A relaxing paddle on trip 1
A relaxing paddle on trip 1.
A group stops for refreshment along a sand bar on trip 1.
A manatee "does lunch" by the picnic pavilions on trip 1.
Rope Swinger
A brave soul jumps from a rope swing on trip 1.
Tubes

Tubes waiting to go out on a tube run.

 

 

 

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Trips on the Little Manatee River

The Little Manatee is one of Florida’s unspoiled river gems. Designated by the State as an “outstanding Florida water”, it is also part of the Florida State Canoe Trails system. Included in the Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve, it flows through over 8,000 acres of protected lands including the 2,600 acre Little Manatee River State Park. These lands and the river’s waters provide a relaxing escape from development and city life to Florida’s wilderness.

The Little Manatee begins in eastern Hillsborough and western Polk counties and travels 40 miles to empty into Tampa Bay at Bahia Beach. The upper 28 miles is mostly wilderness, narrow and winding, making for great paddling with new scenery around each turn.. The river is ever changing and reshaping itself. With each raise and fall in the river level, nature rearranges the landscape and paddling path. Canoe Outpost strives to maintain 17 miles of this section so that there are no carry overs or portaging required. Our goal is to make the river passable to all paddlers while preserving the natural canopy and habitat as much as possible. West of 301, Trips 1 or 2 , we trim more extensively and it is naturally more open to accommodate a wider range of paddlers, families and groups at various water levels. East of 301, Trips 3 & 4, the river is narrower with many tight turns, faster moving water and a more extensive canopy and so is more challenging. These factors restrict the range of water levels we paddle on for these sections.

Since it drains a watershed of over 140 square miles, rainfall is the biggest factor in what conditions you will experience on any given day and each level has it’s charms. The quality of the water is always rated very high but it is the clarity, depth and current speed which changes with the rainfall. When we have not had rain for some time, the river becomes a shallow stream with clear water flowing over many expanses of sugar sand. The trade off for this beauty is a reduced current and perhaps a few areas that may be to low to float a fully loaded canoe. This might require you to step out of your boat and float it over a shallow area for a short distance. When the river is higher, the water flows brown and is more turbid, faster currents reduce your paddling exertion and can test your skills. Higher water also brings the option of tubing on trips 1 & 2.

Whenever you paddle, we hope you’ll agree that the Little Manatee River truly is an “outstanding Florida water”. Call us for the most current river conditions report and to discuss which trip is right for your experience level and interests..

Trip 1 - Canoe Outpost to Fish Camp: Our most popular trip. Start at the Canoe Outpost and paddle downstream with the current for about 6  miles or about 2 1/2 hours of paddle time.  Like all our trips, it is self paced and self guided and you have the use of the boat for the entire day if you wish. You may choose to paddle some available side trips to extend your paddle time up to about 4 hours. You’ll pass through the Little Manatee River State Park under a canopy of oak and willows. At the half way point there is a picnic area in the park with riverside pavilions with tables and grills, rest rooms, nature trails and a playground which help make this a great trip for families or group outings. Depending on water levels, in the first half of this trip there may be several shallow sand bar areas to visit if you choose to get out of your boat. On the second half of the trip, there may be a rope swing available, put up by the local kids to use if you choose to. In addition to beautiful scenery, most commonly seen are a few birds and fish, an alligator or two and many turtles. On occasion, manatee, deer, hogs and otters are spotted. We launch this trip continuously from 9:00 - 2:00 daily. Pickups at Fish Camp are at 1:00, 2:003:004:00 and 5:00. An early 12:00 pick up is available by request. Other times by special arrangement.   

Trip 2 - Canoe Outpost to the State Park picnic area: A shorter version of Trip 1, you start at the Outpost and paddle downstream with the current for about 3 miles or about 1 1/4 hours of paddle time. Trip 2 covers the first half of Trip 1 in the section which is more narrow and shaded. Like all out trips, It is self paced and self guided and you have the use of the boat for the entire day if you wish. Depending on water levels, there may be several shallow sand bar areas to visit if you want to get out of your boat. We hope your plans will allow you to experience the full length of Trip 1 but  for those with limited time or endurance, Trip 2 is a pleasant outing. We launch this trip continuously between 9:00 - 3:00 daily. The park system recently closed the old canoe steps to the public so Trip 2 pickups are done from the picnic area. No vehicles are allowed in the picnic area so you will have to walk about 200 yards over a sand trail to reach our buses in the parking lot and our staff will have to carry the boats. Due to the time and intensive labor involved with Trip 2 pickups, Trip 2 may not be available on weekends, does require advance reservations or arrangements and the rates are $5 more expensive than the rates for the full Trip 1. Pickup times are by appointment from11:00 - 5:00.  For shorter trip options, also please check out our hourly rental section.

Hourly rental: We encourage you to experience a full trip, one way with the current and take advantage of our services and transportation. However if you would like to rent a boat to paddle around, starting and stopping your paddling at the same point, we do offer 1/2 or full day hourly rentals also. For rentals beginning and ending at the Canoe Outpost,  for a canoe or double kayak, the cost is $26 for a 1/2 day of up to 4 hours and $39 for a full day of up to 8 hours. For single kayaks, the cost is $20 for a half day of up to 4 hours and $30 for a full day of up to 8 hours. Unlike the hourly rentals at the state park, our staff will handle all the equipment for you and assist you in launching and landing and all boats and equipment are cleaned after each use. Hourly rentals from the Canoe Outpost launch from 9:00 - 3:00 daily and must be returned by 5:00. If you prefer, you may begin and end your trip at our Trip 1 pickup point located 6 miles downstream for an additional $10 transportation charge per boat. This option is attractive for folks interested in fishing and may have a slight increased chance of seeing manatees. Less current, turns and obstructions also make this a good beginner level paddling area.

Trip 3 - 579 bridge to the Canoe Outpost:  Come paddle the upper river and experience a more challenging wilderness trip. More narrow and winding with a generally faster current, this trip covers 6 miles in about 3 ½ hours of paddle time.  You will pass by the FP&L intake station and the 1903 Orange Blossom Special train trestle. An extensive canopy of oaks and willows is present. No facilities are available on this section but picnicking and camping spots can be found along the banks. You begin with a bus ride from the Outpost at either 9:30 or 11:00 daily and set your own pace to return to the Outpost by 5:00.

Trip 4 - Leonard Lee Rd to the Canoe Outpost: Extend your wilderness paddle of Trip 3 by adding this section from Leonard Lee Rd. to St. Rd. 579. This very remote section will add 4 miles and 2 hours to your trip for a total trip of 10 miles or 5 ½  hours paddle time back to the Outpost. This trip is available only in conjunction with Trip 3 except by special arrangement. Begin your trip with a bus ride from the Outpost at either 9:30 or 11:00 and set your own pace to return to the Outpost by 5:00. ( Due to the trip length, we recommend the 9:30 bus except for overnight campers or speed paddlers.)

You can view a map of the Trip 1 – Trip 4 river sections here.

Additional Services: We will work with you to design your trip. If you are a river camper or want to paddle other sections of the river, we can service other access points to get you where you want to be. Just ask.

Tubing

When the river is at higher water levels, tubing on the Little Manatee is great fun. Starting from the Canoe Outpost, we tube on Trips 1 & 2 giving you a 2 or 4 hour tube run with return bus transportation included in your tube rental. Call ahead to check river conditions.