Thursday, July 14, 2011

Paddling with Dragons

Zoe and I spent the day paddling on the Hillsborough River which flows through the Wilderness Park Wildlife Preserve in Tampa Florida. The preserve occupies 16,000 acres right in the middle of Tampa and is recognized as one of Florida's best places to view wild life. We rented a canoe from the local canoe outfitter Canoe Escape and decided to paddle 8.5 miles on theHillsborough River from the put in at Sargeant Park to the Trout Creek Park. The trip started out sunny and dry but after just 10 minutes on the water it started to rain. It poured again!!!! It seems that each time I go paddling it rains. What is with that, Sheeesh. We remained soaked for the rest of the day but fortunately the temperature was warm, around 80 degrees F (26 degrees C) so we stayed warm. Despite the rain we had a fantastic day on the water. The river is very picturesque as it winds lazily through swamp land. Much of the river runs under a thick canopy of vegetation, trees thick with Spanish Moss and vines hanging down into the water. There were many trees that had fallen into the water that we had to maneuver around and a couple spanned the entire river. One we had to get out and drag over and the other we were able to lay down in the canoe and float under. We saw lots of turtles, alligators, and many different species of birds. All in all this was a great way to spend the day and Zoe and I enjoyed it a great deal.

Long the river we came to a nature center called, Natures Classroom. There must have been 50 or 60 Black Vultures in the trees and on the ground.

There were many cormorants along the river. This one was particularly cooperative and stayed still as we floated by.

I am not sure what this one is but he was very focused on his fishing.

We saw many alligators on the river. This was one of the largest. The only way past him was around the end of the log he is on. He was not happy with us as we approached. He slowly slipped into the water and was not seen again.

The vegetation was amazing with all the Spanish moss hanging from the trees.

We got close enough to this alligator that we could have tapped him with our paddles. We didn't but he was still not pleased with us and he started hissing. At this time of year is their breeding season and the male become very territorial.

We found these little guys sunning themselves on a log. We didn't stick around too long cause we didn't know where the mom was. Female alligators take care of their young for up to 5 years.

Spanish moss on a tree.

We saw many turtles sunning themselves along the way. This guy was close to 12 inches long.

We had to maneuver around and under many fallen trees.

Google Earth image of the Wilderness Park Wildlife Preserve.

1 comment:

Pawistik said...

Hey Mark, that bird looks like a Black Crowned Night Heron. We have them here too. You might not have seen it before but they hide in the reeds.

Sounds like you had a pretty neat experience and totally different from our local waters.