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Skyway Bridge Rest Areas I-275

Birding / Hiking / Adventuring Roadtrip Info

ROUGH DRAFT

Feb 2018
 Typical view [?]
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Typical View (9)

Snapshots! (4)
GRADES: Click each for info, * = Note
Revisit? A
Birding C *
Wildlife B *
Summer Heat D *
Terrain B
Fun Hike C
Maintained B
Mosquitos A *
Biting Files A
Ticks A
NOTE: Can be nothing but often good shoreirds.
NOTE: Sea life only.
NOTE: Except you are in the water
NOTE: MAYBE when getting dark and not much wind
 LOCATION: Accuracy: Read me
Map On Big Map: Click map (or on google maps). Address: North or South, Skyway Bridge, St.Petersburg, FL, Pinellas, USA, 33711
OFFICIAL INFO:

1) What It's Like

This is a place to wade and see sea creatures and to see some shorebirds. View isn't bad either. One on either side of the bridge.

2) Kinds of Birds

Shore birds, gulls, osprey, pelicans are quite acrobatic on the actual bridge using the ground effect to glide along side you.

3) Wildlife

Sea life. See "Experience". You have to get good at training your eye for it but while driving over the bridge you can spot a dolphin maybe 1/2 the time.

4) Amenities

Rest stops have everything.

5) Directions

South side is manatee county, north side is Pinellas county. On the south side rest area there's a little beach at the south corner of the parking area. Manatee county rules for collecting shellfish are (or were last I checked) radically more stringent than anywhere else if you were inclined to do that. If just looking this might be the best and I'd say it IS the best for birds. Look from that beach out or out around to the right for sandbars where sometimes many shorebirds sit. You MIGHT have to wade out around the bend (by wade I mean ankle deep may be enough). The east side you have to walk over rocks to get to the water and it's not quite as good. However if you kayak this area you're looking at is great - Rattlesnake Key and Critical Creek have some great spots. Also there are protected bird islands in that direction on a boat (not visible from here).

The north side rest area - there is a beach peninsula on the NW section where people windsurf etc but is good for this kind of thing. The NE side and SE side (again all at north rest area) are nice sometimes but not the best in general. You can park along the road and there are places where you can see obviously where people park.

Fishing on the pier can be fun - it's actually a state park - but that is another story. It's the remnants of the previous Skyway bridge that broke and people drove off of. They say there's a 70's blonde hitchhiker here that gets in and then disappears at the top - so beware!


6) Time Requirements

If you just stop and look at birds - 15 minutes. If you really poke around maybe an hour.


Experience

People come to these areas to do quite a few things - collect fish and sea life for food, bait, or aquariums (I've met a lot of 1st generation immigrant Asian families here doing that). Also kayaking, wade fishing, paragliding and wind surfing (North side). Depending on the tides it can be nice to just walk out in knee deep water to watch sting rays or walk near the little sand bars where shorebirds are huddled together.

Not everyone likes to get wet or walk in sea grass (get $7 water shoes at Target) but I've never taken anyone out doing this (here or other spots) and found they didn't thoroughly enjoy it - especially if they bring their kids:

Usually what you see are random small fish, crabs, hermit crabs, snails, bonnethead sharks are like tiny hammerheads that eat crabs (2-3 foot) but you're not going to see them in knee deep water and probably not before deep dusk. If you push a net through the grasses you can see all kinds of things that hang out in the grass often just as juveniles. Octopus, pipefish (elongated seahorses), seahorses, filefish, puffers, burrfish, all kinds of crabs, all kinds of tiny animals adapted to live in algae. Don't just take any sea creature home with in as some that you might not expect are protected - read the salt water fishing regulations or better yet don't take anything home.

At night if you bring a high candlepower light you can see otherworldly things like bonnet head sharks, guitar-fish, blue crabs swimming.It's exciting but a bit daunting to have sharks (though small and harmless) come into your little sphere of light and leave.

Caveats -

  • Water depth, tide, and winter/summer: if you go at high tide water is 2 feet deeper and you have to go to waist deep water to see what was at knee deep before. In summer the sea grasses - that's where things like to be - are so thick it's fine. In winter you usually have to go pretty deep even at low tide. Here's a good tide chart: Xtide.
  • Stingrays and horseshoe crabs have declined rapidly over the years, from what I have seen, but they are still around. To avoid stingrays pretty much 100% do the "stingray shuffle". Basically never walk in a stomping motion rather a shuffling one. You don't walk to step down on their stinger. I've never been hit and have brushed up against 100s of them or been hurt by anything doing this.


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