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Updated: 11/03/2014

Hillsborough River... Paddling in West Central Florida

Hillsborough River originates in the Green Swamp and flows about 50 miles to Hillsborough Bay. A 30-mile Designated Paddling Trail run from Hillsborough River State Park to Rowlett Park in Tampa. Much of the river is contained within protected wilderness areas. Multiple parks along the paddling trail offer many recreational opportunities, for launching or stopping off to stretch and snack.  (Detailed map and photos below.)   



View Larger Map

Distance:
30 mile paddling trail, 50 miles total
Location: Pasco and Hillsborough Counties
Difficulty: Easy to difficult, check with outfitters
Tidal: No
Launch points: Multiple (See map, left)
Kayak/Canoe Rentals: Hillsborough River State Park, John B. Sargeant Park (links, above right)
Nearby points of interest: Hillsborough River State Park, Tampa

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.

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.

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.

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 and more motorboats will be found here.

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.

Paddling at Hillsborough River
(tap or hover over photo for larger view)
Hillsborough River Launches
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John B. Sargeant Memorial Park
Fee parking, canoe launch and boat ramp. Canoe Escape concession
Morris Bridge Park
Fee parking, boat ramp,
kayak/canoe launch
Paddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, CanoePaddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, CanoePaddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, CanoePaddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, CanoePaddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, Canoe
Trout Creek Park
Kayak launch, fee parking
Lettuce Lake Park
Parking fee. It's about 600 feet from parking lot to launch, bring wheels!
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.
Paddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, CanoePaddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, CanoePaddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, CanoePaddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, CanoePaddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, CanoePaddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, Canoe
   
Paddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, CanoePaddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, CanoePaddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, CanoePaddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, CanoePaddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, Canoe Paddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, CanoePaddle Hillsborough River - Kayak, Canoe
Morris Bridge Morris Bridge launch
Between Morris Bridge and Trout Creek
We paddled from Trout Creek to Morris Bridge and return. We love the kayak dock at Trout Creek for easy launch and take-out! The river is narrow downstream from Morris Bridge, but widens closer to Trout Creek. 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.
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Boardwalk at Morris Bridge  
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Pulling up onto the kayak dock
at Trout Creek
Flood control dam near Trout Creek
Wildlife on the Hillsborough River
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More information on paddling at Hillsborough River (opens in a new window):

- Florida Greenways and Trails - Hillsborough River Designated Paddling Trail (pdf)
- Florida State Parks - Hillsborough River State Park

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Hillsborough River State Park Preservation Society


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