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Campsite Photo Trip - Fall 2011

Riding the Turtle Train

It will make sense later.

Greg and CampsitePhotos continues the adventure through the Florida Everglades: Hillsborough River State Park and Lake Manatee State Park

We left Collier-Seminole on Wednesday bound for Hillsborough River State Park just north of Tampa. We stopped at three campgrounds along the way to take photos. In order from south to north:

Myakka River Sign Myakka River Canoe Rental Myakka River 053

One of the oldest and largest state parks, Myakka protects one of the state's most diverse natural areas. The Myakka River, designated as a Florida Wild and Scenic River, flows through 58 square miles of wetlands, prairies, hammocks, and pinelands. Visitors can enjoy wildlife viewing from a boardwalk that stretches out over the Upper Myakka Lake, then take to the treetops with a stroll along the canopy walkway. The park's river and two lakes provide ample opportunities for boating, freshwater fishing, canoeing, and kayaking; a boat ramp provides access to Upper Myakka Lake.

Hikers can explore trails that cross large expanses of rare Florida dry prairie. Scenic lake tours are offered daily on the world's two largest airboats. Safari tram tours of the park's backcountry are offered from mid-December through May. Full-facility campgrounds and primitive campsites are available. Five palm log cabins, built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, have been modernized for comfortable lodging. Located nine miles east of Sarasota on State Road 72.

Lake Manatee Sign Lake Manatee View Lake Manatee 042

Lake Manatee State Park extends along three miles of the south shore of Lake Manatee, our namesake, which serves as a water reservoir for Manatee and Sarasota counties. Despite the name of the lake and park, visitors cannot actually see manatees at this park because of the dam on the Manatee River. The rest of the park is primarily pine flatwoods and sand pine scrub with some depression marshes and hardwood forests.

A boat ramp provides easy access to the lake; boat motors must be less than 20 horsepower. Canoeing and kayaking are popular activities. The lake offers excellent freshwater fishing, and anglers can fish from their boats or from the park's fishing dock. Swimming is permitted in a designated area of Lake Manatee; a facility with showers is located nearby. A large picnic area is nestled in a sand pine scrub area near the lake. A picnic pavilion may be reserved for a fee. Campers can enjoy full-facility camping, just a short walk from the lake. Located 15 miles east of Bradenton on State Road 64.

Little Manatee River Sign Little Manatee River Canoe Launch Little Manatee River 019

The Little Manatee River begins in a swampy area near Fort Lonesome and flows almost 40 miles before emptying into Tampa Bay. The river has been designated an Outstanding Florida Water and is part of the Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve. Visitors can fish along the banks of the river. Wildlife enthusiasts can enjoy hiking a six-and-a-half mile trail through the park's northern wilderness area. For those who prefer their hikes on horseback, the park has 12 miles of equestrian trails and four equestrian campsites.

Campers can spend the night in a full-facility campground or hike out to a primitive campsite along the trail. A youth/group campground accommodates up to 20 people. The scenic picnic area along the river has tables, grills, and pavilions. Pavilions can be reserved for a fee. Unreserved pavilions are available on a first-come-first-served basis. Located five miles south of Sun City, off U.S. 301 on Lightfoot Road.

As we passed through Tampa heading towards our campground, the skies broke open and the rain sheeted down. It was late, around 4:30pm, when we finally arrived and set up camp. It cleared up the next morning, but the temperatures peaked in the 50's. I think we have finally caught up with winter.

Hillsborough River Sign Hillsborough Campsite

Opened in 1938, Hillsborough River State Park is one of Florida's first state parks. This original CCC Park is divided by the swiftly flowing Hillsborough River with a set of Class II rapids. The river provides opportunities for fishing, canoeing, and kayaking. Hikers can walk over seven miles of nature trials: Rapids Trail, Baynard Trail, a sub-section of the Florida Trail and the Wetlands Restoration Trail. The park offers full-facility camping and a youth/group tent campground. It is located about 20 miles north of Tampa.

Here are some views of the river right behind our campsite:

Hillsborough River View 1 Hillsborough River View 2

Glenn visited Busch Gardens on Thursday so I got to spend a wonderful Glenn-Free day walking the campground and talking to other campers. On Friday we did some hiking instead of canoeing. The Hillsborough River is one of the few in Florida that has rapids, so we were determined to find them. We hiked a loop that joined the Baynard and Rapids Trails.

Trail 1 Trail 2

The trail finally met up with the river:

River 1 River 2

We crossed a suspension bridge and we found the rapids:

Suspension Bridge Rapids 1 Rapids 2

Hey, if your highest mountain in South Florida is 86 feet, you take what you can get. To make the photo above a bit more interesting, I brought a tripod along for my camera. By setting the shutter speed to one second, the result is a smoother look to the water:

Slow River

I almost forgot about the turtle trains. When you are definitely in no rush to get anywhere, they can be a fun ride:

Turtle Train 1 Turtle Train 2

All Aboard!

Regards, Park Ranger

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