Lake Tarpon, Florida, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Florida - West Central -

Also known as:  Tarpon Lake, formerly Lake Butler

In the West Central Region of Florida, there is no finer lake than Lake Tarpon. The 2529-acre lake, often called the ‘Jewel of Pinellas County’ is only ten miles west of Tampa on the outskirts of Tarpon Springs. Long a favored Florida recreation area, Lake Tarpon is interesting in its underground connection to the Gulf of Mexico via Spring Bayou in Tarpon Springs. An 118 foot deep sinkhole on the northwest side of the lake historically brought seawater into the lake during high tide and drought. In an effort to improve freshwater reliability, the US Army Corps of Engineers first built an outflow channel from the lake to Old Tampa Bay. The sinkhole was then dammed off from the main lake with an earthen dike. Water gates operated by the South West Florida Water Management District are closed during high tide to prevent salt water from entering the lake. The water levels are a delicate balancing act as Lake Tarpon is less than four feet above sea level at its highest levels and often drops to a bit over two feet during dry weather.

The lakeshore around Lake Tarpon is heavily developed. A large number of subdivisions and housing development have been built near the lake in recent years. Water quality began to degrade due to lawn run-off and several environmental groups and agencies formed groups to monitor water quality and improve it. Public education and lawn maintenance practices are starting to show results, with improved fishing as a result.

All types of water sports are engaged in on Lake Tarpon, with power boating, personal watercraft and water skiing the most popular. At least one sailing club calls the lake home. Several marinas cater to those with boating needs and launch facilities for larger craft. Docking berths and repair services are available, along with boating supplies, lakefront restaurants and nightclub establishments. During the week, sailing, canoeing, kayaking and pontooning take over the lake. Swimming is discouraged due to alligators which often frequent the water. There is also reputed to be a large unidentified lake monster in Lake Tarpon called “Tarpie.” Local legend describes this 10 to 20 foot reptilian monster as consuming more than his fair share of local wildlife, though most reports of Tarpie are tongue-in-cheek.

Lake Tarpon is rated among the top 10 bass fishing lakes in Florida and fishing is an always-popular activity. Bluegill, red-ear, and largemouth bass make up the majority of fish caught, although black crappie, bullhead, channel catfish, longnose gar and bowfin (mudfish or dogfish) are also present. Most larger fishing publications devote space to fishing Lake Tarpon with hints on lures, locations and time of day tips. As with most lakes, fish consumption guidelines should be followed.

Two public parks along the shore provide boat launch facilities and recreational opportunities to visitors. John Chesnut State Park contains 255 acres and offers facilities for ball fields, biking, a boardwalk, boat ramps, fishing area, hiking/walking and nature trails, picnic facilities and playgrounds. Anderson Park, at 128 acres, offers most of the same facilities and adds two landlocked canoeing routes to a small inland lake. Raccoons, alligators, various waterfowl, hawks, vultures,tortoises/turtles and snakes reside in this park. Another park, along the canal – called the Outfall – is the Lake Tarpon Outfall Canal Park with 186 acres and playgrounds, ball fields, fishing and boat access.

As residents have become more environmentally conscious, a variety of parks and natural areas have been developed to offset the increased pressure from development. Within twenty miles of Lake Tarpon, every type of local Florida environment has been preserved for the public to enjoy. Some of them are Harbor Palms Nature Park, farther down the Outfall Canal near its mouth on Tampa Bay and Mobbley Bayou Wilderness Preserve between Lake Tarpon and Mobbley Bay. In the Tarpon Springs area, the Wall Springs Park covers 195 acres and includes: an historic spring, boardwalks, nature trails, a playground, an observation tower, and restrooms. The spring and adjoining waters were once a spa and bathing area from the 1900s until the mid 1960’s. The springs are adjacent to a salt marsh with fresh and salt water systems in close proximity. A variety of other parks and points of interest contain walking tails for easy access. The Pinellas County Greenways brochure is available for download and includes these and other facilities of interest to the visitor.

The first time visitor to Florida will find Lake Tarpon an ideal home base from which to access other, must-see features. Orlando and Disney World are less than 100 miles to the northeast, while Busch Gardens-Tampa are less than 30 miles to the southeast. No visit would be complete without a day at the beach on the Gulf. Clearwater Beach is noted for its pristine sand beach and lovely sunset views. And, a trip across the causeway to Honeymoon Island State Park can’t be missed for the chance to swim, fish and snorkel in the warm Gulf waters. Nature trails and bird observation areas are provided. The island has some of the widest variety of shells found along its beaches as the Gulf currents deposit them from long distances away.

Those wishing a little more sophisticated activities, both Tarpon Springs and Tampa offer shopping, cultural activities, performance arts and fine dining. Here, nightlife is varied and easy to find. Lake Tarpon is an easy commute from many Florida metropolitan areas, and real estate is always available. With a little sleuthing, lakefront or lake view property can be found along Lake
Tarpon’s shores. Vacation rentals are available year-round with cottages, bed-and-breakfasts, and condos common within sight of Lake Tarpon. Camping is available nearby but not directly on the water.

If you haven’t visited Lake Tarpon yet, what are you waiting for? There’s no time like the present. Come down to the ‘Jewel of Pinellas County’ and get out on the water. The bass are biting!

Things to do at Lake Tarpon

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Sailing
  • Swimming
  • Beach
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Water Skiing
  • Snorkeling
  • Camping
  • Picnicking
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Park
  • Playground
  • Shopping

Fish species found at Lake Tarpon

  • Bass
  • Black Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Bluegill
  • Bowfin
  • Catfish
  • Channel Catfish
  • Crappie
  • Gar
  • Largemouth Bass
  • Longnose Gar
  • Sunfish

Lake Tarpon Photo Gallery

Lake Tarpon Statistics & Helpful Links

divider

Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Dammed

Water Level Control: South West Florida Water Management District

Surface Area: 2,529 acres

Shoreline Length: 16 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 3 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 2 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 4 feet

Average Depth: 8 feet

Maximum Depth: 14 feet

Water Volume: 22,957 acre-feet

Completion Year: 1968

Water Residence Time: 189 days

Drainage Area: 52 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophic

Spread the word! Share our Lake Tarpon article with your fellow Lake Lubbers!

Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


Lakes for Vacation and Recreation

Except as noted, Copyright © LakeLubbers LLC. All Rights Reserved.