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Reported: March 2013

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.)



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Distance: 9 mile Designated Paddling trail between Fort Hamer Regional Park and Manatee Dam; 46 miles total.
Location:
Manatee County (Bradenton)
Difficulty: Easy
Tidal: Yes, to Manatee Dam
Launch points: Fort Hamer County Park, Ray's Canoe Hideaway, Rye Wilderness Preserve (See map, left)
Kayak/Canoe Rentals: Ray's Canoe Hideaway (link, above right)
Nearby points of interest: Sarasota, Bradenton

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.

Paddling at Manatee River
(tap or hover over photo for larger view)
Upstream from Ray's Canoe Hideaway
We launched at Ray's Canoe Hideaway and paddled abour 4 miles upstream into the Rye Preserve. Easy paddle with some twists and turns where the river narrows past Rye Bridge. We paddled upstream with the incoming tide; on the return trip paddling against the tide was not overly difficult though the wind added some resistance, especially where the river was wider. We paddled on a weekday and only saw one other kayak, on weekends this can be a busy run.
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Launch at Ray's Canoe Hideaway  
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Turtle Rye Bridge Launch at Rye Wilderness Preserve Entrance from park trails Down the steps to the launch
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Rye Branch, too shallow to paddle at low tide   Not sure if this was a different type turtle   Other paddlers

Also check out paddling at Little Manatee River

More information on paddling at Manatee River (opens in a new window):

- Florida Office of Greenways and Trails - Upper Manatee River Paddling Trail (pdf)
- Manatee County, Rye Preserve

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Ray's Canoe Hideaway


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