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Little Manatee River Report
(Little Manatee River St. Park)

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Report By:  ed    Date: 8/16/2009 
Rating:Trip Rating     Photos: See 18 photos     Map & Directions: View

My long time (but infrequent) paddling buddy Penny and I tackle the Little Manatee River on Sunday morning. It's Penny's second time in a boat since 2004 so she's rebuilding skills as we paddle from the State Park to the Manatee Loop and back.

My Report:

Ready for some ancient history? From 2000 to 2004 I belonged to a group of paddlers that all worked for the same company in Tampa. Work was good and paddling times even better. Unfortunately, like many companies now-a-days, this one started to disintegrate and our little group of paddlers ended up going whichever direction the currents (and next jobs) took us.

Many times you loose contact with the people you worked with. One contact I maintained was my friend Penny, who against her better judgment decided to go kayaking with me again. Our first trip in over 5 years was Anna Maria Sound in search of Gilligan's Island. Even more surprising was when Penny said she wanted to try a local river.

That's where this trip starts. The Little Manatee River is designated an Outstanding Florida Water and is part of the Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve. It runs from swampy beginnings near the town of Fort Lonesome for nearly 40 miles to Tampa Bay south of Ruskin. The river is tannin-stained, shallow with a white sandy bottom and has a few small beaches great for taking a quick break. The lower part of the river is influenced by the tide in Tampa Bay.

Penny and I decided to start at the 2416-acre Little Manatee River State Park as they have safe parking and good facilities. (I don't feel good about leaving my car unattended at the 24th Street river access area - you decide for yourself). The state park is nicely maintained, complete with camping, equestrian trails, picnic shelters, restrooms, showers, canoe rentals and launch and more.

As we headed downstream from the state park to our first stop - the 24th Street river access area, we came across numerous flowering plant. Some we could identify, such as swamp lilys, others we didn't (and still don't) have a clue. At the bottom of this report are photos of several.

There are mobile homes and a few single family houses at several points along the river. One of the more colorful mobiles has quite the collection of over-sized stuffed animals, stuffed in an old convertible VW Rabbit. Of course the effect would not be complete without tacky yard signs, animals hung from trees and propping the VW at a 45 degree angle against a tree.

Penny and I stopped at the 24th Street River Access. Basically this is where the street deadends at the river. There are a few benches and trashcan and that's about it.

About 1/4 mile (15 minutes?) downstream just past the power lines is the turnoff for "Manatee Loop". The marker says "Loop" with an arrow pointing to the left. Near the marker are some tall sandy banks that were just too inviting so we had to climb up and take a look.

The water on the Manatee Loop was amazingly still and I hardly detected any flow whatsoever. As we paddled the tannin-stained waterway toward the State Park, we spotted Guava and Hog Plum bushes. We didn't know what these were until I posted a photo on Green Wave and solicited guesses. You can read the forum posts here.

Where the Manatee Loop and Little Manatee River meet, the channel becomes constricted, twisty and filled with vegetation. Had a few hitchhikers - thankfully they turned out to be harmless bugs not snakes or spiders.

After returning to the Little Manatee, we continued upstream to the park. The remainder of the trip was nice, quiet and uneventful.

One thing that did surprise me about this stretch of the river was the lack of animals. We saw a few turtles and maybe two wading birds but that was it. No gators, otters, hogs, deer, eagles or other animals that you commonly spot along central Florida rivers such as the Hillsborough, Chassahowitzka or Wekiva.

Get Map & Directions for this trip

Location Data:

Difficulty: Moderate
Location Type: River
Boat Type: Kayak
Distance (miles): 7.5
Fees/Costs $: $5 State Park fee

Photos from Little Manatee River St. Park:    (Click image to view full size)

Manatee Canoe Launch No Comm
Manatee Canoe Launch

We started our journey at the Little Manatee River State Park canoe launch. The launch has a nice wide concrete staircase leading down to the river.

Heading Downriver No Comm
Heading Downriver

The upper part of the Little Manatee River near the state park is tree-lined and runs about 50 feet wide in most places.

Penny Paddling No Comm
Penny Paddling

Penny paddling on the Little Manatee River near the state park.

Swamp Lilys No Comm
Swamp Lilys

We spotted several groups of Swamp Lilys during our trip.

Orange Flowers No Comm
Orange Flowers

One of many plants that we couldn't identify during our trip.

Palmetto Beach??? No Comm
Palmetto Beach???

Now the fellow that owns this property along the Little Manatee River must have one heck of a sense of humor.

Near 24th Street No Comm
Near 24th Street

Part of an old building just downriver from the 24th Street access point.

Manatee Loop Sign No Comm
Manatee Loop Sign

Ha! The sign we needed. This one shows the direction we need to go to take the Manatee Loop upstream.

Sand Bluffs No Comm
Sand Bluffs

These sandy bluffs are found near the Manatee Loop sign. I wonder, can we scramble to the top?

Looking Down No Comm
Looking Down

Looking down at our boats from the top of the sand bluffs. It's really not that far - maybe 12 to 15 feet or so.

Heading Upstream No Comm
Heading Upstream

You could hardly detect a current on the Manatee Loop as we headed upstream.

Ferns No Comm

Found these ferns along the river. I was expecting them to feel soft but instead they turned out to be quite tough.

Guava No Comm

We didn't know what this plant was at the time but it turns out to be a guava bush. Should have grabbed a bucket full and make jelly!

Hog Plums No Comm
Hog Plums

Another UPO (Unidentified Plant Object) with small yellow fruit turned out to be Hog Plums.

End of Manatee Loop No Comm
End of Manatee Loop

As we exited Manatee Loop and returned to the main river we spotted this colorful 'strangler' plant that reminded me of tri-color spaghetti.

Hitchhiker No Comm

Where Manatee Loop re-joins the main river it gets twisty and narrow. Lots of plants mean lots of things jumping on and in your boat.

Hitchhiker 2 No Comm
Hitchhiker 2

I don't know why but hitchhikers like my forward hatch cover.

Turtle Closeup No Comm
Turtle Closeup

Of course he wanted his photo taken. Why else would this turtle have posed so nicely?


Special Interests and Comments:

Special InterestsHad lunch at Sonny's Bar-B-Q in Sun City Center after our Little Manatee River paddle. As always, the BBQ was tasty and beer cold.

Post Date: 10/4/2009

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