Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you have imagined.

Henry David Thoreau

Hiking and Kayaking Beside and On the Beautiful Hillsborough River

January 14-18, 2017                                                                               Most Recent Posts:
Hillsborough River State Park                                                                David’s Birthday Week
Thonotosassa, Florida                                                                            Cold and Windy Start to 2018

Note:  For those who read my last post about the 500 error,
it was fixed early this morning. 
This puts me only 10 days behind.
Thanks Google.

On Sunday we leave Sebastian Inlet and move to Hillsborough River State Park in Thonotosassa Florida outside of Tampa.  We’ve been here nearly every year since it is the closest park to David’s doctors at the Moffitt Cancer Center and Florida Cancer Specialists.

I mess up the dates this year and have to take a single night in a skinny site on the front of our main reservation which means we move two days in a row.  Not fun but we like the roomy site I originally reserved.. 


Hillsborough River is an older state park and fairly rustic.  We like that our site is surrounded by trees.   Our gang likes their view.


The park has several nice hiking trails on each side of the Hillsborough River.  Early in our stay,  we take a relatively easy hike of 5 miles up to the rapids and beyond.  The stationary bridge looks lovely reflected in the water.



We don’t intend to go across today but we’re surprised to find it closed.  The sign says bridge damage.  We sure don’t see any from this side.   Over the week end I take the longer hike on the other side and I don’t see any there either.


There are actually two sets of rapids.  The first is just beyond the stationary bridge.  How strong they are depends on the level of the water but we’ve never been able to kayak over them in all our paddling on the river.  Probably with at least the first set it was becasue we didn’t want to work that hard.



Along the way we see this red bellied woodpecker working on the palm trees.

An immature ibis is working the river bed.  I suspect he’s a teenager since he’s beginning to turn white.  As an adult he’ll be completely white.  No sign of his juvenile coloring.

The main rapids are the end of the heavily used trail although you can hike on faintly used trails all the way up to Route 301.


Pretty sure you’d have to portage these rapids.  With all their rocks I don’t think anyone could kayak beyond them although the river is lovely and calm on the other side.  It is flowing to the park from the Green Swamp.  Beyond the park you can kayak all the way to Tampa and beyond if you have the time to kayak camp.



IMG_0002We don’t go all the way to Tampa but on another day we do go out on the dark Hillsborough.  There are 3 places in the park to put in your kayak.  One seems to be rather reserved for the rental canoes from the concessionaire who runs the very large pool, snack bar and store.   The other is in the day use area and the third is the one we use in the campground.   It has a new ramp this year which I think works better for canoes than for kayaks.  A bit of a sharp turn there.   I’m pushing myself off of the bank.

It’s a beautiful blue sky day and the reflections are outstanding.   But, they can sometimes make it difficult to see those gray things with teeth on the logs in the river.


Good thing you have to paddle around this fallen tree or you might not see the gator.



Cypress trees have the most beautiful bases.  Twice as beautiful in reflection.

Here’s the adult ibis.  No coloration now.


We pass under the stationary bridge and still can’t find any evidence of damage.  Guess you have to be a structural engineer.


See what I mean about reflections?



We pass this gator and come to the first rapids where David says we have to turn around.


Why do they always look like they are smiling?


I’m amazed I got this shot.  He was only there for a second.  Phoebe?


Great Blue Heron trying unsuccessfully to look like part of the brush.



Someone else hiding in a similar camouflage further along the river.


Such an absolutely beautiful day for floating along with a slow lazy river.


At one point we look ahead and see what appears to be a huge turtle on a log.


I swear he still  looks like a turtle even this close up but he’s actually an amazing piece of Suwanee Limestone.  The beautiful outcroppings of Suwanee Limestone were one of the reasons for the creation of Hillsborough State Park.  Everything I could find on line about it was far too advanced for me.  Maybe Sue Malone will be able to shed some easy to understand light.


I do know it’s some of the most interesting limestone I’ve seen and it’s all along in the river along its sides.    How about this piece?


This young explorer looks rather casual floating by the gator on the bank behind the water plants.  Of course he knows gators aren’t interested in something as large as he and his kayak unless they are provoked.



Those are some spiffy gloves you’ve got there Mister.


Along with the gators and limestone turtle, we saw lots of other turtles.  So for the turtle lovers, here they are.

Heads up!


Pretty dried out in the sun.


Look Ma no hands or feet.  Great balance!


How far back can you throw your head?


Somebody’s sneaking up on us.



And speaking of sneaky.  Can you see him?


It’s a log right?  Or a piece of debris?


But then again.


I think the gator likes Florida because he can immitate a palm tree that’s fallen into the river.


Along with wonderful birds, interesting geology and plenty of reptiles, we found Mother Nature had provided many fantstic works of art for us on this paddle.



When we see this bridge we know we are nearing the end of the park boundary.  This is a trail on the other side from the campground which I hike later in the week and have a marvelous encounter but that’s in the next post. 


Though we could just keep paddling all the way to Tampa, we do have to get back so we turn around and paddle up stream.  On a slow river like this, that’s not much effort and lucky us we get to go back the same way we came and have all this fun all over again.


Next up are some off site excursions and social fun in the park.


  1. You got some really nice reflection shots. It took me awhile to find that sneaky gator!

  2. Nothing like reflection shots. Nice gator pics too!

  3. I shall not swim in those waters...nor shall I kayak!

    1. yet you will scale up a 13000 foot scree slope... ;)

  4. nothing like a wonderful Florida river paddle, and I do love those gators!

  5. Looks like a very nice park. It is one we have not been to yet, will have to correct that.

  6. I so enjoy traveling these rivers with you and David. Yes, that rock looks exactly like a giant turtle!! Such fun to see so many gators. They are fascinating and do look like they are smiling. That young explorer looks so relaxed as he floats:) That's a keeper photo!

  7. Absolutely beautiful Sherry! I would love seeing all those gators in their natural habitat. And thanks for all the adorable turtles - especially the acrobat :-) Beautiful reflections of such a diverse environment. Glad your error has been resolved!!

  8. Great pictures! Glad I’m so behind in my blog that I totally missed the latest LW error! 😂

  9. Glad the posting problem got solved, again. I LOVE these awesome shots with the reflections. Really magical. Even in a large brightly colored kayak I'd be a little nervous around the gators.

  10. I love the woodpecker. That and the chickadees are what I miss most about living in the east. I think all I have ever seen around here are jays.

  11. Great pictures ...I love Hillsborough River State Park campground that was where I had my first paddle in a kayak in my first encounter with a 12-foot alligator lol... I'm going there again on March 12th for a week with my RV gal Pals...

  12. Love paddles where the upstream is not severe - so calm, peaceful and therapeutic!

  13. Love Hillsboro River SP. I haven’t been in a long time. I live in St Pete so it is really close.

  14. Don't feel bad, I'm at least 10 MONTHS behind. I wish I could blame it all on Google's gremlins.

    Those gators are smiling because they're sizing you up for a meal! :c)

  15. We actually have reservations at HRSP starting today for three days, but I think we are going to cancel. It was to be our maiden voyage in our new little travel trailer. We were probably at Lazy Days the same time as they were. I know you don't like the cold weather but I'm actually enjoying it. I looked for you guys at the Rv show since we often run into to you there. It's always a fun time. Maybe we'll run into you at one of the State parks, since we plan to be taking our little camper out often.

  16. Great reflection shots! The gators are sneaky and fun to see the turtles with their heads up! :)

  17. Just getting done with catching up with your travels for the last few months, no data for blog reading\writing for last few months. Looks like you two have had some fun holidays and birthdays. We'll finally be in FL next winter and are hoping to visit Hillsborough River State Park, bookmarking some of your old blog posts for when we visit places you've been. Can't wait to get the canoe in FL waters.


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