FORT DE SOTO PARK
3500 Pinellas Bayway S.
Tierra Verde, Florida 33715
The largest park within the Pinellas County Park System, this park consists of 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands. First opened on December 21, 1962, when the state toll road, named the Pinellas Bayway, was completed. It was dedicated May 11, 1963, in perpetuity as a public park. Annual park attendance averages more than 2.7 million visitors.
Along the 2.25-mile recreational kayak/canoe trail, oyster-laden bottoms and mangroves line the shore. The mangrove community in Florida includes three species: Red Mangrove, Black Mangrove, and White Mangrove.The plants stabilize soil following the colonization of newly formed shoals and embankments. Fort De Soto Park is home to Red Mangroves which grow seaward, closer to the water than the other mangroves and are usually flooded at high tide. The trees provide shelter for numerous small marine organisms such as barnacles and oysters. Oysters attach themselves to these roots where they are covered during high tide. Crabs burrow in the mud beneath the roots. These amazing plants are easily identified by the tall arching roots, called “prop roots”, originating from trunks and branches. It gives the illusion of trees on 'stilts'. The growth of these roots has earned Red Mangroves the title “walking trees” because they creep into new areas by branching roots
Fort De Soto Park also features a 12-inch mortar battery, located at the fort for which the park was named. It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Other historical points of interest include a Quartermaster Storehouse Museum, duplicated in size, scale, and massing of the original building torn down in 1939, after the hurricanes of the 1920s and 1930s hit the area, causing structural damage.
Nature trails, picnic facilities, seven miles of waterfront – including almost three miles of the finest white sand beach in the United States, an 800-foot long boat launching facility with eleven floating docks, a 238-site family camping area with facilities including picnic tables, grills, water, electricity, washers, dryers, sanitary disposal stations, modern restrooms, showers, play areas, and a camp store are among the other benefits of this park.