Monday, February 18, 2013

Upper Tampa Bay

Having already written one post about a place on Tampa Bay’s eastern shore and another about a place on its western shore, I have had it in mind to write about one on its northern shore, so recently I made my way to Upper Tampa Bay Park. Located a couple miles east of Oldsmar, it is just on the Hillsborough side of the Hillsborough-Pinellas county line.

I arrived on a cool morning with the sky alternating between gray and blue, and the breeze whipping up ripples on the water -- which is notable because northern parts of the bay tend to be smooth even when whitecaps are brewing elsewhere on its surface. This picture was taken at the end of the Eagle Trail:

Upper Tampa Bay Park has three trails, all named after animals you might encounter here. And while, yes, you should look up to see if any bald eagles are wheeling overhead, you should not forget to look down as well, for you are almost guaranteed to see fiddler crabs wherever it gets damp. In the first photo below you can see holes made by the crabs; in the second you can make out some of them swimming in the tidal creek, looking like scattered specks. Both photos were taken on the Bobcat Trail.

Meanwhile, the Otter Trail begins by using a short boardwalk to cross a saltwater marsh where cordgrass and needlerush grow. Then it takes you along a wide leisurely path beneath palm trees and stunted oaks, next to the shore. Though you can not tell from the next picture, sea water is nearby on your right and  meadows sit just beyond the palmettos on your left.

The Eagle Trail is the first one you will come to after entering the park, with the Bobcat and Otter Trails both beginning at the end of the mile-long park road. The Bobcat is the only one of the three that is a loop, and when I was there, part of it was closed for repairs due to having gotten washed out.

None of the trails are particularly long, but if you walk them all you will spend a substantial amount of time in the outdoors. You will have a good chance to see wildlife such as corn snakes and diamondback terrapins; and in addition to seeing coastal sights like those above, you will walk through inland forests like this one:

While Upper Tampa Bay Park is a fine place for adults, it is an excellent one for introducing kids to the outdoors. In addition to walking the paths, you can paddle a canoe over the bay’s open water, and among its mangroves, and inland by going upstream on Double Branch Creek. The park has a handful of smallish picnic shelters, plus a beach volleyball court and playground. And finally, it has a nature center where native fish reside in aquariums and bees reside in a glass-sided observational hive. Here is a picture of the center’s tin roof in the distance, taken from the Otter Trail:

Because this is a county park, there is a $2 entry free that you are expected to pay at the unmanned “iron ranger” when you arrive. Canoes may be rented near the nature center at a rate of $25 for four hours. To get here, turn south onto Double Branch Road from Hillsborough Avenue, east of (and within sight of) Race Track Road. Then follow the signs. Happy Trails!


  1. What a delight place to visit! I would love to take a leisurely stroll along Otter Trail and also check out the nature center.

  2. Love the trail names hope you spotted a few of those wild animals. Great info here JD.