John B. Sargeant Memorial Park to Trout Creek
On a chilly December morning and we put our kayaks and the water and started off on a lovely day’s adventure the Hillsborough River. I was joined by my friends Robin and Barbara and all three of us were eager to be out on the water to see the changes that the cooler weather may have brought to the river.
Not long after we put our kayaks and the water we were seeing wildlife cormorants, anhinga and turkey vultures were plentiful along the river. As we glided down the river getting further from civilization we noticed in the tree above us a majestic bald eagle. As we paddles downriver we saw a few great blue heron, green heron and snowy egrets.
There were many turtles and cooters warming themselves in the morning sun. We had only been on the river about an hour while we started to see our first alligators. Alligators were small it first as the water or shallow in this area and in many places we nearly had to walk our kayaks through the shallows. It had been a very dry summer and with no hurricanes are major storms passing thru this portion of Florida and north waters are very low in many of our Rivers. There are so many birds to see as we paddled it was hard to keep track of them all. This portion of the river is not traveled frequently as it can be difficult during periods of low water. There are no places to stop, there are no riverbanks and there can be many mosquitoes during periods of wet weather.
As the water got deeper and wider near Nature’s Classroom, a wonderful youth facility where sixth graders in Hillsborough County schools get to experience nature programs, the river became mysterious. You could no longer see through the clear water to the bottom. Many plants now cover the surface. There were many children alongside the shore with nets trying to catch what lived in the water. They would then take their catch to the instructors where they would learn what about what they had found.
As we continued down river we notice an airboat spraying chemicals on invasive plants along the shore and other boats with more of the students motoring upriver with instructors teaching the kids about all there was to see along the shore. They’re even kind enough to let us know about yellow jackets nest on a nearby cypress tree. Not far from this location on our right we noticed two very large alligators signing on a massive downed cypress tree. Each of these alligators was between 12 and 15 feet long and quite intimidating. They seemed to take no interest in us which was good as they were larger than the boats we are paddling. Barber of course had to paddle closer for the perfect picture – she got just a little closer one of these reptilian giants slid into water in the general direction of her kayak. It did not take her long to put down a camera and join us on the other side of the river.
The Hillsborough River and all its beauty can be experienced by anybody willing to take the time to paddle down this magnificent river. Much of the shoreline along the northern portion of this river is part of the lower Hillsborough floodplain and is not accessible by foot easily. Canoe Escapes Outfitters is located at John B. Sargeant Memorial Park and can assist with canoe and kayak rentals. Not A Clue Adventures would be happy to take you on a guided trip down this river in the very early spring or late fall. NOTE* We do not do tours on this river in April or May do to mating season for the high population of alligators along this river. Winter is when alligators are most docile all and are less of a threat.
For more information on the Hillsborough River paddling trail please visit: http://www.dep.state.fl.us/gwt/guide/designated_paddle/Hills_guide.pdf
For more photographs taken during this paddle please visit: http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150598393836982.480661.123289366981&type=3