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Alafia River

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Difficulty: Moderate Scenery: Good
Location: Tampa/Riverview,
Hillsborough County
Distance: 11.5 miles from Aldermans Ford Park to Lithia Springs Park
Atlas: Page 92 A-1
Last Update: July 2003 Canoe OK: Yes


The Alafia River (Al-a-fie) traverses eastern Hillsborough County for approximately 45 miles from the town of Mulberry to the cities of Riverview and Gibsonton on Hillsborough Bay. The upper stretches of the river are very narrow and difficult to navigate, even in a canoe or kayak. As the Alafia approaches the bay, the river widens substantially and the paddler is likely to encounter powerboat traffic. During low water years, it is recommended to start no further upstream than Aldermans Ford Park.

Alafia River;Whitewater rapids.
Small whitewater rapids ahead.
The section of river between Aldermans Ford and Lithia Springs Park offers 11.5 miles of scenic river that is easy-to-moderate to paddle depending on water level.


The Alafia River is located 20 miles southeast of downtown Tampa. Take I-75 to SR 60, Brandon Town Center exit 257 (old #51). Go east on SR 60 to Lithia Pinecrest Road (CR 640). Turn right and proceed about 8 miles to Lithia Springs Road. Turn right and continue 1.5 miles to the entrance of the springs.

Important Items

Boat, Paddle, PFD
Lithia Springs Park Fee, $1 per person
[Optional] Canoe rentals available


Freshwater river
Natural spring
Small whitewater rapids (shoals)
Current 1 to 4 MPH
Oak and Cypress trees

Alafia River;Craig Paddling.
Craig paddling the Alafia River.

Tour #1: Aldermans Ford Park to Lithia Springs Park

This remarkable 11.5 mile river trip begins at the take-out at Lithia Springs County Park. The park requires a small entrance fee per person. Follow the signs to the canoe launch. You'll want to leave a car here to later take you back upstream to pick up your primary vehicle. Proceed in your primary vehicle to Aldermans Ford Canoe Launch located by SR 39 and Thompson Road. Don't forget the boats and gear!

If you don't have the desire to shuttle vehicles, Alafia River Canoe Rentals at 4419 River Drive (phone 813-689-8645) can help. Besides offering rentals, they provide transportation to Aldermans Ford for a very modest fee.

The canoe launch at Aldermans Ford is on a channel that leads to the main river. Travel approximately 100 yards from the canoe launch and turn left (downstream). You will quickly pass under a small, but high bridge. From this point, the river narrows and proceeds beneath cypress, hardwood hammock and oak trees that provide welcome shade. Along the Alafia, the banks are generally several feet high and heavily vegetated, making it difficult to land or launch.

The river is fairly swift (1 to 4 MPH depending on water levels), with several small sets of whitewater rapids created by limestone shoals in the river. At very low water levels these become difficult to pass without bottoming out and at high water you might not notice them. However, if the water is just right, you'll experience up to 10 sets of class 1 whitewater rapids. Of course, compared to any state north of 30 degrees latitude it's not much, but for Florida, the whitewater is great.

Please note: If the Alafia is flowing fast (over 3 MPH), especially after heavy rains and flooding, this is no place for a beginner. You're sure to encounter numerous deadfalls, strainers and in general you'll be paddling through the trees. Tight turns further complicate the issue.

At approximately 10 miles into the trip, the river passes under the bridge at Lithia Pinecrest Road. This will be the first sign of modern civilization during the trip. Another mile downriver on the right-hand side is the Alafia River Canoe Rental dock. The take-out at Lithia Springs County Park is located another mile down river, just past the campground and before a large white pipe running over the river.

Tour #2: Lithia Springs

Want to add another mile to the trip? From the Lithia Springs County Park canoe launch, go downstream to where Lithia Springs empties into the river. The confluence is about 1/2 mile from the canoe launch. It is noticeably marked by the crystal-clear spring water hitting the tea-colored Alafia. On the spring run, a small green fence marks the boundary of the spring. Stay downstream of the fence and the lifeguards on duty at the spring won't need to chase you out of the park. Paddle back upriver 1/2 mile to the canoe launch to finish your trip.

Special Interest: Lithia Springs Park

Alafia River;Lithia Springs The 160 acre Hillsborough County Lithia Springs Park is located on the Alafia River south of Brandon and Plant City. The park's major attraction is a natural spring that provides excellent swimming and relaxing in 72 degree year-round waters. The park offers camping at 40 sites, most of them shaded and all with electricity and water. Also located in the park are a bath house, playground and picnic facilities.

The springs consist of two pools, each flowing into the Alafia River. The larger spring is oval shaped and approximately 75 to 100 ft in diameter and approximately 16 feet deep. The smaller spring is located 100 feet southeast of the larger spring and discharges directly into the Alafia River. The total outflow of both springs is said to be about 24 million gallons per day. Hours of operation are 8am to 7pm Monday-Sunday. Water attractions close one hour before the park.

Alafia River;Bridge.
Bridge just past
Aldermans Ford Park.
Alafia River;break time.
The gently sloping bank makes
a nice place to rest.

GPS Location Aid


Aldermans Ford Park
Canoe Launch
Lithia Pinecrest
Bridge -Rock
Alafia River Canoe
Rentals -Dock
Lithia Springs Park
Canoe Launch