The Kayak Chronicles ©
by Darren Caffery
CIRCUMNAVIGATING MULLET KEY
Fort DeSoto County Park, Florida
June 22, 2005
On Wednesday June 22nd, JSSKA member Tom Kelly and I circumnavigated Mullet Key and Fort DeSoto on the Gulf Coast of Florida, just outside of St. Petersburg.Fort DeSoto has much to offer beachcombers and daytrippers. It boasts seven miles of waterfront, sugar white sand, several snack bars and a 12 foot wide, 4 mile long asphalt recreational trail for walking, biking and skating. Another highlight is the actual historic fort, complete with cannons and mortars.
After getting some info from the
County Park Headquarters and despite some heavy cloud cover, we launched at
the kayak outpost into the protected waters of the mangrove. Air temperature was
in the low to mid 80s with high humidity. There was little to no wind but an
occasional slight breeze provided periods of relief.
Tom and I paddled a rented Old Town Loon tandem and within just minutes of the launch, we began to see and hear manatees in the clear dark waters of the mangrove. The manatees were rather large but reclusive. A few times, in about ten minute intervals, their heads surfaced a few times before they splashed down under the water and finally disappeared. Unfortunately, they submerged too fast for me to get pictures. As we continued our paddle of the mangrove and out into the Mullet Key Bayou, we observed some large mullet jumping out of the water and one nearly flopped into our kayak!
After a mile or so of paddling the western shore of the bayou, we rounded the
point and entered Bunce's Pass just below Shell Key. We paddled westward past
the point and after just a short distance we could see the crystal clear waters
of the Gulf of Mexico just up ahead. Exhilaration is the only way to describe
the feeling of seeing that calm, crystal clear blue water ahead.
As we made our way toward the Gulf, we explored a few small canals along the way. On the shores of the canal were some very nice picnic areas. Some were bulkheaded and some had white sand beaches. The area was complete with picnic tables and palm trees.
a short exploration and chat with a park ranger, we headed out a very tame inlet
into the very calm open water of the Gulf of Mexico. After paddling out about
100 yards, we paddled northward up the coast of the pristine north beaches and
landed for a short break. The sand was the brightest white and the finest
grain. The texture and grain of the sand was very fine and soft on the feet.
The grains were just a bit larger than powdered sugar. Since it was a bit
cloudy, there were very few people on the beach.
After a quick lunch and drink, we launched off the beach and continued our northward trek along the coastline of the pristine beaches. On our offshore trek along the coastline, we had the beaches to our east and to our west we had a spectacular view of the endless water of the gulf out to the horizon. During this portion of our course, we observed a few pods of dolphin within a few yards of our kayak. There were also plenty of pelican flying around. The water remained very calm and we could see some severe storms beyond the Tampa area. Luckily the storms appeared to be moving northward away from where we were paddling and we were never affected by the storms.
After 3 miles of paddling along the shoreline, we neared the Gulf Point fishing pier where we landed to explore a bit more. A snack bar on the pier provided the welcome relief of an ice cold drink and a hot soft pretzel. We soon launched again and after rounding the point, we entered the open waters of Tampa Bay. We could see the enormous Sunshine Skyway Bridge to our north as we paddled northeast offshore along the east beaches of the island. These beaches looked like your typical tropical beaches with more white sand and more palm trees.
soon passed another pier in the bay and just continued paddling for another 3.5
miles before we reached the next point which we rounded and continued a
northwesterly course towards the bridge at Bunces Pass. As we headed due west
to go under the bridge, we heard dolphin squeaking and within minutes we saw
them surfacing very close to our kayaks. Within a few minutes they were gone as
they headed back out to the gulf. After paddling under the bridge back into
Bunces Pass, we took a southerly course back into the bayou. During some
exploration of the bayou we saw lots of egrets and a few great blue heron. As we
neared the end of our course, the sun began to poke out.
We made our way back through the mangrove and finally to the takeout. We landed safely at 4:30 pm and after 14.3 miles of circumnavigating Mullet Key.
Dinner was enjoyed overlooking the gulf at a place called Frenchy's Rockaway Grill in Clearwater Beach. They had a fun crowd and a great live band. We chatted while we ate, and watched a spectacular sunset while drinking some potent frozen drinks and listening to the band play "Peaceful, Easy Feeling".
NEXT DAY - PADDLING EGMONT KEY
[FRIENDS OF FORT DESOTO] [MORE PICTURES]
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