GASP! Gulf Area Sea Paddlers

NW Tampa Bay Area

by James Richitt

Ive been monitoring group postings for the past couple months and I dont recall any trip reports from the Tampa Bay area. Heres some info on destinations along the southern Pasco / northern Pinellas county coastlines. From New Port Richey to Clearwater there is a N-S line of islands roughly three miles from the coast.

Starting from the north and going south:

A Sandbar:
Havent been there yet -- maybe this weekend. Not far north of Anclote Island -- hard to see since there are no plants.

Anclote Island:
I believe its a state preserve; camping is allowed. The island is thin, roughly 3 miles long (N-S) with white sand beaches along the gulf side; shallow flats and a couple smaller islands are on the east side. There is a well established plant community, tallest are primarily Australian Pine. There is an old lighthouse on the south end of the island ... if you venture off the beach, have a bug shirt or lots of repellent. There are three primary launch sites: a small park to the north of the Anclote power plant offers overnight parking and is 3.56 miles from the north end of the island -- beware low tide and the power plants cooling tower foam runoff that will stain anything it dries on; a park to the south of the Anclote power plant, on/near the mouth of the Anclote river, has four boat ramps -- its pretty busy, but there are a few, primarily mangrove, islands in the mouth of the river; there is a causeway to the swimming area of Howard Park in Tarpon Springs that offers easy launching -- after you pass the swimming area its just over two miles to the south end of the island. Note the latter two parks close at/near sunset.

Three Rooker Bar:
Formerly just a sandbar, it now has plants -- grasses, mangrove and a few other species. It appears to be at least two islands 1.4mi in length. The southernmost point is 4.0mi from my typical launch site on Dunedin Causeway (due N of Honeymoon); the northernmost point is 3.1mi from my launch point at Howard Park (head 240 degrees). Camping may be allowed on the beach, but you cant venture inland because its a bird resting zone; still the beach is pretty nice and its 30+ feet to restricted areas. Given its popularity with boaters dont expect privacy on a weekend, and there is no suitable cover from lightning. Launch from Howard Park, Dunedin causeway (see below) or continue due south from Anclote Island (<3mi).

Dunedin causeway area:
[Launch from the causeway (it closes at 11p without special permit)] The causeway goes from Dunedin to Honeymoon Island State Park and crosses over the Intracoastal Waterway. There are several small mature islands along the waterway that I assume are the result of the original dredging -- some are landing prohibited during nesting season. Just to the south of Honeymoon Island is Caladesi Island State Park.

Honeymoon Island is over two miles long (N-S) and of considerable width. Powerboats are not allowed to approach the NE side of the island. Landings are allowed and the NW sandbar extension is popular with boaters. The SW is the primary swimming section, but people will be seen along the entire west side of the island. The entire E side north of the causeway is mangroves, shallow with occasional oyster beds.

Caladesi Island is a channel, a small island and 100 yards of flats south of Honeymoon Island. The south end of Caladesi is now connected to the north end of Clearwater Beach -- which I discovered recently. There is over 2.5mi before you reach housing at the north end of Clearwater Beach. Again the gulf side is all white sand beach. Main park swimming is on the west side near the center of the island with most arriving by ferry from Honeymoon Island. The east side of the island is primarily mangrove; some channels exist through the mangrove on the central east side that lead to a dock and the parks concession stand.

To my knowledge there is no camping allowed in the state parks; intracoastal traffic on one side and city lights on the other is a camping detractor for the small Intracoastal islands (assuming its allowed)

The next non-developed islands are in south St. Petersburg near Fort Desoto and the western mouth of Tampa Bay.

All of these islands offer habitat for birds and other animals; I frequently see Osprey, Roseate Spoonbill, Anhinga, several other wading birds and yes, even baby seagulls.


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