Best of St Pete Beach



Kayaking Fort Desoto Park: Topwater Kayaks

On a sunny day in late March we decided to go kayaking at Fort Desoto. We arrived on a Saturday morning around 10am. Traffic was light on the way out and we were some of the first arrivals at Topwater Kayaks, the kayak outpost in the park. One of the first things I noticed is that they seemed to have even more boats than the previous time we visited. Everything was well-organized and in ship-shape.

We filled out the paperwork and paid and they wasted no time selecting a tandem kayak for us and hooking us up with paddles and a floatation vest.


Kayak launch at Topwater Kayak, Fort Desoto Park

Above: my kayak partner, Susie, waits for me to quit snapping photos and get on with it.

Kayaks at Fort Desoto Park

Above: A view of Topwater Kayak's Outpost from the water. It's a calm water launch.

Paddling our kayak at Fort Desoto Park

Above: we love the quiet of being out on the water in the morning, before the weekenders arrive.

Shallow backwater mangrove flats at Fort Desoto Park

Above: sometimes the water gets really shallow. I love the shallow flats because they reveal the marine live that makes its home in the park. You just never know what you might see--conchs, crabs, surprisingly large fish looking for a meal, wading birds. This water is only about 8 inches deep. Thick mangroves line the shore, providing shelter and food for a great variety of fish, birds, and animals (lots of raccoons).

Kings Crown Conch gliding along on the backwater flats at Fort Desoto Park.

Above: we saw many of these Kings Crown Conchs on the flats in just a few inches of water. I took this photo while sitting in the kayak. These conchs are quite attractive, but not so much when they are covered with algae and mud like this one is. They were a great food source for the native Americans who used to live in the area.

Oyster bed by the mangroves in Fort Desoto Park.

Above: This is an "oyster bed" in the shallow water by the mangroves. It's great for oysters and fish and birds, but not so great for kayaks and waders. Oyster beds are fragile so it's best to look but not disturb. Oyster shells are very sharp, so you wouldn't want to try walking around in them anyway. The oysters in the foreground are in about a foot of water. Some in the background are exposed, and at the top of the photo you can see the long roots of the red mangrove trees.

Kayaking in the mangroves at Fort Desoto Park.

Above: the sun can get pretty intense out on the water, but there are plenty of places along the shoreline where you can pull your kayak up under the overhanging mangroves and relax in the shade where it might be 10 or 15 degrees cooler than out in the sun. Look carefully around the shadowy mangrove roots and you may see some large snook or a school of mullet taking advantage of the shade of the branches and the protection of the roots. This is a nice place to stop for a drink and a snack. Don't even think about going kayaking without taking plenty of cold water. If you are going to be out for more than 2 hours, bring snacks in a waterproof bag.

At the end of our trip, as we were about to turn in our kayak, several paddlers told us that they saw a manatee and pointed to where it was. It was too late for us to turn back and see it, but maybe next time...

We were glad we decided not to sleep in this morning, and came out to the park fairly early. On the way home, about 1 o'clock in the afternoon, traffic was backed up for nearly a mile outside the park. The line of cars in the photo below was not moving. Just a slow crawl. So if you are coming on the weekend, get here before 10:30, or even earlier on a holiday weekend if you want a picnic shelter.

Traffic waiting to enter Fort Desoto Park on a weekend.


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