing grounds. Several trails and observation towers allow you get a glimpse of the pristine landscape where these original Americans once thrived. But if you really want take in what this amazing preserve is all about, you’ll want to get out on the water.

Bring your own canoe or kayak and drop it in the water at the specialized launching dock. If you don’t own one, then rent a kayak from Sweetwater Kayaks. They’ll give you the equipment you need then send you on your way. Make sure to bring a small cooler and a snack for the trip. You will get thirsty in the warm Florida sun even in the cooler months. We followed the kayak trail where over 30 markers guide you through open estuaries and mangrove jungles. This part of the bay is pretty shallow particularly at low tide. Pay attention so you don’t have to drag you ride to deeper water. Some of the waterways through he mangroves are both shallow and narrow. Some degree of endurance is required, but nothing too strenuous.

First Marker Shallow But Clear Estuary

Wildlife is abundant on the kayak adventure. Fiddler crabs line the mangrove roots like a welcoming party. If you’re lucky (or maybe unlucky) one may even hop on to hitch a ride. We encountered just about every wading bird imaginable on our three-hour tour. From the smaller Snow Egret, the Ibis and Little Blue Heron to the majestic Great Egret and Great Blue Heron, we had plenty of spectators watching or maybe laughing at us as we worked our way through their world.  I heard dolphin and manatees were common in the preserve during higher tides, but the tide was well short that day. Only mullet leapt around the calm waters. That was enough entertainment for me though. I understood why the Native Americans cherished this place.

Eventually, the winding waterways and secluded lagoons open up to an open body of water that marks the home stretch back to the launch area. Along the way you can beach yourself on a sandbar in the middle of the open bay. You won’t be alone here! The sandbar is a popular stopping point. Regain the energy needed to paddle the last leg of the journey while lounging in the sun for a while. Make sure to save a cold one for the stop at the sandbar.

Great Egret Spoonbill

As we arrive back at the launch area, the soft rumble of thunder sounds in the distance. An egret sours overhead taking shelter from the approaching storm. Our arms ache a little. Our rear ends are a little numb. We dry off a bit and throw away the trash. Upon pulling away in the car I look back and think to myself what a great day! It was the Weedon Island kayak adventure I never expected and one I fully intend to take again.

 

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