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Pinellas County:
Fort DeSoto

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Fort DeSoto Park

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Difficulty: Moderate Scenery: Very Good
Location: St. Petersburg,
Pinellas County
Distance: 10 miles around Mullet Key or 2.25 miles on canoe trail
Atlas: Page 90 C-3
Last Update: October 2005 Canoe OK: Yes on Canoe Trail


If you've heard of Stephen Leatherman, the coastal geology professor known as "Dr. Beach", then you probably have heard of Fort DeSoto Park. Rated America's Best Beach in 2005, Fort DeSoto has much to offer the beachcomber: 7 miles of waterfront, sugar white sand, several snackbars and a 12 foot wide 4 mile long asphalt recreational trail for walking, biking and skating. Another highlight is Fort DeSoto, a historic fort complete with cannons and mortars.

Fort DeSoto Park has much to offer the sea kayaker as well. The 900 acre park is made up of 5 interconnected islands called "keys". Mullet Key, the largest of the islands is the focus of this trip. By circumnavigating Mullet Key, the kayaker is able to experience many different types of saltwater environments. North of Mullet Key is very shallow with a seagrass bottom. The east (Tampa Bay side) has course sand and shell beaches while the south (Gulf) side exhibits those fine white sand beaches that Dr. Beach is so fond of. To the southeast, the Egmont shipping channel separates Mullet Key and Egmont Key. This waterway is traveled by some of the world's largest ships and reaches depths of over 90 feet.

Fort DeSoto;North beach.
Fort DeSoto Beach.
For those individuals not quite ready to make the 10 mile trip around Mullet Key, there is a 2.25 mile recreational canoe trail on the island. Kayak, canoe and bicycle rentals are also available.


To visit Fort DeSoto Park, take I-275 south of St. Petersburg to Exit 4, the Pinellas Bayway. Go west through the first toll booth. Just past a condo community, follow signs to Fort DeSoto as the Bayway turns south. Continue past the second toll booth to the park. Put-in at the boat ramp located on the south side of Bunces Pass bridge.

Important Items

Boat, Paddle, PFD
Toll Road Fees, $1
[Optional] Canoe, Kayak rentals available


Barrier Island
White Sand Beach
Palm Trees
Spanish-American War fort (1898)

Fort DeSoto;Pelicans;Radio transmitter.
Pelicans and Radio Transmitter.

Tour: Mullet Key (10 miles)

The trip around Mullet Key takes 3 to 4 hours to complete. To begin, put-in at the Mullet Key boat ramp. Boat traffic can be quite heavy here, however the 800 foot WIDE (thankfully not LONG) concrete boat ramp alleviates many hassles. Head east under the Bunces Pass bridge. You should be able to see the Sunshine Skyway bridge from this vantage point. The water east of the bridge is very shallow (1-2 feet).

As you round the eastern tip of Mullet Key, you'll pass between the main island and Conception Key. Follow the shoreline southwest to some very nice bayside beaches. Approximately 4 miles from the boat ramp is the south fishing pier, a 500' pier extending into Tampa Bay. At the pier is a small snackbar and restrooms.

Continue west toward the Gulf fishing pier. You're getting close when the shoreline turns to large man-made barricades used to halt erosion at the old fort. Pass under the 1000 foot long Gulf pier and follow the beach in a northeastern direction. Two miles later, you'll reach Bunces Pass. Following the seawall east returns you to the boat ramp.

Special Interest

Fort DeSoto Park was named after the fort that occupies the southwestern tip of Mullet Key. Construction on the fort began at the end of the 1890s with the intention that this fort, along with one across the channel on Egmont Key were to protect the entrance to Tampa Bay. A battery of four 12 inch mortars and two 6 inch rapid firing cannons are located at the fort. The fort was used as a gunnery and bombing range during World War II. The city of St. Petersburg purchased Mullet Key, the fort and surrounding keys from the Federal government in 1948.

Fort DeSoto;Mortar;Ken;Exploring.
Fort DeSoto mortar.
Fort DeSoto;Resting;Stefan;Dan
Stefan and Dan 10 miles later.

GPS Location Aid


Boat Ramp Put-In
Conception Key
East Beaches
Sand Beach
East Fishing Pier
Sand beach
North Beach
Sand beach