|Beach Shower||Motor Boat Launch||Restaurant|
|Canoe/Kayak Launch||Parking||Wildlife Observation|
|Canoe/Kayak Rentals||Pay Phone||BBQ Grill|
|Concessions||Picnic Table||Water Fountain|
|Grocery||Point of Interest||Shelters|
|Marked Paddle Trails|
|Unmarked Paddle Trails|
|Florida Circumnavigational Salt Water Paddling Trail|
31. MAXIMO PARK Coordinates
Maximo Park, owned and operated by the City of St. Petersburg, was built on an ancient Indian Mound, still visible in the southern end of the park. This park offers both a sandy beach for launching and a boat ramp that accesses Frenchman’s Creek. There can be heavy motorized boat traffic from this site, especially on the weekends. From this park, it is an easy paddle south to Indian Key, part of the Pinellas National Wildlife Refuge (PNWR), where you can view numerous shorebirds and mangrove crabs. The area surrounding the refuge contains large quantities of seagrasses, contributing to the high numbers of fish, dolphins and manatees in the area. Frenchman’s Creek is also known to have large numbers of manatees, especially in the winter months. Tarpon Key is the next large island south of Indian Key and, as part of the PNWR, offers paddlers additional wildlife viewing opportunities.
City of St. Petersburg Parks and Recreation Department: (727) 893-7335.
32. FORT DESOTO PARK Coordinates
The largest park within the Pinellas County Park System, Fort De Soto Park consists of 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands. The park’s North Beach was named the #1 Beach in America in 2005. The park also features a 238-site campground and a historic fort used in the Spanish-American War. Launching here offers numerous wildlife-viewing opportunities. Paddle the park’s 2.5 mile marked trail and view shorebirds, fish, dolphins, manatees and three different types of mangroves. Shell Key Preserve is north of Fort De Soto, and here you can view nesting shorebirds and turtles, or camp in the primitive camping areas on the northern or southern ends of the island (the central section is off limits due to the bird rookery).
From Shell Key, continue around Tierra Verde to the north and then to the east and you will come to the Tierra Verde Marina. Entering the small channel just east of Shell Key will bring you to Billy’s Restaurant and some small shops. There are also numerous spoil islands in the area north of Fort De Soto and east of Shell Key where wildlife is plentiful. This area is also rich in seagrasses, contributing to the abundance of wildlife.
South of Fort De Soto is Egmont Key State Park. Reaching this site requires the crossing of a major shipping channel that is subject to strong currents and is only recommended for experienced paddlers. Launching from North Beach is suggested for this trip. When crossing to Egmont Key, be aware of rough water. Check the local weather forecast before putting-in. In the summer months, fast-moving storms can quickly develop, often doing so in the afternoon, and case pose a threat to those paddling in such open water. Be prepared to be off of the water before early afternoon if planning this trip.
Launching is also available from the park’s 30-lane boat ramp facility, the largest in the County. This boat ramp is used heavily by motorized boats, as is the channel leading to the Gulf. Be aware of the heavy traffic, especially on the weekends. A 35¢ toll is required to drive to the park. There is also a short, unmarked mangrove trail only open at high tide (see GPS locations). Park Telephone: (727) 582-2267.
33. BLACKTHORN MEMORIAL Coordinates
Located on the North Pier of the Skyway Fishing Pier State Park, this site is maintained by the Florida Department of Transportation. The memorial commemorates the sinking of the Coast Guard cutter Blackthorn near this location in 1980. There is a sandy beach area next to the parking lot on the western side of the pier where launching is available. There is a $1 toll to access the pier. Paddle northwest from this launch to Tarpon Key, part of the Pinellas National Wildlife Refuge. Seagrasses surround this key, creating a diverse ecosystem featuring dolphins, manatees, and a number of shorebirds and fish.
34. BAY VISTA PARK Coordinates
Bay Vista is part of the City of St. Petersburg Parks system. It offers access to Tampa Bay and the southeastern Pinellas County shoreline. There is a concrete boat ramp within the park, and a sandy area just to the left of the entrance for launching. There can be heavy boat traffic from this site, especially on the weekends. This area can be heavily influenced by the tides, especially to the southeast of the park where there are a number of salt flats. Manatees are common in this area, along with dolphins and a wide variety of fish and shorebirds, including pelicans, osprey and sting rays. The salt flats to the southeast offer some of the best fishing opportunities in the area. There is a bird rookery to the north, just south of Coquina Key at the entrance to Little Bayou. This island is home to a large population of pelicans, please observe from a distance. Coquina Key Park is located on the northern side of the Key and offers an excellent location to rest. Parking at Bay Vista is available during daylight hours only. (727) 893-7124.