Places to Paddle tm
Canoeing - Kayaking - Rafting



Hillsborough River from Sargeant Park to Morris Bridge Park, near Tampa FL USA
By reading further, you agree to our Terms of Use

Copyright 2005 Alfonso Vazquez-Cuervo - See Terms of Use

Our Route Summary

  • Submitted by: Holly Herrmann
  • Date Submitted: 4/2005
  • Location: Tampa, FL USA
  • Class: 1
  • Distance Paddled: about 4 miles one way
  • Water: fresh, flat blackwater, with a slow (1/2 to 1 MPH) current that can be paddled in either direction
  • Wildlife: Wildlife normally seen - great blue heron, little blue heron, anhinga, white ibis, osprey, red-shouldered hawk, black vulture, turkey vulture, Florida red-bellied turtle, peninsula cooter, and lots of alligators.

    Wildlife often seen - limpkin, black-crowned night heron, green-backed heron, tricolored heron, pileated woodpecker, cardinal, belted kingfisher, great egret, snowy egret, barred owl, eastern phoebe, tufted titmouse, red-winged blackbird, double-breasted cormorant,
    wild hogs, deer, gray squirrels.

    Wildlife occasionally or at certain times of year seen - roseate spoonbill, wood stork, pied-billed grebe, prothonotary warbler, blue-gray gnat catcher, American robin, wild turkey, great horned owl, yellow-crowned night heron, bald eagle, river otter, raccoon, wood duck, Florida banded water snake & brown water snake (both non-poisonous)
  • Special Regulations: No picking flowers or feeding wildlife (especially gators). Stay off private property, no alcohol, glass, firearms, Styrofoam or trash. Fishing is allowed with a valid license.


John B. Sargeant Park
12702 US 301
Thonotosassa, FL 33592

  • Directions: 3.5 miles north of Fowler Avenue on US 301 just east of Tampa
    GPS coordinates - N28.04.955',W82.17.094'
  • Fee: none
  • Description: Boat Ramp
  • Parking: adjacent paved parking
  • Facilities: restrooms, picnic area
  • Handicap Access: none


Morris Bridge Park
13330 Morris Bridge Road
Thonotosassa, FL 33592

  • Directions: Morris Bridge Park - 5 miles east of I-75 (Exit 266, old 55, Fletcher Avenue) on Morris Bridge Road.
    GPS coordinates - N28.05.918', W82.18.717'
  • Fee: none
  • Description: Boat Ramp
  • Parking: adjacent paved parking
  • Facilities: restrooms, picnic area, boardwalk and trail
  • Handicap Access: none

What We Saw

The Hillsborough River is exceptional for bird watching, and home to many threatened and endangered species. It flows 54 miles from its headwaters in the Green Swamp to its mouth in Hillsborough Bay, a portion of Tampa Bay, Florida's largest open water estuary. The watershed extends over parts of three counties, Hillsborough, Pasco, and Polk. From nearly pristine conditions, the river winds its way to Tampa Bay through rural, suburban, and urban settings.

For the most part the Hillsborough is what is known as a dark or black water river. The tea color is caused by tannic and humic acids that are added to the river as it flows through acidic flatwoods and swamps.

The upper 31 miles of the river (from Crystal Springs in Pasco County to Riverhills Park in Temple Terrace) are an official Florida Canoe Trail. You can put in at numerous locations along the Hillsborough River and paddling either direction is easy since the current is slow.

The Hillsborough river has five tributaries and receives 40 million gallons of pure water every day from Crystal Springs. The Hillsborough River State Park wilderness area encompasses 3,950 acres and has four parks: Sargeant, Morris Bridge, Trout Creek, and Rotary.


I paddled the first leg, from Sargeant Park to Morris Bridge Park. Be sure to use restroom facilities at park before heading out.

When you leave the Sargeant Park Boat Ramp be SURE to turn to the right (east) first and head down Flint Creek. It was absolutely teaming with alligators, birds and fish. I couldn't believe I was just outside of Tampa with the abundant wildlife I saw there, including a couple of Roseate Spoonbills. The fish were jumping, and there were so many gators I thought I was in GatorWorld. :-}

I saw a heron spear a fish out of the water, then fly to the shore watched with it to dine (see photo at right). Take your time in Flint Creek before you head back up the Hillsborough for the rest of the paddle, since you won't see as much wildlife once you start paddling.

This section of the Hillsborough River is 20-60 feet wide and has a nice shady canopy of cypress and oaks (see picture), but not a lot of debris from the hurricanes last year. About 1/2 mile from Morris Bridge Park you'll paddle by an old railroad trestle (see photo at left).

When you paddle under the concrete overpass for Morris Bridge Road the boat ramp will be on your left.