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Difficulty: Basic Scenery: Fair
Location: Sarasota / Osprey
Sarasota County
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.

Casey Key;Hiking Trail?
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 Preserve.


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.

Important Items

Boat, Paddle, PFD
[Optional] Mask, Snorkel, Fins


Developed Barrier Islands
Mangrove Islands

Casey Key;Kayakers;Turtle Beach.
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 in 1983.

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.

Casey Key;Mangroves;Swing Bridge.
Swing Bridge.
Casey Key;Turtle Beach;Snorkeling.
Snorkeling at Turtle Beach.

GPS Location Aid


Swing Bridge put-in
Boat Ramp
Midnight Pass
Sand beach
Midnight Pass Marina
Boat Ramp
Turtle Beach put-in
Sand beach