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HomeFamily TravelA Day in Nature Canoeing on the Hillsborough River, Central Florida

A Day in Nature Canoeing on the Hillsborough River, Central Florida


A daylong outing with Canoe Escape in central Florida affords a pure and stress-free expertise very near Tampa and Busch Gardens. It’s the “actual Florida” simply as they’re, however reverse in tone and expertise.

It took a few years to persuade my household (and a full hour to extract our 11-year previous out from the resort), as a result of wild, actual and water in Florida means you can be up shut with alligators whose habitat that is.

Family canoeing along the Hillsborough River with Canoe Escapes of Central Florida. Photo c. CanoeEscape.com
Household canoeing alongside the Hillsborough River with Canoe Escapes of Central Florida. Picture c. CanoeEscape.com

However with a little bit of cajoling and imagining we have been native Floridians (who suppose nothing of sharing the waterways with these reptiles), I used to be capable of get everyone over to Canoe Escape (813/986-2067) in Thonotosassa, simply 16 miles from downtown Tampa. It proved to be the spotlight of an amazingly great go to to Tampa. Tampa surprises with its various and interesting family-friendly sights, from the incomparable Museum of Science & Business to Busch Gardens theme park, notable for being each entertaining and fascinating with an African village motif.

Canoe Escape could sound like a theme park experience, however “escape” is apt. Push off from the financial institution and in moments you enter the magnificent and delicate Hillsborough River, beneath a cover of nice cypress bushes and oak. Really feel like you could have escaped the pressures and worries of recent life. You might as effectively have been transported 100 years again in time. I don’t recall ever being so serene and so excited on the similar time.

Canoe Escape in Central Florida

Joe Faulk, the proprietor who began Canoe Escape in 1991 after a profession in resort administration, virtually single handedly created a canoe vacation spot out of Tampa which out-of-towners may get pleasure from. Since 65% of his enterprise is from guests, Canoe Escape divides the river into journeys that may be achieved in 2 ½-3 hours time using the Hillsborough County’s park system.

No worries; there are bathrooms, telephones (to summon the bus again for a decide up) and parking spots originally and finish of every section. His household continues to run an excellent, and environment friendly operation. You’re feeling cared for, taken care of, even should you exit by yourself.

The journey segments, which every vary from 4 to six miles in size, will be simply self-guided. Canoe Escape supplies a helpful map and wonderful instructions; what’s extra, it’s onerous to get misplaced since. There is just one river, you circulation downstream, and novice canoers quickly notice if they’ve inadvertently taken a tributary.

Guided Wilderness Journeys by Canoe Escape

Alligator rests on a log in the Hillsborough River, Florida.
Alligator rests on a log as we canoe by alongside the Hillsborough River, Central Florida. Picture c. CanoeEscape.com

You can also organize for a guided tour. What I like greatest is that the clothes shop didn’t simply dump you on the launch. Their journey notes are very full and deal with even the plain (don’t feed alligators; no canine–“we love em however so do gators”; convey all trash again, and so forth.). Different “no-no’s”: glass, styrofoam, firearms, chainsaws, loud music.

Joe offers us paddling ideas. Though my household all used to canoe at camp we discovered his ideas very useful. He’s very affected person and inspiring. We quickly see why canoeing is a perfect exercise that companies and {couples} can use to construct teamwork. Joe tells us that it takes three or 4 occasions paddling collectively to actually get into sync, however you don’t need to be so polished to have a good time on the river. (Should you choose, you’ll be able to hire a kayak, which might convey you even nearer to the river.)

Canoe Escape in Central Florida: Enjoyable for the Entire Household

The 4½-mile section of the river by means of Wilderness Park is the preferred due to the abundance of wildlife. It’s the greatest space to see alligators within the wild. Be aware that additionally it is advisable for first-time paddlers of any age (a baby of any age who is ready to sit nonetheless for 2 hours can take this journey), birders and photographers.

The canoes are outfitted to maximise consolation with a clip-on backrest (purists would possible choose to sit down on their knees). The canoe expertise proves excellent for our three-generational outing; even Grandpa, who was simply as reticent as our 11-year previous within the prospect of canoeing, quickly is caught below the spell of the river.

A brief distance from the place we set out, in Sargeant Park, we make a proper hand flip to enter Flint Creek the place Joe is aware of we’re more likely to see the largest assortment of alligators we’d see that day. We’re fascinated and even our 11-year previous rapidly overcomes the principle concern of the river — the alligators. They merely laze on the financial institution, on logs, or slowly ease themselves into the water. We determine there could also be massive ones, and loads of them, under the floor. With our information, we really feel very snug, and are quickly entranced by the great thing about the forest, the river, and the profusion of birds.

Simply close to the alligator, an excellent blue heron is poised on a log; an anhinga is drying his wings within the solar, an excellent egret is increased within the tree, and there’s a black crown night time heron. Florida red-bellied turtles and Peninsula cooter cluster on logs.

Hillsborough River Wildlife

Roseate spoonbill seen flying overhead while canoeing with Canoe Escapes in Central Florida
We noticed a roseate spoonbill flying overhead whereas canoeing with Canoe Escapes in Central Florida. Picture c. CanoeEscape.com

The Hillsborough River flows 54 miles from Inexperienced Swamp, simply exterior Disney World, to Tampa Bay. It’s a blackwater river, in elements the colour of tea, brought on by the tannic and humic acids which might be added to it because it flows by means of acidic flatwoods and swamps. This 23-mile stretch of the river is a part of a 16,000-acre protected wilderness, so very quickly, you’re deep within the forest. The peace of the place is palpable — no sound of vehicles, simply the splish-splash of the canoe paddle, the shrill cries of the birds, and rustle of the breeze. The pure air is heavenly. You lose all sense of time.

An excellent egret sails above, coming very near our 15-year previous and my mom. We spot him once more, on the financial institution, with a fish in his mouth. Others on the river that day noticed wild hogs (considered descended from those introduced by DeSoto on his explorations), deer and a brown water snake (nonpoisonous however I didn’t thoughts lacking that one). I maintain looking for the river otter that may be discovered right here however they elude me.

We see nearly all of the wildlife which might be frequent to the realm:

  • nice blue heron
  • anhinga
  • white ibis
  • osprey
  • red-shouldered hawk
  • black vulture
  • turkey vulture
  • alligator
  • Florida red-bellied turtle
  • peninsula cooter

Relying upon the season, you might also get to see roseatte spoonbill, wooden stork, pied-billed grebe, prothonotary warbler, blue-gray gnatcatcher, American robin, wild turkey, nice horned owl, yellow-crowned night time heron, bald eagle, river otter, raccoon and wooden duck, and the Florida banded water snake (additionally nonpoisonous).

Canoe Escape Outing & Central Florida Journey Planning Particulars

Out-of-towners like us have a tendency to return midweek and that’s a good suggestion. Weekends, the Tampans come out in throngs, however even when there are 70 canoes on the river, you aren’t more likely to see many. There are a number of journey segments to disperse individuals much more and protect the tranquil expertise.

There are totally different self-guided day-trip Canoe Escape in Central Florida combos. You’re inspired to take further time so you’ll be able to really feel splendidly free to discover a tributary for birds, picnic, shoot footage, and even go fishing (a license is required).

Canoe Escape affords guided canoe journeys year-round the place you’ll be able to be part of others or make your individual non-public group. Climate is just not possible an issue–Tampa’s climate is temperate, semi-tropical with a mean winter temperature of 62.5° F and a mean summer season temperature of 81.4° F. Remember the fact that within the wet season, Tampa tends to get showers within the afternoon, so you’ll be able to canoe within the morning.

Moonlight journeys are provided sometimes between October-April, normally as soon as a month on the Saturday closest to the total moon, ending with espresso and dessert at a neighborhood restaurant. Convey a flashlight to light up the male gators’ eyes (the males have a pink pigment). These journeys are $80 per couple (solely youngsters ages 12+ on this one!), and reservations are required.

The Canoe Escape web site is extraordinarily useful offering helpful lists of what to convey and what you’re more likely to see (even with footage.) Search for the printable record you’ll be able to take with you to examine off as you go.

For details about different canoe outfitters all through the state of Florida, go to Paddle FLA USA, the web site of the Florida Skilled Paddlesports Affiliation. For additional details about Higher Tampa, see Go to Tampa Bay.

Expensive Reader: This web page could comprise affiliate hyperlinks which can earn a fee should you click on by means of and make a purchase order. Our impartial journalism is just not influenced by any advertiser or industrial initiative until it’s clearly marked as sponsored content material. As journey merchandise change, please you should definitely reconfirm all particulars and keep updated with present occasions to make sure a secure and profitable journey.




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