The Weedon Island Preserve is an expansive 3,190 acre natural area located on Tampa Bay. This coastal system, comprised of aquatic and upland ecosystems, is home to numerous species of native plants and animals, and has a rich cultural history. Indigenous peoples occupied this site for thousands of years. Today, the preserve protects this wide diversity of natural and cultural resources for current and future generations, and is also a well-known birding and fishing site.
Our enjoyment of Weedon Island has been focused on the Paddling Trails. These trails were our first exposure to canoe/kayak trails. Someone invested a lot of time to layout these trails, and even more to mark them. The South Paddling Trail is a unique combination of open water, channels, and mangroves. The trail is marked by numbered stakes that will lead you along the trail in a loop that brings you back to the launch. You are certainly not limited to following the trail as there are a whole network of islands, channels, and bays to explore. The trail allows you to sample them all and not get lost! If you don’t have your own, there is a kayak rental concession just up the road from the launch site.
Because Weedon Island is in Tampa Bay you have to plan your trip around high and low tide. Some of the area is very shallow. In fact, there is a sandbar in the middle of the Bayou Grande that is completely above water at low tide. It is not unusual to see boats grounded and people playing volley ball on the sandbar at low tide. We believe the best time to paddle the trail is starting at about 1-2 hours prior to high tide so you are back in deep water, headed back to the launch point as the tide flows out. However, this time we started our paddling a little too early and ran aground as we exited one channel. So we just sat there, and ate lunch, until the tide rose enough to float us free. Some of the channels are really narrow – narrow enough that we took our paddles apart and used only one half to paddle through the narrowest spots.
We had a great time, saw lots of herons and cranes. At the launch point there are racks and a fresh water source we used to hose the salt water off our kayaks. Florida has done a real nice job in protecting and developing this natural resource.