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Latest update: Nov. 2014

Hillsborough River... Paddling in West Central Florida

Hillsborough River originates in the Green Swamp and flows about 54 miles to Hillsborough Bay. A 30-mile Designated Paddling Trail runs from Hillsborough River State Park to Rowlett Park in Tampa. The middle section of the Trail is the most popular for paddling and during the cooler months especially, offers some of the best wildlife viewing in the State. Much of the river is contained within protected wilderness areas. Multiple parks along the paddling trail offer many recreational opportunities, for launching or stopping to stretch and snack. (Detailed map and photos below.)

paddle Hillsborough River, kayak, canoe

Distance: 30 mile paddling trail, 54 miles total. Trail mile 7.5 to mile 17.5 best for paddling.
Location: Pasco and Hillsborough Counties
Difficulty: Easy to difficult, depending on section of Trail, check with outfitters
Tidal: No
Launch points: Multiple (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Hillsborough River State Park, Tampa

Rentals/Outfitters/Tours:

Canoe Escape (rentals, tours)

Hillsborough River State Park (park concessionaire, rentals)

Support and Advocacy:

Hillsborough River State Park Preservation Society

Hillsborough River... Comments and Photos

The middle section of the river - from John B. Sargent Memorial Park past Morris Bridge to Trout Creek - is the most popular for paddlers. The river above this section is virtually impassable to all but the most adventuresome (Seventeen Runs) and below, the river becomes wider and increasingly more developed.


Hillsborough River Launches

We visited 4 launches and launched at 2 (Morris Bridge and Trout Creek)

Launch at John B. Sargeant Memorial Park

Fee parking, boat ramp, kayak/canoe launch

Launch at Morris Bridge Park

Fee parking, boat ramp, kayak/canoe launch

 

Launch at Trout Creek Park

Kayak launch, fee parking

 

Launch at Lettuce Lake Park

Parking fee. It's about 600 feet from parking lot to launch, bring wheels!


Middle Section - Paddling Trail

The middle section from Sargeant Park to Morris Bridge to Trout Creek Park, about 7.5 miles, is a popular section of river, with easy to moderate paddling - a few pullovers may be encountered depending on water level. Excellent for wildlife viewing. Tree canopy provides shade. Only one parking fee is needed for these three parks, the others have separate fees.

Between Sargent County Park and Morris Bridge

We paddled from Morris Bridge toward John B. Sargeant Park and return. This is a popular stretch, well maintained, with shade, many paddlers and much wildlife.


Between Morris Bridge and Trout Creek

We paddled from Trout Creek to Morris Bridge and return. The river is narrow downstream from Morris Bridge, but widens closer to Trout Creek. We love the kayak dock at Trout Creek for easy launch and take-out! There didn't appear to be as much wildlife as between Morris Bridge and Sargent Park, but it also was about a year between trips.


Other Sections

Upper Section

The upper section from Hillsborough River State Park to Dead River Recreation Area, about 2.5 miles, is easy and suitable for beginners, rentals are available at Hillsborough River State Park.

Seventeen Runs

The 5-mile section from Dead River Park to John Sargeant Park, also known as Seventeen Runs, is very difficult and suggested for experience paddlers only. This section is not maintained and has swift currents, many pullovers, and side channels that can be confusing.

Lower Section

The lower section from Trout Creek to Rowlett Park, 15.5 miles, is an easy paddle and goes through several residential neighborhoods. The dam at Rowlett Park creates a lake that provides water to the City of Tampa. The river above the dam is wider with more motorboats.


Wildlife on the Hillsborough River

Wildlife include alligators, turtles, snakes, otters, bobcat and deer. Birds include herons, ibis, hawks, osprey and eagles, plus many other water and song birds. Habitats include live oak hammock, cypress swamps, pine flatwoods, and freshwater marsh.

Birds

Gators and Turtles

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