Canoeing the Hillsborough River was the goal for today. This beautiful state park is located about an hour from the Tampa/St. Petersburg area.
It was a cool brisk day in St. Petersburg, Florida. I was staying with my good friend and college roommate Kerry O’Reilly. He mentioned the coolness of the weather, but I was thinking 50 or 60 degrees. I headed out in shorts because, hey, I was in the Sunshine State.
I was greeted with the first rays of sunshine on my trip, although when I pulled out of the driveway I was startled to the see the temperature gauge at 43 not 63 or 83 like it should have been. I guess the great weatherman in the sky did not get the memo I would be wearing shorts while on my outdoor adventure travel trip today.
We pulled into the state park an hour later and we were greeted with trees hanging with Spanish moss. Florida state parks are such an oasis of natural beauty. You can be driving through miles and miles of orange groves, retirement homes, and just plain ugly scrub, and then pull into a state park and be greeted with scenic splendor. I guess that is why the state parks slogan is the “the real Florida.”
We paid our $6.00 entry fee and we were informed we needed to head to parking lot #4 for the concession to rent canoes. We were greeted by an exceedingly friendly staff at the canoe concession. They even gave us little tasters of their biscuits and gravy while we waited. They did make fun of the fact I was wearing shorts. At least they did not make fun of the fanny pack.
We opted for two hours of canoeing since it was sub 50 degree temperature. They informed us to paddle to a sign noting that we were leaving Hillsborough State Park and turn around. This would be the 3 mile mark. They also told us to look out for Big Moe. Big Moe was a near 15 foot behemoth alligator that was usually spotted across from a white walled embankment that is on the left as you paddle downstream. The alligator, we were told, likes to hang out on the right shore.
We did not see Moe, but I think we saw one of his scions as a tiny set of eyes peered out from the shoreline. We did see 6 miles of a gorgeous river. Every turn in the river produced a similar beautiful serene scene of the real Florida.
At one point we turned into a little bayou. Perhaps Big Moe went to warm up in here we thought. When you are told a 15 foot alligator lives on the river, you like to know where he is. A movement in the water to our left turned out to be about a 5 foot alligator. He disappeared into the dark waters. We did see an alligator and a great blue heron, but Moe turned out to be elusive.
Although it was cold, I enjoyed the beautiful day canoeing with my college roommate. We reminisced about past glories in order to keep our minds off of the fact it was freezing, and I was wearing shorts. I would love to come back here in warmer times. Although you cannot swim in the river of course with 15 foot Moes lurking about, they do have a beautiful pool at the concession. It is closed during the winter until the water temperature warms to 70 degrees.
After calling it a day on the river, we drove back around to one of the state park’s hiking trails and took a look at one of the few rapids you will find in Florida. After that, it was back to St. Pete. I definitely will return to Hillsborough. Perhaps next time I will see Big Moe and the Sunshine State will provide real short wearing weather in the real Florida.
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Your photos are beautiful. I did a canoeing trip down the Colorado River once with my husband (when he was my boyfriend). We had a great time.
Canoeing can be a great place to bond, but also a place to fight if you are a couple. Glad you made it through and continued your relationship.
Funny my picture of the “real Florida” is a plate of Cuban pork, rice, black beans and plantains! 🙂
Raul (@ilivetotravel) recently posted..A Short Stop in a Fine Town: Limoges, France
I enjoy food, but I would rather have a great adventure canoeing and eat granola bars than eat well.
Love the photos as always. And do not agree with Raul at all – although I enjoyed getting to know his ‘part’ of Florida!
@mrsoaroundworld recently posted..5 things I hate about travel
Florida is an incredibly diverse state. There is so much it has to offer. I prefer the canoeing, swamps, and birds, but I understand there is so much more that other people like.
I love canoeing rivers like this and often if your core is warm I find shorts are still a go. And at least you got out and by the looks of things had the place to yourself. What a pretty area and I think I’d be just as happy that Big Moe didn’t show up.
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It is so true Leigh that if your body is warm, your legs are inconsequential. I wish we would have seen Moe not only to view the huge gator, but it is comforting to know where 15 foot alligators are. They say keep your friends close and your enemies closer, well I would rather know where a 15 foot behemoth is than have him surprise.
All the times I’ve been to Florida I’ve never canoed. There seems to be some good rivers in the Panhandle, but I end up never venturing from the beach. And that is a shame.
I hope this inspires you for your next trip. There are some amazing rivers all through Florida and it seems that each one has a nice state park and a canoe and kayak rental, so it rather easy to do.
I love paddling but I wouldn’t go anywhere near that river, knowing a 15-foot gator was lurking about. I do appreciate the “real” Florida, though, and those rare rapids are kinda cool.
Francesca (@WorkMomTravels) recently posted..Hyde Park walking tour with Vimbly and Joyce Walks Chicago
Oh well, more space on the river for me and Big Moe 🙂
I love the rivers of Florida and this one does not disappoint. I’ve never explored one by kayak though. The gators are just too damn scary to me.
Leah recently posted..New Zealand: My First Travel Love
I prefer a canoe over a kayak. They are more stable and a little higher from the water. Either way though, I would not fear exploring the beautiful Florida rivers from either vessel.
I had heard they gave out tasters of the biscuits and gravy which is really why I wanted to go. River and conversation weren’t bad either!
Kerry (the college roommate)
Thanks Kerry for taking me. The Hillsborough was a great paddle even though we did not see Big Moe.
Be carefully, a snake will fall down on your head, from those trees. 😀
It was way too cold on this day for any snakes to be out.
i looove the picture from inside the canoe, right above the one of the blue heron!
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Thanks, we paddled up a little slough to see if we could see Big Moe. We did see an alligator but no giants.
Great stuff Ted. Sorry you didn’t encounter Big Moe, but it sounds like you had a remarkable day in my home state. I play golf at a course that has a similar monster that lurks in a swamp. He’s called Big Al and has been there for as long as I can remember..
D.J. – The World of Deej recently posted..New Year’s Eve at Epcot
It is always nice to see big alligators. I would rather know where they are than to be surprised.
I wanna go on a kayaking adventure with you!!!
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That would be nice Lola. Maybe if we are sober enough at the next TBEX we can find a river.
Why anyone would intentionally LOOK for a 15ft gator is beyond me, Ted. I’ll canoe in the opposite direction. Haha… then again I’m a chicken. Sorry you missed Moe. At least you left with your limbs in tack and beautiful pictures!
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