Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Fort Desoto Park – Sunrises and Sunsets

Fort Desoto is on the Gulf coast of Florida, just south of Tampa.

You can click on this map, and zoom in and out and also get a satellite aerial view.

Map picture

When we lived in Tampa, we would head over to Fort Desoto Park and the Sunshine Skyway to spend the day kayaking or just to watch the beautiful sunrises or sunsets.  The way the park is laid out, you can both sunsets and sunrises over the water.  The Sunshine Skyway Bridge makes for a beautiful backdrop.  One morning we got there before dawn and kayaked out towards the bridge as the sun was coming up behind the bridge.  It was warm and the water was flat calm. It was and an absolutely beautiful morning. 

There is some interesting history on the Sunshine Skyway Bridge.  There was a tragic accident there in 1980 that brought the bridge down along with several vehicles that were driving over it at the time. The collision caused 7 vehicles and a bus to fall into the water and 35 people were killed.  This is a major shipping channel so the bridge was very high to allow the large ships to go underneath.

Here is a the actual call from the Captain of the ship that hit the bridge.

Summit Venture hits the Sunshine Skyway Bridge

The collision was caused by a violent storm over the bridge.  The driving conditions on the bridge were treacherous.  In the waters below below the bridge,  John Lerro, a Tampa harbor pilot was piloting the 17,000 ton freighter Summit Venture into the channel.  The captains of these ships are not allowed to bring their ships into any local harbors.  They have a group of local harbor pilots who are familiar with the area and conditions.  They are brought out to the ships in a “Pilot Boat”.  They climb aboard the ship and then bring the ships into the channel. We’ve actually watched this transport while in Palm Beach and it’s amazing that the pilot can get from a small Pilot boat onto the very large freighters.  On that day in 1980, due to the storm, and rough seas, the pilot lost control of the freighter in the heavy seas, and it struck the bridge's concrete support columns, which caused the western section of the bridge to fall into the water. The vehicles on the bridge fell 150 feet into the rough seas. Some cars fell into the water when the bridge fell and some just drove over the edge as they were blinded by the heavy rain and no one expected the bridge to be down.

Sunshine Skyway bridge history

The old bridge was torn down except for portions of the western and eastern spans which was then made into a fishing pier.  It was made into a state park and many people have enjoyed fishing or just walking the pier.  It makes a great place to watch beautiful sunsets/sunrises.  It appears that they are closing the eastern section of the pier for safety issues, but will keep the western section open. It’s a great place to visit even if you are not interested in fishing.

Skyway Fishing Pier State Park

These are photos I have taken from the area.  Most were taken from here…

Fort Desoto Park & Campground

If you click on “reserve by site” you can get actual photos of each campsite. You have to play around with it a little but there are photos of each campsite.

boy on beach
Caladesi Island Sunset
P1050012 Image005
P5220023 P2210098  P7160016

Christmas day 2008 298

Christmas day 2008 239



Christmas day 2008 271



It’s a great area to explore.  There is a LOT to do and some beautiful beaches.

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