There has been interest in paddling the Hillsborough River from Sergeant Park to Rotary Park. This is not for the casual paddler due to the distance, time on the water and speed we will maintain to complete the paddle in 6 - 7 hours. There will be no rentals available from the Meetup host for this trip. You should have your own kayak, PFD, whistle, bilge pump/sponge. An extra paddle is recommended but not required. You should bring plenty of water/sports drink, snacks and a hearty lunch.
Hillsborough River State Park opened to the public in 1938. The wilderness area encompasses 3,950 acres and has four parks: Sargeant, Morris Bridge, Trout Creek, and Rotary. The Hillsborough River is enjoyed by paddlers, birders, fisherman, photographers, hikers, and others at the wealth of parks that are located along its banks. The Hillsborough River has been favorably compared to the Amazon and the Florida Everglades as one of the great places to view wildlife. The four parks along the river provide picnic areas, restrooms, and access for paddling. The Hillsborough River was chosen by Canoe & Kayak Magazine as one of "North America's Best Close to Home Paddling Adventures." (May 1995)
(Personal note: I love this river for the wildlife. I recently paddled the river and saw dozens of turtles, egrets, ibises, herons and spoonbills. Also some baby alligators with mama nearby, some juveniles and several large adults. We saw deer between Trout Creek and Lettuce Lake, too. I hope you agree that this section of the river, new to many of us, is beautiful.)
The most popular routes to paddle on the Hillsborough River are commonly divided into four segments totalling almost 14 miles one-way. The entire trip requires requires a complete day of paddling as the Hillsborough is a slow moving river. Although there are launch sites at each of the parks, there is really no "bail-out" point because of the shuttle from Sergeant to Rotary.
Sargeant Park to Morris Bridge Park - 1 1/2 to 2 hours paddling time, 4 miles
Morris Bridge Park has restrooms and picnic tables.
Morris Bridge Park to Trout Creek Park - 1 1/2 to 2 hours paddling time, 4 miles
Trout Creek Park has restrooms, picnic tables and a canoe wash.
Trout Creek Park to Lettuce Lake Park - 1 1/2 to 2 hours paddling time, 3 miles
Lettuce Lake Park has picnic shelters about 300 yards down river from the Observation Tower. A nature center, restrooms and trail/boardwalk are close by. On the west bank of the river is the University of South Florida River Park.
Lettuce Lake Park to Rotary Park - 1 1/2 to 2 hours paddling time 2.5 miles
The final 2.5 miles of the tour from Lettuce Lake to Rotary Park is developed with housing on both sides of the river. Rotary Park's take out is located immediately upriver of the bridge on Fowler Avenue. The park has restrooms (unpleasant!), picnic tables and a concrete boat ramp.
We will meet at Sergeant Park (3 miles north of Fowler and 301) to unload our kayaks and gear and promptly at 9:00, shuttle some vehicles to the take out. (5.8 miles) We will launch from Sargeant, paddle to Morris Bridge Park and take a short break for stretching our legs/snack/facilities use. We'll proceed to Trout Creek where we will take a longer break for lunch. Lettuce Lake Park will be the next stop. There are very nice facilities here but we will probably not have time to see the Nature Center (although attendees can decide, depending on time, etc.) and the launch is rather removed from most of the park's activities. Finally to the take-out at Rotary Park. There we will load kayaks and transport some drivers and kayaks back to the launch. (Address for Rotary Park is 11700 Terrace Point Ct, Tampa, FL 33637, off of Fowler and Old Morris Bridge Rds, just west of I-75)
PLEASE ANSWER THE QUESTIONS REGARDING YOUR CAPABILITIES TO HELP WITH THE SHUTTLE. It should be understood that all who attend are willing to help with shuttles. This is a group endeavor: All watch out for each other and help with shuttle. (If we have enough helpful people for shuttles, I will consider opening this up to more attendees.)
As with all of our paddles, we are not professional guides nor instructors. We are a group of kayaking enthusiasts out for an enjoyable time. We help each other, learn from each and enjoy the privilege of being out on the water. By participating in any of our paddles, you assume all risks and responsibilities for your personal health and safety and for your equipment. It is important for everyone that each participant be prepared for the trip. Please use your discretion and best judgment when joining a trip. Be sure you are up to the paddle -- physically, mentally and that your equipment is appropriate for the intended trip. Know and respect your limits. Be safe, act responsible and you will certainly enjoy another fantastic trip.