Pithlachascotee River, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trai
Pasco County, named for two-term U.S. Sen. Samuel Pasco, has four miles of beaches on its barrier islands. Very little sand is on its 20-mile mainland coast, which is mostly seagrass and salt marsh due to low wave energy and few streams to carry sand to the gulf shore. Pasco's northernmost five miles are private and conservation lands. Mangroves first appear along the lower half of this coast.
Once mostly citrus groves and cattle ranches, the construction of three major highways gave rise to huge residential areas and major malls on this coast. Still, more than 100,000 acres of wilderness spread east to the hilly terrain near Interstate 75. The Green Swamp, an immense area of flatwoods, swamps, and uplands, protects the headwaters of the Hillsborough, Ocklawaha, Peace and Withlacoochee rivers.
Pasco's largest city, New Port Richey looks over the Pithlachascotee River and the Gulf of Mexico. It features a historic downtown with shops, restaurants and Spanish-revival architecture.
This coast attracts fresh and saltwater anglers, kayakers and divers to its offshore deep waters. Hikers, bikers and campers are drawn to the 41-mile paved Suncoast Trail, which parallels the Suncoast Parkway through rivers, wetlands, wildlife and 8,000-acre J.B. Starkey Park near New Port Richey.
Pasco has five coastal accesses, but only two offer sandy beach - Robert J. Strickland Memorial Park (boat ramp, but no swimming) and Robert K. Rees Memorial Park (picnic tables and bathrooms).
Werner-Boyce Salt Springs State Park stretches along four miles of pristine coastline on the Gulf of Mexico. The 3,500-acre park boasts a 320-foot-deep salt spring, a mile-long scrub trail, and a picnic pavilion with tables. A boardwalk is planned. This vast wilderness is home to gray fox, gopher tortoises, alligators, West Indian manatees, and an array of wading, shore and migratory birds.
Anclote Key Preserve State Park, partly in Pinellas County, is 403 acres on four barrier islands accessible only by boat. It features four miles of beaches with beautiful sunsets, wildlife, fishing, canoeing/kayaking, sunbathing, swimming, picnicking and grills. The island has no electricity or running water, so bring all supplies including water. The primitive campground has a composting toilet. Campers must check in with the park office. A restored 1887 lighthouse is on the southern end of Anclote Key, which is recognized for the diversity and numbers of beach-nesting birds, such as the piping plover.
February 27, 2019 - 8:49am
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The Florida Department of Environmental Protection is the state’s lead agency for environmental management and stewardship – protecting our air, water and land. The vision of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection is to create strong community partnerships, safeguard Florida’s natural resources and enhance its ecosystems.