Port Tampa Pier
West end of Prescott St.
Tampa, Fla. 33616
The first pier located here was constructed during the 1890s. In 1898, Tampa was little more than a small tourist port, built to accommodate small steamers bound for the Florida Keys. During the Spanish-American War, Port Tampa was selected as the port of debarkation, not for its facilities, but for its close proximity to Cuba. The pier was a long narrow channel along a strip of land. Loading the ships was accomplished by barefoot stevedores who carried cargo on their backs across fifty feet of soft sand.
On June 14, 1911, the city opened a public bathhouse on the pier. Prescott St. was paved to the pier in 1923 and is named for C.W. Prescott, a wealthy merchant from Erie, Pennsylvania.
The Hugh Gilbert Strickland American Legion Post 138 has been the landmark at this pier since the early 1950s. Considered private property, it seems that kayakers are not prohibited from launching here, though membership is posted as a requirement.
Granting access to Old Tampa Bay, Port Tampa Pier is just north of the very industrial area owned by Tampa Bulk Services, Inc (a marine cargo handling company). From the air and from the road, this locale hardly looks picturesque...but from the water, it promised to be a great canvas of mixed media...and it didn't disappoint.
My destination was Picnic Island Park. Most folks launch from here, as it has a number of desirable amenities, including 7.8 acres of sandy beaches, boat ramp and canoe launch, playground, a dog park, restrooms, shelters, grills and other picnic facilities, fishing pier, and access to Picnic Island Bayou. Lifeguards are on duty Memorial Day through Labor day at the public swimming area of the park.
Round trip was about 3.5 nautical miles, and with photo snapping and lunch on the beach, a very nice 3-hour tour.
© April L. Gustetter