While best known for its coral reefs, Pennekamp is also home to some very nice natural trails through the mangroves, which lead to Largo Sound and other areas with some decent fishing. Put-ins are at the first swimming beach and the picnic area past the marina. For Gulf-side kayaking, Dusenbury Creek offers an alternative, but I found it a long paddle for yet another mangrove tunnel.
Directions: Take US-1 south to about mm 101 and turn left at the Pennekamp State Park sign.
Entrance fee/parking: It's about a $4-5 entrance fee. There's plenty of parking most of the time.
Facilities: Bathrooms, snack concession, canoe and kayak rental, motorboat rental, snorkeling and SCUBA trips, swimming lagoons.
Pennekamp Put-in/Take-out: There are gravel put-ins at the north end of the parking lot by the swimming lagoon and at a picnic area past the marina. You are not allowed to use the nice wooden put-in where they launch the rentals. They won't even give you a map without renting one of their boats.
Pennekamp Route: The nicer trails are to the south side of the main channel and go through to a little sound, which is too shallow to navigate at low tide. Lots of boat traffic in Largo Sound, but it's a popular destination as well. The Bonefish area is along the eastern side of Largo Sound. The coral reefs are 3-4 miles out from the end of the channel- don't even think about it.
Dusenbury Put-in: Florida Bay Outfitters at MM 104, on the west side of the road. They sell and rent kayaks also.
Dusenbury route: Paddle along the shore or due west for about a mile, then follow the channel markers into the creek. The tidal currents aren't as strong as the channels into and out of Largo Sound. At marker 42, head west into a wide mangrove trail that turns into the fabled tree tunnel for 0.3-0.4 miles and then you are in Tarpon Basin. You can continue through Grouper Creek or head back in. As of April 2006 there was only 1 fallen tree obstructing the mangrove tunnel which can be squeezed under at near high tide.
Wildlife: Raccoons, herons, ibis, cormorants
Other Stuff: Take a snorkeling trip in the morning, kayak in the afternoon!
Maps from Mapquest.com
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