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Kayaking Fort Desoto Park

Fort Desoto Park in St. Petersburg, Florida has some excellent kayaking waters. Most of the water in the park is relatively shallow and protected and provides shelter for dolphins, manatees, wading birds, shorebirds, snook, mullet, redfish, trout, and scores of other varieties of wild creatures. You might not think that being so close to the cities of St. Pete Beach and St. Petersburg would allow you to enjoy this much natural beauty and quiet, but it really does exist here in this beautiful island park.

United Park Services is the provider of rentals in the park, and rents a variety of kayaks and canoes. You can also bring your kayak or canoe and launch from most anywhere within the huge park. On this trip we rented a tandem "Old Town" kayak that got the job done.

Topwater Kayak provides an excellent kayaking experience in the park and has introduced 84 new top-of-the-line canoes and kayaks from Oldtown and Ocean Kayaks. We enjoyed our kayaking trip tremendously and we highly recommend it to anyone.

Frank and Coby run the Topwater Kayak Outpost in Fort Desoto Park. They'll help you pick out the right kayak and get you out on the water safely. And, if you have any questions about fishing, Coby is the man to ask.


Rental Hours:   Mon-Fri 9am till 5pm,   Sat/Sun 9am to 6pm.   (hours may change in winter months)

Phone: 727-864-1991

For more photos and pricing info: Topwater Kayak Outpost at Fort Desoto prices / info.


The canoe and kayak rental is located within Fort Desoto Park between the bay pier and the Gulf pier, on the north side of the road. This is a very popular place on sunny weekends. They seem to have plenty of kayaks and canoes and are open every day except Christmas.

Here I am in the Old Town tandem kayak after touring the campground at Fort Desoto Park.

Here we are paddling for a mangrove island in the park. This island has some rather tall and dense red mangroves, and we pulled the canoe up inside the mangroves to get some shade and enjoy the peace and quiet that the mangroves offer. Mangrove forests are so full of life, you always see something interesting. We did not see any dolphins or manatees on this trip, probably because there were so many people around. We did see a lot of snook and mullet. The marine life along the Gulf Coast has still not recovered fully from last year's red tide.

Red mangrove roots anchor the trees in the water and make it look like the trees are "walking." One red mangrove can start an entire island. All it needs to get started is a mangrove "seed," and some mud. Note the water beneath the roots and all the leaf detritus algae and oysters. This is where many species of fish are born and spend much of their lives. People often look for fish out in the deep water, but many of the fish are here, in the mangroves.

Mangroves are the only tree that can grow right in the salt water. One of their adaptations for handling the salt can be seen in this photo of some mangrove leaves. The white specks on the leaves are salt, exuded by the plant to get rid of excess salt intake. You can lick the leaf and taste that it is indeed salt.

Oysters find the shallow waters to their liking. You wouldn't want to step out of your kayak here. Oysters are very sharp. That's a good reason to wear shoes, even in your kayak. You never know when you might have to step out. During evening and night time low tides, an oyster bed like this would be a banquet hall for raccoons, which are plentiful in the park.

Here we are enjoying the shade and peaceful quiet of a mangrove forest (properly called a "mangle.") Pointing the kayak toward a break in the trees, we glide into another world, sheltered from the wind and sun by the branches and roots of the mangroves. The nutrient rich waters around the roots are a primordial soup from which many forms of life began their great adventure.

Fort Desoto has one of the few beach campgrounds on the west coast of Florida. It is an excellent campground. About 75% of the campsites have a water view. Here is a tent site.

Here is another view of an empty tent campsite. It has a grill, a picnic table, a spigot for water, and an electrical outlet with 2 110 volt receptacles and one 220 volt receptacle. There is plenty of room for a vehicle and several tents.

A portion of the campsites are for campers and RV's. There is plenty of shade provided by Australian pines.

As I mentioned before, it is best to arrive  by 9 or 9:30 am on weekends and holidays. Kayaking is a very popular activity in the park  as you can see from the parking lot. Quite a few people bring their own kayaks or canoes. You cannot launch motor boats from this spot, but there are other places in the park where you can.

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Florida Beaches text and images | Copyright 2006 David McRee, Beachhunter.net