Wednesday, May 4, 2022

Paddling the Little Manatee River

My friend Mike and I were looking to do a Florida paddle we had not done before. My wife Catherine and I had visited the Little Manatee River State Park, and there I saw a new paddling opportunity, the Little Manatee River. We spoke to rangers at the entrance station about kayaking and canoe put-ins. We were very impressed with the cleanliness of the Park and the staff, who was very helpful with my many questions since I had never paddled the Little Manatee River.

I researched the Little Manatee River and found the article by James Steele referenced below.

The Little Manatee River flows 40-miles from east Fort Lonesome, Fl, into Tampa Bay. It is listed as "Outstanding Florida Water." The Little Manatee River includes a 10-mile designated paddling trail near Ruskin. The Designated Paddle Trail runs from the US 301 bridge nine miles downstream through the Little Manatee River State Park to Wildcat Park Boat Ramp.

Our paddle time would be limited to four hours. We would paddle two miles downstream and then back to our launch area.

We put our kayaks in at the State Park's new boat ramp, some of which are still under construction. The launch ramp is excellent for experienced paddlers, including handicap paddlers.

A word of caution here. This ramp, straight forward to launch, immediately drops you into deep water, so novice paddlers should put in at the Pavilion launch beach area. I suggest stopping at the entrance Ranger Station for put-in and paddling suggestions.

From the launch, we went river left, meandering downstream for two miles. We then turned back and returned upstream to our launch area.

The Little Manatee River is tannic and usually shallow with a sandy bottom. Rainfall runoff from a watershed of over 140 sq miles determines its clarity, depth, and flow. There is a rich diversity of Flora along this river, which is part of the Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve. Spanish Moss, including many-colored flowers, was seen throughout our paddle. Songbirds and beautiful egrets were seen.

There are turtles galore. And, as the Warning sign specifies at the put-in, there is an abundance of alligators. We saw four gators, ranging in size from a few feet and one over ten feet. Read the warning CAUTION sign

and stay away from riverside and swimming gators.

On the day of our paddle, Mike and I stopped at the Ranger Station, and received maps and advice from the most helpful rangers. We were told we might expect to see a manatee.

Alligators, turtles, manatees, exotic flora - wow - make an exciting trip.

We felt a four-mile paddle would be within our time and distance journey. Our trip would first entail testing the upstream current flow, as we wanted to be sure once we paddled two miles downstream, we could quickly return upstream to our starting launch area. Then we proceeded to paddle two miles downstream, monitored by my iPhone app with GPS and map.


Located off U.S. 301 five miles south of Sun City Center on Lightfoot Road, and seven miles north of Parrish, FL.

The Little Manatee River is designated an Outstanding Florida Waterway. The river is referred to as a blackwater stream because of its dark, tea-like color caused by the organic debris in the water.

Other Florida Paddles by OutdoorSteve are listed in References.
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