Spanning 400 square miles, with a drainage area nearly six times as large, Tampa Bay and its watershed stretch from the spring-fed headwaters of the Hillsborough River to the salty waters off Anna Maria Island. FloridaÃ¢Â€Â™s largest open-water estuary harbors a rich and diverse assemblage of plants and animals, along with a rapidly growing human population that has made the region the second largest metropolitan area in the state.
About Tampa Bay Estuary Program - About Prizm Share
F O R T A M P A B A Y
State of the Bay
Spanning 400 square miles, with a drainage area nearly six times as large, TampaBay and its watershed stretch from the spring-fed headwaters of theHillsborough River to the salty waters off Anna Maria Island. Floridaâ€™s largest
open-water estuary harbors a rich and diverse assemblage of plants and animals, along
with a rapidly growing human population that has made the region the second largest
metropolitan area in the state.
In spite of its size, the bay has an average depth of only 11 feet â€“ a troublesome figure
to early commercial boosters who envisioned Tampa Bay as a great commercial har-
bor. Today, more than 80 miles of deep-water shipping channels â€“ the largest 43 feet
deep â€“ have made that dream a reality. Three seaports now flourish along the bayâ€™s
borders, in Tampa, St. Petersburg, and in northern Manatee County. The largest of
these, the Port of Tampa, consistently ranks among the busiest ports in the nation.
Combined, the three ports contribute an estimated $15 billion to the local economy
and support 130,000 jobs.
Tampa Bay is also a focal point of the regionâ€™s premier industry â€“ tourism. The bay
and the sparkling beaches of the surrounding barrier islands attract nearly 5 million
visitors a year. Fort DeSoto Park, at the mouth of Tampa Bay, was named the number
one beach in the continental United States in the 2004 annual survey conducted by
â€œDr. Beach,â€ Professor Stephen Leatherman of Florida International University.
Sport fishing, boating, kayaking and wildlife watching are increasingly popular activi-
ties among both visitors and residents â€“ an interest fueled by steady improvements in
water quality that continue to reap ecological benefits. Today, some 40,000 pairs of
wading and shore birds of 25 species nest annually on protected islands in the bay;
one-sixth of the Gulf Coast population of Florida manatees spend the winter near
power plants bordering the bay; and more than 200 species of fish spend