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Exploring Tampa Bay

By Kyle Grammatica

This week’s #followmeflorida region is the Tampa Bay area. Let’s take a look at some of the bay area’s best natural spots!

Weedon Island

Weedon Island Preserve is a natural and historical treasure. In 1972 Weedon Island Preserve was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places; two years later the state of Florida purchased the land and surrounding islands, opening it for public use as a nature preserve. The name Weedon Island comes from Tampa doctor and amateur archaeologist Leslie Weedon. Weedon Island Preserve is located in St. Petersburg and covers an area of 3,190 acres. The preserve is primarily a wetland area where freshwater sources meet the saltwater of Tampa Bay. Within the wetlands of Weedon Island you can find many habitats like mangrove forests and pine flatwoods. While Weedon Island was originally a true island during high tides, it is now a peninsula that is surrounded by small islands.

The Indigenous People of Weedon Island

The earliest evidence of human presence at Weedon Island comes from tools and stone artifacts dating to 5000 – 3000 BCE. Pottery and more advanced tools have been found there dating back to 3000 – 500 BCE. It has been discovered that the indigenous people built their houses with poles and covered them with palm fronds and made canoes out of burned pine trees. One nearly complete canoe was found in 2011 and is now displayed at the preserve. Radiocarbon testing showed that this canoe was made somewhere between 690 – 1010 CE. Grave sites have also been found that give insight into their methods of burial and what items would be buried with the deceased.

Things to Do

There are a total of 4.7 miles of trails at Weedon Island, two miles of which are boardwalks and paved trails. If you want to experience the wetlands wildlife up close, try out kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding at the preserve! There are even vessels available to rent. Finished your outdoor exploration? Stop by the Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center. It features the cultural artifacts found at the preserve and informs visitors of the people that inhabited the area throughout history.

Honeymoon Island State Park

Ready to move on from the wetlands of Weedon Island? Take a trip to the beautiful beaches of Honeymoon Island State Park!

Honeymoon Island State Park contains approximately four miles of beaches, including a specially designated Pet Beach! There’s excellent fishing as well, with species like spotted sea trout and mackerel. If you’re interested in searching for seashells, you’re in luck! The shelling at Honeymoon Island is excellent. If you want to take a break from the beach, stroll along the park’s three-mile trail winding through slash pine forests. While on your adventure you may spot eagles and osprey above you, and gopher tortoises and armadillos on the ground. Curious about the park’s history and natural resources? Then visit the Rotary Centennial Nature Center!

History of Honeymoon Island

While Honeymoon Island itself is somewhere between 4,800 – 7,000 years old, it was originally connected to nearby Caladesi Island. Honeymoon Island split off from Caladesi in 1921 when a hurricane created a channel between the two. Honeymoon Island was originally intended for commercial development but designated as a state park in 1981. The northern shore of the island has remained relatively undisturbed over the years, while the southern shore was modified in 1969. Around that time, large amounts of limestone pebbles, rocks, and quartz sand were added to the shore. The deposits built up the shoreline about seven feet above sea level. Over the years, most of the rocks have been carried away, but the limestone has remained, creating a unique beach landscape unlike other beaches in the area.

We hope you get the opportunity to explore these and other parks and preserves around the Tampa Bay area soon!

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