Saturday, November 19, 2011

Lower Hillsborough Wilderness

Adjacent to Hillsborough River State Park -- and four times its size -- sprawls a wild land whose very presence is a surprise to most people. Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve (LHW) encompasses almost all of the land between U.S. 301 and New Tampa east of I-75. Morris Bridge Road bisects it and is where you will find seven of its twelve entry points.

The Hillsborough River flows through the preserve, as do several major tributaries that empty into it here. These include Trout Creek, Cow House Creek, Two Hole Branch, and the Dead River, just to name a few.

This is a county park that was once known simply as Wilderness Park. And interestingly, while very few people know of it as a whole, many do know about certain sections of it. This is because some sections have their own names and signage and have gained a reputation for specific activities...For instance, Flatwoods Park’s paved, seven-mile loop makes it popular with joggers, bicyclists, and skaters; while Morris Bridge Park is favored by paddlers because of its canoe launch.

Where hiking is concerned, more than 60 miles of trails wind through the preserve. They range from earthen paths to paved ones to boardwalks, making it clear that there is something here for every hiker to enjoy.

In the coming weeks and months I will write about a number of specific hikes here, and I humbly suggest relying on my descriptions instead of the trail map. Although the map does do a decent job showing where the preserve’s entry points are, it does a frankly terrible one showing the routes and intersections (and in some cases, even the presence) of the trails themselves.

Maybe that is a problem of ownership, because although LHW is run by Hillsborough County, it is owned by the Southwest Florida Water Management District -- and as you may recall, my last post about a district property also noted major map errors.

Fortunately, I promise to steer you right! Please stay tuned…

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