|Location: Sarasota / Osprey
|Distance: 5 miles
round trip swing bridge to Midnight Pass
|Atlas: Page 97 C-1
|Last Update: February 2006
||Canoe OK: No
The focus of the trip is Midnight Pass, a once free-flowing natural
inlet between Siesta and Casey Keys. With a stormy history including
much hoopla and litigation, the pass was closed in 1983. What remains
is a 50 foot wide stretch of sand separating Little Sarasota Bay
from the Gulf of Mexico and an interesting place to paddle.
Two additional destinations can be found in this same area. The
first is Turtle Beach, a narrow Gulf coast beach with blue-green
waters and white sand that attracts snorkelers and sunbathers. The
second is Bird Keys, a protected area of mangroves popular for bird
watching and fishing.
Note: This trip received a "fair" rating due to the
substantial development can been seen during the trip route.
Canoe or hiking trail? You decide.
| Turtle Beach and Midnight Pass Marina (8865
Midnight Pass Road) is located at the south end of Siesta Key
and only minutes from Bird Keys and the Jim Neville Wildlife
From Sarasota, go south on I-75 to exit 205 (old #37). Turn west
(right) on SR 72 and go 6 miles to US 41. Go south (left) six miles
on US 41 and turn west (right) on Blackburn Point Road. Follow Blackburn
1/2 mile to swing bridge. A parking lot and boat ramp is located
on the northwest side of the bridge. The Blackburn Point Marina
is across the street from the parking lot.
Boat, Paddle, PFD
[Optional] Mask, Snorkel, Fins
Developed Barrier Islands
Kayakers at Turtle Beach put-in.
Tour: Swing Bridge to Midnight Pass (6.5 miles)
Start your trip at the swing bridge. This unique bridge actually
rotates out of the way as boats taller than 8 feet in height pass
beneath. If you hang around for a few minutes, it's likely you'll
see the bridge in action. The put-in is a dirt boat ramp on the
northwest side of the bridge.
Proceed north for two miles keeping to the west side of the Gulf
Intercoastal Waterway. You'll pass many large multi-million dollar
homes. Unfortunately, since Midnight Pass has been closed since
1983, water in the Intercoastal is not as pristine as it once was.
With little circulation, nitrogen and phosphates from lawn fertilizer
dumped into Little Sarasota Bay has been causing blue-green algae
to cover the surface in spots. In the summer months these clumps
of floating plant life make for smelly paddling.
As you near Bird Keys, you'll see many small mangrove islands.
Watch for signs to the Jim Neville Wildlife Preserve. There are
several twisty trails leading through the mangroves in the wildlife
preserve. Travel west at the inlet to reach the beach at Midnight
Pass. A short hike of 50 feet over the sand dunes will take you
to the gulf beach. The beaches on Casey and Siesta Keys are narrow,
but the water is clear and great for snorkeling!
When you have finished exploring Midnight Pass continue north to
the Midnight Pass Marina and Turtle Beach or retrace your steps
south to return to the swing bridge put-in.
Special Interest: The Midnight Pass Story
No matter how tranquil it seems, the calm waters of Little Sarasota
Bay comes with an ugly history of environmental neglect and abuse.
The closing of Midnight Pass began long before the bulldozers arrived
Originally Midnight Pass was a natural-formed inlet separating
Casey Key and Siesta Keys. In the 1960's, the Intercoastal Waterway
was dredged deeper and wider resulting in changes in water flow
around Bird Keys. The pass began to move due to erosion. In 1983,
two homeowners received permission from state and local authorities
to close the pass. The homeowners quickly plugged the pass causing
Little Sarasota Bay to become quite stagnant. As you kayak through
the bay you will come across much floating plant material and sea
grasses covered with silt and algae. Some local organizations continue
the fight to re-open Midnight Pass.
More Special Interest: Turtle Beach
One of my favorite places in Southwest Florida to watch the sunset
is Turtle Beach. This narrow sliver of land is at the south end
of Siesta Key, offering Carribean-like sunsets and is rarely crowded.
A boat ramp and many decent places to launch a canoe and kayak are
on the intercoastal side of the beach. Bring a blanket, snorkeling
gear and your camera.
The boardwalk shown in the "Bonus" Turtle Beach photo
is no more. My guess is that it was destroyed by one of the hurricanes
during the past two years. Access to the beach is now a short walk
along one of several sandy paths.
Snorkeling at Turtle Beach.
| GPS Location Aid
|Swing Bridge put-in
|Midnight Pass Marina
|Turtle Beach put-in