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Ft. Desoto Park

ft_desotoThe largest park within the Pinellas County Park System, Fort De Soto park consists of 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands (keys). These keys are home to beach plants, mangroves, wetlands, palm hammocks, hardwoods and scores of native plants. Each of these species plays a vital role in the preservation and protection of the natural environment.

Whether you are sitting on the beach or kayaking near the still water's edge at Fort De Soto, you find yourself absorbed in the abundance of natural beauty for as far as the eye can see. The complexity of the ecology is not immediately apparent, but the park offers the greatest diversity of systems just about anywhere. Emerging from the wealth of bird life, sea life, wild life and plant life is the majestic tapestry called Fort De Soto.

Another amazing example of the importance of the park's natural ecosystems is the more than 290 species of birds that have been documented by ornithologist. The beach also provides refuge to the loggerhead sea turtle, which nests between April and September.

Fort De Soto was named America’s Top Beach for 2009 by Trip Advisor, the world's largest online travel community. In 2005, “Dr. Beach,” named Fort De Soto the nation’s #1 Beach.

Annual park attendance averages more than 2.7 million visitors.

Amenities:

  • historic fort
  • over 7 miles of waterfront, includes almost three miles of beautiful white sandy beach.
  • 800-foot-long boat launching facility with eleven floating docks. see ramp permits
  • camping - 238-site family camping area with facilities
  • primitive youth camping area for organized youth groups
  • 15 picnic shelters -reserve shelters online
  • restrooms
  • playgrounds
  • two large swim centers including a food concession area located at the North Beach Swim Center
  • a lifeguard is on duty 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily on a seasonal basis from March to September
  • two fishing piers-each pier has a food and bait concession - Gulf & Bay Pier Hours: 7 a.m. - 11 p.m.
  • ferry service to Egmont Key
  • concession/snack bar/souvenir shop
    Restroom
    Restroom Update
    As an additional cost-saving measure, some restrooms in county parks are closed weekdays. However, facilities near most popular user areas remain open during all hours of park operation. All restrooms in county parks will be open on weekends. See park diagram for details
    Virtual Tour - 360° Views of Ft. De Soto Park
    item Gulf Pier
    item North Beach
    item Campground
    item Shelter 14
    item Pier 1
    item Boat Ramp
    item Museum
    item Fort
    item Barrier Free Trail
    item Dog Park

  • Quartermaster Museum
  • 6.8 mile, 12-foot-wide asphalt recreation trail connects the campground with the North and East Beach Swim Centers and the historic fort.
  • 2.25-mile recreational canoe trail.
  • 1-mile nature trail in the Arrowhead Picnic area, and a 3/4 mile nature trail in the Soldiers' Hole area provides a glimpse of some the native fauna and flora
  • 2,200 foot Barrier-Free Nature Trail is a self-guided interpretive trail providing access to nature for all visitors to Fort De Soto Park, regardless of their physical abilities.
  • dog park - Fort De Soto has the only dog park where dogs are allowed on the beach in a designated area. There are also 2 fenced in areas near the beach for large and small dogs with water stations - view dog park- (beach entrance is at the far southwest corner of dog park, not shown) Please review dog park rules

Attention Pinellas County Residents:

Ft. De Soto campground is now taking camping reservations for Pinellas County residents outside the usual reservation window. Reservations are taken seven (7) months in advance and can be made in person or by phone if have previously reserved at either Ft. De Soto campground office or the Parks & Conservation Resources Administration office. The campsite must be occupied by the Pinellas County resident making the reservation. For verification of residency, a current Florida Drivers license or Florida valid ID along with a current utility bill will be required at the time of reservation. For further information call 582-2267 or 552-1862. See Campground information Adobe Acrobat Reader file for rates.

History:

The islands that are know now as Fort De Soto Park are Mullet,(fort site), St. Christopher, St. Jean, Madelaine and Bonne Fortune keys. The earliest known inhabitants of the Tampa Bay area were the Tocobaga Indians, who disappeared within eighty years of the arrival of Spanish explorers in the early 1500's. Fort De Soto Historic Guide Adobe Acrobat Reader file


The park property was first purchased from the federal government in 1938 for $12,500. In 1941 the property was sold back to the federal government for $18,404 to be used as a gunnery and bombing range during World War II. The property was repurchased from the United States in 1948 for $26,500.

The 12-inch mortar battery, located at the fort for which the park was named, was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1978. Adding to the historical interest at Fort De Soto, two British breech-loading, rapid-fire rifles of 1890 vintage were installed in March 1982. Markers showing the original building locations and a Quartermaster Storehouse Museum add to the park's historic interest.

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