Saturday, February 24, 2018
Outdoors

Observation towers offer different views of Tampa Bay

Want to stand in one spot and check out the skyline view of downtown St. Petersburg, Tropicana Field and downtown Tampa? Climb the observation tower at Weedon Island Preserve. It is one of 12 observation towers at parks in the Tampa Bay area.

At Weedon Island, after a short hike along a boardwalk, climb up three flights of stairs to reach the observation platform. At the top, check out a different view of the 3,190-acre preserve and beyond. Watch people fish on the pier down below or as they paddle kayaks or paddle-boards, or watch motor boats cruise through the area between Riviera Bay and Old Tampa Bay.

Take a further look and you will see the white dome of Tropicana Field and to the left the skyline of downtown St. Petersburg. Turn around and find the skyline of downtown Tampa. Watch airplanes come and go from the nearby Tampa International Airport and the St. Pete-Clearwater International Airport.

Back in the preserve, watch other objects of flight, the various birds who make Weedon Island Preserve their home.

A variety of birds can be observed from the observation towers in the Tampa Bay area. Many of these parks are part of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission's "Great Florida Birding Trail." At Sawgrass Lake Park in St. Petersburg, you'll see nests on both sides of the observation tower. At Boca Ciega Millennium Park in Seminole, watch pelicans take flight from the water. At Lettuce Lake Regional Park in Tampa, along the elevated boardwalk on the way to the tower, you'll see wading birds underneath plucking their lunch from the water.

Other wildlife can sometimes be spotted from the towers and, in some parks, this includes the reptilian creatures often found in many Florida lakes and rivers — alligators. At Lettuce Lake, which has a 3,500-foot boardwalk, much of it elevated above the water, there is a good chance you will see an alligator swimming or soaking in the sunshine while resting on the shore. Sawgrass Lake Park, a 400-acre park, is another good spot to find gators.

At Withlacoochee River Park, keep an eye out for sandhill cranes or for a gopher tortoise around the parking lot or the trail as you hike towards the 40-foot observation tower, overlooking the Green Swamp Wilderness Preserve.

Some parks offer a view of the Gulf of Mexico. In Pasco County, at Key Vista Nature Park, take a short hike along a partially shaded trail to the tower, which sits on the coast. Climb four flights of stairs to the top, sit on the bench and enjoy the view of the Gulf of Mexico. In Hernando County, climb the 40-foot observation tower at Linda Pedersen Park in Spring Hill, which sits next to Jenkins Creek. Enjoy a view of the marsh and the Gulf in the distance.

Most of the parks are open from sunrise to sunset. (You will need to leave the park before sunset.) Many are closed on Christmas Day and the day after Thanksgiving so it is always best to check the website of a park for holiday hours. Some parks have free admission while others charge $2 or $3 per car. In some cases, no change is available so you will need the exact amount.

The next time you are looking for an adventure, check out a park with an observation tower. Take in a different view of the area.

Contact Carolyn Edds at [email protected] Follow @carolyn_edds

     
       
Comments

Captainís Corner: Cobia moving into bay ahead of schedule

Rapidly increasing water temperatures have migratory fish moving toward the bay area. Typically, schools of coastal pelagic fish such as cobia and mackerel do not return until late March. This year, they are way ahead of schedule. Cobia are one of th...
Updated: 9 hours ago

Captainís Corner: Rising temperatures fire up the bite

With no cold fronts rolling into the bay area soon, it also means water temperatures are on the rise to the mid 70s. That has the bite fired up inshore and nearshore. Snook fishing is on fire with these warmer temperatures at night. Weíve been findin...
Published: 02/22/18

Captainís Corner: Warming waters, better visibility are good signs

Scuba and freediving spearfishermen and women have enjoyed great underwater visibility over the past week. Some boaters going offshore can make out the bottom structure from the gunnel of the boat. Best depths for visibility have been in 30 to 40 fee...
Published: 02/18/18
Updated: 02/19/18

Captainís Corner: Flats coming to life in north Pinellas County

The flats are really coming to life in north Pinellas County. Our main focus this time of year is spotted sea trout, though redfish are cooperating and schooling a bit. Snook are also responding to the warm weather, occasionally eating on the falling...
Published: 02/18/18

Captainís Corner: Bait a challenge, but effort will pay off

Bait has made its way into the bay and is on nearly every marker. The problem: Bait is moving and showing up at different times daily. The time spent to get bait will pay off. Fish have been blasting pilchards. Snook and large trout have been communi...
Published: 02/16/18
Updated: 02/17/18

Captainís Corner: Springtime fishing patterns moving in

The first half of February has been hit or miss for inshore fishing. The consistent cold fronts and warmups seem to have the fish confused. The week ahead should be pretty good. The best bite has been midmorning into the afternoon. With temperatures ...
Published: 02/14/18
Updated: 02/15/18

Captainís Corner: Get an early start when chasing redfish

Redfish schools have started to invade the flats around Pinellas Point. On low tide in the morning, I look for a school on an outer sandbar. These fish are staged on the edge waiting for the tide to come in. Once the water level rises, the fish will ...
Published: 02/13/18

Captainís Corner: Baitfish in the shallows improves fly fishing

Seeing large groups of pelicans diving and catching baitfish in warmer, shallow water is a sure sign spring conditions are approaching. The appearance of quality baitfish will spark a feeding frenzy that should steadily improve flats fishing for fly ...
Published: 02/14/18
Updated: 02/16/18

Captainís Corner: Action picking up as temperature rises

The wind finally stopped blowing so hard that we couldnít go offshore. Water temperatures were still in the low 50s offshore at the beginning of the week, and this affected fish behavior. Because the water was calm, we ventured out to the 80- to 90-f...
Published: 02/11/18
Updated: 02/12/18

Captainís Corner: Topwater plugs a great option as warming trend continues

Warm weather for the past week has led to an increase in feeding activity for inshore fish species. Speckled trout have been venturing out of deep holes and channels and back into shallow water to feed. This has presented a great opportunity to fish ...
Published: 02/10/18
Updated: 02/11/18