By: Kyle Grammatica
Weedon Island Preserve is a natural and historical treasure of Florida. In 1972 Weedon Island Preserve was added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places, and two years later the state of Florida purchased the land and surrounding islands and opened 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, Florida and covers an area of 3,190 acres. The preserve is primarily a wetland area where freshwater sources meet with the saltwater of Tampa Bay. Within the wetlands of Weedon Island you can find many ecosystems, 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.
Weedon Island is home to miles of man-made mosquito ditches. These ditches were dug in the 1950’s to control the breeding of mosquitoes. By digging a ditch, the water in mosquito breeding grounds could be connected to nearby waterways that contained fish and other animals that eat mosquito larvae. By introducing natural predators, the mosquito population could be controlled without resorting to pesticides or other more harmful methods.
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 dating back to 3000 – 500 BCE. It has been discovered that people built their houses with poles and covered them with palm fronds and made canoes out of burned out pine trees. One nearly complete canoe was found in 2011 and is now displayed at the preserve. Radiocarbon tasting showed that this canoe was made somewhere between 690 – 1010 CE. Grave sites have 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, 2 miles of which are boardwalks and paved trails. Each Saturday there are free guided preserve hikes that provide participants insight into the natural and cultural features of Weedon Island. There are rentals and waterways for kayaking, canoeing, and paddle boarding. The Weedon Island Preserve Cultural and Natural History Center features the cultural artifacts found at the preserve and informs visitors of the people that inhabited the area throughout history.