|Distance: From 5
to 14 miles depending on tour selected
|Atlas: Page 83 D-3
|Last Update: August 2005
||Canoe OK: Yes
The Hillsborough River flows over 50 miles from the Green Swamp
near the origin of the Withlacoochee River (by Lakeland Florida)
to Hillsborough Bay (Tampa).
The upper 31 miles of the river from Crystal Springs in Pasco County
to Riverhills Park in Temple Terrace are an official Florida Canoe
Trail. Along the canoe trail, the Hillsborough River State Park
(12 miles north of Tampa) has Florida's only Class II rapids. Before
you get your whitewater boat ready, you should know that kayaking
and canoeing the small limestone rapids is not allowed. For flatwater
trips, you can put-in at numerous locations along the Hillsborough
River and paddling either direction is easy as the current is usually
| For hundreds of years, Native Americans and
early Europeans paddled along this waterway through swamps,
cypress trees and hardwood forests. Today, the Hillsborough
River is used not only for recreation, but also as a potable
water supply that provides 75% of the drinking water for the
City of Tampa.
From Tampa, go to the junction of I-75 and Fletcher Avenue (exit
266, old #55). Go east 1/2 mile on Morris Bridge Road. The first
left is Trout Creek Park (a Wilderness Park site). Travel four miles
east on Morris Bridge Road for the Morris Bridge Wilderness Park.
For a day long one-way trip, you can start at Sargeant Park (6 miles
north of Fowler Avenue on US 301).
Boat, Paddle, PFD
[Optional] Shuttle vehicle
[Optional] Canoe, kayak rentals available
Live Oak and Hickory Forests
Small rapids at State park
Hillsborough River State Park
The Hillsborough River tour is divided into four
segments, allowing you to paddle them all at once (14 miles one-way,
requiring a complete day), or try each section individually. If
you want to go the distance, leave a shuttle vehicle at Rotary Park
located at Fowler Avenue and Morris Bridge Road. Proceed east for
one mile on Fowler Avenue until you reach US 301. Turn north (left)
and go approximately 6 miles to Sargeant Park. This small park is
located on the west side of the roadway.
Tour #1: Sargeant Park to Morris Bridge Park
You can paddle this section of the river one-way
for a distance of 4 miles, or double that (8 miles) by starting
at Morris Bridge Park and paddling up river to Sargeant Park and
back. The trip in either direction is easy due to slow current,
but be prepared to go over and around a few deadfalls in the river.
About 1/2 mile from Morris Bridge Park, you'll paddle by an old
Tour #2: Morris Bridge Park to Trout Creek Park
Morris Bridge to Trout Creek is my favorite
section for viewing wildlife, especially alligators.
This scenic trip is approximately 4 miles (one-way). For the first
three miles downstream, the river is quite narrow and you'll need
to be careful of deadfalls and stumps hiding just below the surface
of the river. The water is clear with a 1-2 MPH current. At approximately
mile 3, you'll come to the Southwest Florida Water Management District
dock (no access). The water in this area is shallow and rarely exceeds
one foot in depth. Expect to see many turkey vultures by the dock.
During one trip, we spotted a male peacock mixed in with the vultures.
Proceed one mile downstream to Trout Creek Park. Trout Creek Park
has restrooms, picnic tables and a canoe wash.
Tour #3: Trout Creek Park to Lettuce Lake Park
For this 3 mile section (one-way), start at Trout Creek Park and
paddle downstream to Lettuce Lake Park. Besides the flood control
dam at 1/4 mile downstream, this part of the river is fairly pristine
with little human activity. Along the river you will see an abundance
of wildlife including wading birds, turtles, snakes and alligators.
Lettuce Lake received its name due to an abundance of small floating
plants called Water Lettuce. The plant is light green with lettuce-like
leaves. Once you reach Lettuce Lake Park, take a break at the convenient
picnic shelters about 300 yards down river from the Observation
Tower. A nature center, restrooms and trail/boardwalk are close
by. On the west bank of the river is the University of South Florida
River Park. The University offers canoe and kayak rentals for students
and facility. (Also a nice grassy area and picnic tables should
you choose to visit).
If you are paddling roundtrip, retrace your steps to finish at
Trout Creek Park, for a total of 6 miles. You can tell when you're
close to Trout Creek Park by listening for the sound of traffic
Tour #4: Lettuce Lake Park to Rotary Park
The final 2.5 miles of the tour from Lettuce Lake to Rotary Park
is developed with housing on both sides of the river. Here the river
widens and is a dark brown, almost black color. If you keep a keen
lookout, you just might spot a big 'gator or two lazily warming
themselves in the Florida sun.
The take-out at Rotary Park (Morris Bridge Road and Fowler Avenue)
is located immediately upriver of the Fowler Avenue bridge. The
park has restrooms, picnic tables and a concrete boat ramp.
Should you decide to continue your Hillsborough River adventure,
you can paddle downstream under the Fowler bridge and past Busch
Boulevard to Riverhills Park.
Note that you cannot put-in at Lettuce Lake Park, so if you want
to do a roundtrip on this section of the river, start at Rotary
Park, paddle up to Lettuce Lake and back for a total of 5 miles.
End of the Line.
| GPS Location Aid
|Morris Bridge Park
|Trout Creek Park
|Lettuce Lake Park
|Rotary Park (Fowler)