For those who want a break within nature there are few better places to go in Florida than Little Manatee River State Park.
Covering 2,433-acres, much of this Florida state park is centered around the river to which it is named after.
Appropriately designated as an ‘Outstanding Florida Water’, it starts from a swampy area situated close to Fort Lonesome and runs for almost 40 miles until it reaches Tampa Bay.
Within the park it flows for around 6 miles, passing through 11 natural, diverse and unique communities along the way. Many of which contain ecosystems that are rare outside of the park.
Falling within the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, the park is home to many different species of birds and wildlife. It is also a popular spot for boating, fishing, hiking, biking, horse riding and picnicking.
For campers there is a full range of accommodation options available, including sites for RVs, trailers and tents, as well as equestrian and group/youth camps.
For guests, the park offers several ways to enjoy and immerse themselves within its beautiful scenery.
Outlined below is a brief overview of some of the many activities you can do during your time there.
Paddling at Little Manatee River State Park
The river provides plenty of opportunities to head out onto the water in a kayak or canoe.
Featuring several turns and twists, the freshwater river will take you on a course through a shady hammock of bays, ash, hickory and oaks if you head upstream.
Should you decide to go downstream you will head towards Cockroach Bay and eventually into the Gulf of Mexico.
Fishing at Little Manatee River State Park
For those who enjoy fishing the park is a veritable goldmine.
Comprising tidally influenced, rain-fed freshwater and brackish water, it teems with many different species.
Depending on where you go you can catch bluegill, Florida gar, sunfish, catfish, snook, shiners and largemouth bass among several other types.
If you intend to fish you must hold both a current saltwater and freshwater fishing license. The best access for fishing can be gained by canoe or kayak.
Trails at Little Manatee River State Park
Throughout the park there are several trails that showcase its stunning topography. These are specifically designated or multi-use trails for hiking, biking and horse riding.
One of the most popular trails in the park is Sand Pine Trail which can be used for hiking and biking. Covering almost 3 miles it is a stacked loop system that will lead you to the central day use area.
Many hikers choose to tackle the rustic 6.5 mile trail that ventures deep into the heart of the park through several of its natural communities.
For those with their horse, the Dude Lake Trail and Blue Trail are highly recommended.
Birding at Little Manatee River State Park
The park is a haven for those who enjoy birding.
A designated location within the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, it is home to many different species.
This includes the likes of blue jays, pileated woodpeckers, sparrow, wrens, red bellied woodpeckers and cardinals.
You should also see birds of prey like hawks, kestrels and owls, while down by the marshes and wetlands, breeds such as egrets, ibis, herons, sandhill cranes and roseate spoonbills are also in abundance.
Nature & Wildlife
Wildlife watching is one of the park’s most popular activities. With people coming from all over the state and beyond to see the many different species of flora and fauna that reside within its 2,400 acre habitat.
If you can, try and visit the park at sunrise or sunset as you are likely to see more animals during these times.
Expect to see the likes of alligators, manatees, turtles and otters in and around the water. Over in the flatwoods, uplands and scrubs you should be able to view white-tailed deer, rabbit, red and gray fox, bobcat, Eastern spotted skunk, snakes and gopher tortoises.
When watching the wildlife it is important to do it from a distance. Park rules stipulate that you are not allowed to feed, trap, hunt, harass or molest any of the animals.
Pets at Little Manatee River State Park
Dogs are allowed to join you at Little Manatee River State Park Campground. However, they must be kept restrained on a leash of no more than 6 feet in length when they are outside your vehicle.
Other restrictions may also apply. So to determine what they are it is a good idea to contact the main office for further clarification.
Camping at Little Manatee River State Park
For those who want to stay at the park there are plenty of camping options available.
This includes a loop with 30 sites that are set up for RV, trailer and tent camping. All of these sites come with an electrical pedestal that has either 20, 30 or 50 amp connections. They also have their own picnic tables, fire rings and water too.
Some of the amenities you will find at this campground include a bathhouse with warm showers, flush toilets, Coin-operated washing machines and dryers and a dump station.
In addition to these sites, there are also four sites set up for equestrian camping with horse stalls and the same facilities.
Primitive campsites for individuals, as well as those for general and youth groups are also available at the park too.
These sites do not come with electricity or water, but they do have their own fire rings and picnic tables. Be aware that if you want to stay here, you will need to pack in and pack out all your supplies.
Little Manatee River State Park
215 Lightfoot Rd
Wimauma, FL 33598
Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Little Manatee River State Park: