Friday, February 18, 2011

Kayaking on the Hillsborough River

Tampa, Florida

I awoke yesterday  feeling much better so we decided to head to a nearby park for a paddle on the Hillsborough River.

We had wanted to drive up to Ocala to meet up with John and Carol and paddle the Silver River with them,  but after Al rechecked the mileage, we decided to wait until we could find a closer place to meet up with them.

The Hillsborough River is the main source of drinking water for the Tampa Bay area and has quite a few launch points with little parks all along the way.  You pay a $2 fee to use the park. 

The  Hillsborough River Paddling Trail is a good guide for the location and paddling information for the many different launch sites along this long and beautiful river.  Many rivers in Florida are spring fed with clear water.  The Hillsborough river is not one of those.  It’s a black water river with it’s own special beauty from the reflections on the dark water and lots of wildlife.

We decided to launch at Trout Creek Park  and paddle upstream towards Morris Bridge Park. 

We invited our neighbors Dean and Shirley.  We have been trying for a couple weeks to get together  with them for a kayak trip.   They are new to kayaking so we wanted to find a place they would feel comfortable and enjoy.  Shirley doesn’t swim,  so we didn’t want to scare her away from kayaking in the future.   They just got  a Sea Eagle 330 inflatable kayak.  It’s not the exact type we are thinking of buying, but we felt it would give us an idea of what they are like.  After we got back from our paddle, both Al and I took their kayak out for a spin.  It was a much different feel than the hard sided kayaks we are used to but a very nice kayak.  We both noticed how light it felt compared to our boats.  I just wish we could find the Fast Track 385 Sea Eagle to test out!

Dean and Shirley with the Un-inflated Sea EagleDean and Shirley and their uninflated Sea Eagle 330 Kayak

After Inflation


Trout Creek Park is a nice little park with picnic tables, restrooms, kayak wash and a new little ramp for launching kayaks or canoe’s. The $2 fee is something new since the economy tanked, I guess.

Canoe and Kayak Launch

Kayak Launcher

Kayak Launch

You just put your boat on the ramp and push off…didn’t even get my feet wet!  We didn’t try it when we took the boats back out of the water though.

Al and I had never really paddled this portion of the river and didn’t really know what to expect.  The river varies greatly from one section to the other and this area was supposed to have a lot of wildlife.  That sold us! 

The info was correct…we saw a lot of wildlife right from the beginning.

We waited for Shirley and Dean to get comfortable in their new kayak.  It took a little time for them to get the hang of paddling together.

We hadn’t gone very far when I spotted a large turtle.


Then I noticed over to the left of that turtle were several more.


Then I noticed what I just thought was background,  turned out to be one of the largest gators I’ve seen anywhere except for the Okefenokee Swamp in Georgia.

Large Alligator and Turtle



He never moved, but he kept a watchful eye on us!

We saw lots of birds, turtles and gators.  It was about 80 degrees and a perfect kayaking day.




Roseate Spoonbill

Roseatte Spoonbill

White Ibis


White Ibis

Turkey Vultures

turkey vultures

And lots of Gators and turtles.

Turtle cluster





Notice the gator behind Al?

Al kayaking by Alligator

Al and large Gator



Puts new meaning into the phrase “up to your ass in Alligators”, doesn’t it?

Dean and Shirley

Dean and Shirley on the Hillsborough River

I took a very bad video of a gator.  Unfortunately my kayak was moving around and I ended up taking the video backwards….which is why is isn’t very stable.  sorry..

Dean and Shirley on the Hillsborough River

We had a wonderful day with good company.

It sounds like Carol and John had a wonderful trip on the Silver River in Ocala yesterday.  We sure wanted to paddle that with them, but we decided to wait until we were closer to the area.  She sent an email that they had a wonderful trip, saw lots of gators and even the monkeys!  They were exhausted and will post their blog when they recover a little!  Check back, it should be a good one! 

Now that the weather has warmed up again, we intend to do some more kayak trips.  There is no shortage of places to paddle in this area.


  1. Craig has wanted me to go kayaking at the Elkhorn Slough forever. Maybe I'll give it a try this summer!
    They rent Kayaks and also have guided trips. I might be able to do that. I'm afraid of water and could NEER be on river with sly those gators!

  2. We love to paddle calm waters like that too. I noticed in one of your pics that Al has a rod holder on his kayak just like the one Gin has. We also have Wilderness yaks. When we get older and the hard yaks are too much to handle, we plan to get a Sea Eagle also. I like the one you're looking into getting. Stay safe.

  3. Looks like a good trip but wow those are some good sized gators!

  4. There are a lot of beautiful rivers to kayak on in Florida... that is for sure. I would be a little concerned about being in an inflatable one with all those gators. I like the hard bodies...
    Have fun & travel safe

  5. Looks like another river we will have to add to our "to do" list Seriously looked way to close to that gator.

    Thanks so much for continuing to inspire us. Kayaking in Florida Rocks!

  6. those gators aren't that sly :)

    Gin & Syl
    We're old now and those wilderness kayaks are getting heavier each year. We could sure feel the difference paddling the Sea Eagle vs ours!

    That's why I want an inflatable with a harder bottom!

    John and Carol
    Yeah..notice Al is close to the Gator and I'm WAY back with my high powered zoom lens!

  7. All I can say is WOW not sure I'm ready for that. Great pictures

  8. See ya later, gator!! I'd never go in that river in a kayak! Too chicken!!

  9. Karen, I loved this! Made me really miss those amazing Florida rivers and all the birds! You got such great bird, turtle, and gator photos, too! sigh. on my important bucket list. A long winter in the MoHo with our kayaks in Florida.

  10. Looks like a great day on the water. You photos are really great today!

  11. Nope. No Way. Total HEEBIE JEEBIES here just looking at the pics.

    No thank you.

    (I am still shuddering and won't scroll back up the page either!)

    Karen and Steve
    (Our Blog) RVing: Small House... BIG Backyard


Please feel free to leave comments. We love to read them! To contact me directly you can send e-mail to