WEEDON ISLAND PRESERVE
South Paddling Trail
1800 Weedon Drive NE
St. Petersburg, Fla. 33702
Situated in Old Tampa Bay, Weedon Island Preserve is approximately 3,100 acres of natural habitats including mangrove swamps, intertidal flats and pine flatwood uplands. The South Paddling Trail is just one of two paddling trails that will take you through lush mangroves and over open shallow waters and productive seagrass beds.
The South Paddling Trail is a four-mile loop and offers access to the aquatic habitats that dominate Weedon Island Preserve.
Three species of mangroves common to Florida can be found along this trail. The trees growing along the shore are red mangroves, which are often referred to as walking trees because their prop roots give the appearance of walking. Growing behind them, on slightly higher ground, are black mangroves, which are identifiable by their numerous finger-like projections called pneumatophores. Pneumatophores protrude from the soil and help bring oxygen to the tree's roots. A closerlook into dense stands of mangroves will reveal the third type of mangrove, the white mangrove. Its light yellow-green leaves are oval with two small glands at the base of the leaf blade.
Portions of the paddling trail will take you into more open areas away from the mangroves. These shallow waters around Weedon Island Preserve contain lush seagrass beds where schools of fish, crabs and shrimp thrive. Mudflats, areas that are often exposed by tides and are devoid of vegetation, contain marine benthic organisms within the mud substrate.
The mangrove swamps, seagrass beds, and mudflats provide valuable habitats for many kinds of animals including oysters, stingrays and even small sharks. These important habitats also provide roosting and feeding areas for a variety of wading and shorebirds including the wood stork, a species listed as endangered in the State of Florida. Other State-listed species that rely on the Preserve include the bald eagle (threatened) and the West Indian Manatee (endangered).
Weedon Island Preserve is open seven days a week from dawn to dusk. Paddlers should return to the launch site and parking area before dusk. No overnight parking is allowed. The Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 A.M. to 4 P.M.
• The parking area and launch site for the South Paddling Trail are located on the end of Weedon Drive NE, about 1.5 miles from the Preserve's entrance.
• The South Paddling Trail is approximately 4 miles long and takes about 3 hours to complete.
• Numbered markers are strategically located along the trail to help paddlers orient themselves.
• Please check a tide chart before venturing out. This trail is best paddled with a mid to high tide.
• Insects go with the territory! Insect repellent and lightweight long sleeved shirts help reduce their biting opportunities.
© April L. Gustetter