Two shores, two parks: Lake Tarpon’s a big place that most visitors don’t even know exists, hidden as it is by businesses and residential areas along US 19 north of Clearwater. On the western shore, in Tarpon Springs, A.L. Anderson County Park is a large county park where you can drop a boat or kayak in to putter around the lake, or enjoy a picnic under the cypresses along the shoreline.
For more extensive recreation opportunities, John Chesnut Sr. County Park in Oldsmar grabs a large chunk of the eastern shoreline and offers it up as a wild place to play. I revisited the park to update “50 Hikes in Central Florida” to discover efforts in progress to replace all of the boardwalks along the lakeshore. The birding is superb here thanks to a screen of natural floodplain forest along the shoreline.
The Peggy Park Nature Trail is at the south end of the park, offering up a quiet walk under the cypress and a stroll along Brooker Creek. Nearby, boardwalks lead from the boat ramp along the shoreline to hidden niches with picnic tables, a tall observation tower, and covered decks along the lakeshore, perfect for catching a breeze while reading a book or watching the gallinules in the shallows. Thanks to my friend Barbara, who met me for this visit, I discovered a whole section of the park I’d missed on my first visit, complete with dog park and large playground, picnic pavillions around a large pond, and another hiking loop with a boardwalk through a floodplain forest where birds are bountiful.