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Upper Tampa Bay Park Report

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Report By:  ed    Date: 5/7/2006 
Rating:Trip Rating     Photos: See 4 photos     Map & Directions: View

One of those hidden Hillsborough County gems is Upper Tampa Bay Park. This 2,144 acre park and preserve is open 8am to dusk, 7 days a week and makes for a great place to paddle, hike and picnic.

My Report:

It is Sunday afternoon, May 7 th. Just arrived in Tampa after a 7 hour drive from Pensacola. I had about two hours before meeting some friends for dinner, so I headed to Upper Tampa Bay Park (Hillsborough Ave and Double Branch Road). Itís been 3 years since my last visit and way too long as this is a great place to paddle, hike, picnic and learn about nature.

For those who donít know, the park is good size Ė 2,144 acres. Itís surrounded by Mobbly Bay on the west, Old Tampa Bay on the south and Double Branch Bay on the east. That means lots of places to paddle. The water is shallow, mangrove lined and influenced by the tides. Itís best to go during mid to high tide. Low tide will leave you stranded at several points and expose the under belly of your nice new boat to some particularly wicked oyster bars.

The park has an excellent Environmental Learning Center (nature center) with all kinds of things for the kids. Also a number of animals including different species of fish, turtles and snakes. Near the nature center is a floating canoe launch, which several kayakers and canoeists were making good use of. If I had a little more time and chance to shower before dinner, I would have gone for a quick paddle.

You can read about paddling trips at Upper Tampa Bay Park here.

Several hiking trails meander through the park, with the Bobcat trail heading south and the Eagle trail going over to Mobbly Bay. I did take a quick hike on both trails. The Bobcat trail starts at the nature center at the wooden boardwalk. Lots of people fishing from the boardwalk and some seemed to have pretty good luck.

Along the water edge are three types of mangroves Ė red, white and black. Hereís how to tell the difference. Red mangroves have elongated leathery green leaves up to 6 inches in length. They also have many "prop" roots giving them a walking appearance. White mangroves have rounder, 3 inch leaves with white spots. Black mangroves usually sit back farther from the water and have elliptical 4 - 5 inch leaves with dark brown branches. So there you have everything I know about mangroves.

The best put-in is at the canoe launch at the nature center. All other places require a long portage. During warmer months be sure to bring sunscreen and bug spray. Plan on spending more than two hours in the park. Next trip to Tampa I will definitely get the boat in the water. Until then, attached are a few photos from the park.

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Location Data:

Difficulty: Easy
Location Type: Saltwater
Boat Type: Other
Distance (miles): 2
Fees/Costs $: Free

Photos from Upper Tampa Bay Park:    (Click image to view full size)

UTBP Eagle Trail Restricted
UTBP Eagle Trail

Eagle Trail at Upper Tampa Bay Park. Fun, short hike 1/2 mile to a dock on Mobbly Bay.

UTBP Boardwalk Restricted
UTBP Boardwalk

Boardwalk outside of Upper Tampa Bay Park Nature Center. Mangroves and channel in distance.

UTBP Canoe Launch Restricted
UTBP Canoe Launch

Canoe Launch located just north of the Nature Center at Upper Tampa Bay Park.

UTBP Nature Center Restricted
UTBP Nature Center

Friendly little fish at the Upper Tampa Bay Park Nature Center. Be sure to bring the kids, there's plenty to do.

Special Interests and Comments:

Special InterestsTry Cody's Roadhouse at 11202 W. Hillsborough Ave in Tampa for a really tasty 1/2 pound burger, fries and cold beer.

Post Date: 5/12/2006

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