Fort De Soto A brief history

Fort De Soto has the last 4 carriage mounted 12 inch seacoast mortars

Mullet Key, as it was once called, was originally inhabited by Indians until the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadors.

In 1849 Robert E. Lee recommended that Mullet Key and Egmont Key be used for Military and Coastal Defense. The fort’s construction began in 1898 and was completed in 1900 and was named Fort De Soto after the Spanish explorer that had arrived in the area in 1539.

The fort on both Mullet Key and Egmont Key never saw combat, and they were abandoned in 1923 only later to be used as a bombing range in 1940.

In 1963 the land was sold back to Pinellas county, and that land and what remains of the Fort is now a county park which has become one of the top-rated Park/Beaches in the United States.

In 1977, the Fort De Soto batteries were placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Fort De Soto Park visitors can view the remains of Battery Laidley and the last four 12-inch M 1890-MI mortars remaining in North America

Learn much more of it’s history by visiting the fort and it’s museum located at 3500 Pinellas Bayway in Tierra Verde, Fl Open 7 days a week from 9 am to 4 pm admission is free

Fort Desoto is the largest park within the Pinellas County Park System, consisting of 1,136 acres made up of five interconnected islands (keys).

Fort Desoto is Located at 3500 Pinellas Bayway South in Tierra Verde, Florida. It is in Pinellas County, just South of St. Pete Beach. There is a $5 day-use charge to enter Fort Desoto Park; however, parking is free. Note: The approach to The Pinellas Bayway is a toll road. The two tolls combined equal $1.75.

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2 replies »

  1. In the mid 1950’s, the only access to Mullet Key was by a commercial boat docked at Pass-a-Grill. Many times my parents would take me for a days outing to Mullet Key for the day and return. Both children and adults would climb the hill to the top of the fort for a fine view out into the Gulf of Mexico and Egmont Key. Early on, there was a wooden fishing pier that boaters could tie off to. After a short walk ashore, for many years, there was a narrow gauged RR that you ride from the pier to the fort with a turn around loop at each end. It saved about a quarter mile walk amongst the sand spires. As I recall, the boat made two trips to the Island on weekends and as needed other times. The same boat took people over to Sand Key, on the opposite shore from Pass a Grill, to collect shells, have picnics and in my case, to take a .22 cal rifle over there to practice shooting with my Father. After 60+ years, I still have the gun. Of course all of that changed when the county put in the causeway to the island, and built a snack bar and replaced the old pier with a concrete one. The RR was gone before the Bayway was built. Somehow, the Island lost some its charm when you could easily get there by car.

    • Thank you, Arthur, for your comment. Yes, sometimes modernization does take away the natural charm of our Florida wonders. I have many fond memories of fishing and crabbing with my father throughout Pinellas County. Lots of the places we use to go were considered the boondocks in those times. Now they have major highways running through them. Times do change.

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