There is more to the St Petersburg/Clearwater area than beaches and boating. There are quiet pockets of nature filled with beauty and wild creatures. Weedon Island Preserve is one of those spots. Located on the northwestern shores of Tampa Bay, it is a quick 20 minute drive from downtown St Petersburg. Its 3190 acres is made up of marine ecosystems accessible by kayak, boardwalk, pier, and a small system of upland trails.
One mild November morning, I met my friends Tim and Lisa Salt from the UK at Weedon. They had arranged to rent kayaks for a half-day paddle through a well-marked water trail. Sweetwater Kayak Rentals delivered the kayaks to the water’s edge and provided life vests, paddles, and good advice. For the kayaking novice, Sweetwater will provide an escorted kayak tour, but we have all had our hands on a paddle before, so with a bit of a shove, we were off onto the waters of Weedon Preserve.
We paddled in sheltered bays watching American oystercatchers and egrets scavenge for food. We pulled up near a sandbar, "rafted" together and had lunch in the sun. The sand bar marked the entrance to one of many of the sheltered mangrove "highway" tunnels. We glided through the earthy-scented mangrove tunnel where the outside world melted away into quiet paradise
Jerry and I enjoy driving to Weedon in early evening. We like to watch the sunset from the fishing pier. On our last visit, a Great Blue Heron walked along one railing while we leaned against the other, content to savor the late afternoon light. A swish in the water marked a small group of dolphins, one a youngster.
Weedon also has a 45-foot observation tower nestled along one of the upland paths. A walk up the observation tower is rewarded with an expansive view of the mangrove “islands”. The sun shimmers off the waters that surround the dense, lush mangrove jungle. The downtowns of Tampa and St Petersburg are just a glimmer on the horizon and seem a world away.
For more information about Sweetwater Kayaks, check here:http://sweetwaterkayaks.wordpress.com/
For more information about Weedon Island Preserve, check here: http://www.weedonislandpreserve.org