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Latest update: April 2017

Weedon Island Preserve... Kayaking near St. Petersburg

Weedon Island Preserve, near St. Petersburg and Largo, Florida, encompasses 3,190 acres on Tampa Bay. This is a premier kayaking destination with paddling trails through mangrove, small lagoons, and bayous along Tampa Bay. The preserve also has nature trails for hiking, picnic facilities, and a Cultural and Natural History Center. (Detailed map and photos below.)

Paddle Weedon Island, West-Central Florida

Weedon Island Paddling Trails


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Distance: South trail (most popular) - a 4 mile loop. North trail - under 2 miles one way.
Location: Pinellas County (St. Petersburg)
Difficulty: Easy to Moderate
Tidal: Yes
Launch points: South trail - in preserve, end of Weedon Drive NE, next to the pier. North trail - along southwest side of Gandy Causeway. (See map)
Nearby points of interest: St. Petersburg, Dali Museum, Fort DeSoto Park, St. Petersburg Pier

Rentals/Outfitters/Tours:

Sweetwater Kayaks  (rentals, tours - South Trail)

Urban Kai  (rentals - North Trail)

Weedon Island... Comments and Photos

The south trail is the more popular route. Located entirely within the preserve, it features some of the best mangrove tunnels this side of the Everglades. The trail is a four mile loop and well marked (markers #1 through #38). It's mostly shallow water, so we recommend paddling during mid to high tide. We discovered many people avoid the more open portion of the trail by turning around and paddling back through the tunnels. No problem, plus the "backward" paddlers always gave us the right of way.

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.


South Paddling Trail

 

Launch to Trail

We launched from a small beach next to the fishing pier at the end of Weedon Drive. Parking is limited, more available at the Cultural and Natural History Center. Marker #1 is to the left of launch about 100 yards.

 


 

Mile 1, Markers 1 - 10

Beginning at marker #4, the mangrove tunnels begin. They are well trimmed and most are wide enough for easy paddling. There was only one short section where we had to take apart our kayak paddles.


 

Miles 2-3, Markers 10 - 34

Between #10 and #11 is a picnic area with access to the walking trail. After #12, the trail becomes more open, but still sheltered by mangrove islands.


 

Mile 4, Marker 34 to Launch

Once past #34 (mile 3), the final mile skirts the outer edge of the preserve on open water to #38 (the last), then back to #1 and launch.


North Trail

The north trail is within Masters Bayou, a popular boat anchorage. Mostly open water, there is virtually no shade and little shelter from the wind. While we did not kayak this section, we provide photos of launch areas for informational purposes. Be sure to observe the high tide line when parking along the causeway.


Weedon Island Preserve... the Boardwalks

Connected by a paved walkway, there are two long boardwalk loops that weave through the preserve; altogether, about 2 miles of (handicap-accessible) boardwalks and pavement. There are viewing platforms that overlook ponds along the paddling trail. In places, the boardwalk crosses mangrove tunnel. A 45' observation tower offers panoramic views of the preserve and Tampa Bay.

Views along Bay Boardwalk

 

Views along Tower Boardwalk


History

Weedon Island has a long and colorful history, from early Native American cultures, to a movie studio, airport, and speakeasy. It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1972, and became a State Preserve in 1980 (managed by Pinellas County). The Cultural and Natural History Center has videos and exhibits about the early residents of Weedon Island. An interesting exhibit is the 40-foot long dugout canoe excavated in 2011 - dating from between AD 690-1010, it's the longest ever found in Florida (probably one-half of a large catamaran).

Note: The mangrove tunnels are not natural. They originated as mosquito-control canals dug during the 1950's and 60's. While there are some indian shell mounds within the preserve, the many dirt mounds seen in the mangrove tunnels were left during the dig.

Paddle Weedon Island, St. Petersburg, Pinellas County, kayak, canoe, Florida
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