Manatee River - Serene Paddling on the Upper Manatee River Designated Paddling Trail
The Manatee River flows 46 miles through Manatee County to Tampa Bay. The Upper Manatee River Designated Paddling Trail runs from Fort Hamer County Park to the Manatee Dam. The tea-colored river can be shallow depending on tides and flow from Manatee Dam; water is sometimes released from the dam, listen for the warning siren. There are many sandbars to pull over to stretch or picnic, especially at low tide. Depending on water levels, some motorboats can be encountered. (Detailed map and photos below.)
We used the launch at Ray's Canoe Hideaway, easy on and off for a small fee, they also offer rentals. The launch at Rye Wilderness Preserve is a pleasant stop off the river, but to start from there involves a long carry from the parking lot, then down a set of steep steps to the launch - and then back up!
The river narrows above Rye Bridge, with twists and turns and some river obstacles possible. Below Ray's Canoe Hideaway, the river gets wider with more houses, and more motorboats. Along the paddling trail, the river is wooded but depending on time of day there can be little shade in the wider sections. Some side creeks would be scenic diversions, but may be impassable at low water. We saw rope swings in a couple of places.
Wildlife include alligators, turtles, herons, ibis, bald eagles and other birds, and fish; along the river are forest, tidal marsh, and hardwood hammock.
More information on paddling at Manatee River (opens in a new window):
Paddling in Florida - Kayak, Canoe