Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Silver River State Park, Ocala, Florida

This park is located in Ocala, Florida. It is one of the state's newest parks. It was designed and laid out with the new, larger RV's in mind. The campsites are all large, easy to get into and have a good amount of privacy. There are great hiking trails, and the beautiful Silver River to kayak or canoe on. This is a spring fed river so it is crystal clear. You will see a lot of birds and some alligators and turtles. There are a few places to get out and stretch your legs but you need to be careful of gators before you get out. You can put your kayak in in the park but you have to tow it 1/2 mile down the river trail. We have kayak carts so we roll them down to the river. You then are close to the headspring, which is the prettiest part of the river. You can kayak up to the Silver Springs Attraction, but cannot get out on their property. There are beautiful deep springs you can float right over and it in credible to look down into the bottom of an 80 foot deep spring. There are glass bottom boats coming and going so you need to stay out of their way. You can occasionally hear their captains explaining the history of the springs. Many old movies were filmed there.
View of the river from my kayak Twins?
WILD MONKEYS There are wild monkeys on the river. The story is that many years ago they were brought in for movie and released to an island, thinking they would never escape. They did and apparently have thrived. We made a kayak trip upriver one summer and were lucky enough to see many of them, including some very young babies.
BEARS We had been told someone saw a Florida Black Bear running around in the campground just a few days before we were there. There are signs on the hiking trails warning to be aware of bears, however we had never seen one. We found a little book that showed what different animal's prints looked like. We noted what a bear print looked like and then started a hike. Almost immediately we saw this print. We both knew immediately it was from a bear. We never saw the bear but knew he had been there! It was the highlight of our day. One day we hope to see one in the wild.
CAMPSITES All of the campsites are great, but our favorites are 20 and 22. They did have some trees go down after a hurricane in 2004, but they are still our favorites. You can't go wrong with any of these sites, even if you have a larger motorhome.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Hillsborough River State Park, Tampa, Florida

Hillsborough River State Park Campsite
Hillsborough River State Park is located near Tampa, which is on the gulf coast of Florida. This is one of the oldest parks in the state, but in my opinion, one of the best. There are 111 campsites, some of which are on the river. The river sites in my opinion are not the best sites. Most of them are small and some are very short, which is not good for larger RV's. There is a pool, gift shop, canoe and bicycle rentals, snack bar, and miles of trails for hiking and biking. There is abundant wildlife and great photo opportunities. We hiked many many miles in the trails, but always seemed to see more wildlife walking the loop around the park. My husband saw a Florida Panther, we have seen wild hogs, deer, lots of birds, the usual Armadillo's, raccoons, Possom's and Squirrels. There are some great campsites, but like most parks, there are some not so great sites. We were lucky enough to live in Tampa, so before we ever camped at this park, we went through the park pen and paper in hand, looking for the best sites. My favorites sites are ones that are large, have privacy and woods around. I don't want to look over and see my neighbor. We spent several Christmas holidays at Hillsborough River State Park. The campground is always full during the holidays and during Christmas, everyone decorates their RV's with Christmas lights. It's very nice and festive. This is a list of the best camp sites. These campsites are the kind we like, which are large, private, easy to get into and have woods behind us. We do not favor the river sites because they are smaller and have less privacy. The following are what we consider 5 star campsites by our rating system: 17, 19, 20, 21, 50, 52, 59, 60, 61, 106, 108. These next sites are campsites we rated as 4 star. They would all be large enough to easily get a large RV into easily. They are private but not quite as nice as our 5 star sites. 5, 33, 36, 43, 47,49,56. From November through April, it is hard to get into any Florida park due to the vast number of snowbirds. We always made our reservations months in advance, especially for holiday weeks. The river is great for kayaking and you can put in right there in the park. They have canoe rentals is you need one. There are some great paddling trips on the Hillsborough River and if you want to see alligators, then this is the place to go. Many of these best parts of the river can be accessed through various parks in Tampa. There is an outfitter in Tampa that will tote you and your canoe or kayak to a river landing, and pick you up hours later downstream. This makes for a nice relaxing experience. You can find them at: Canoe If you are looking for a great camping experience in Tampa, this is a great place to try.