Welcome to Canoe Escapes
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canoeing and kayaking near Tampa, Florida

Self-Guided, Downstream Trips

Canoe Escape offers six different self-guided, downstream, day-trip combinations along the Hillsborough River through a diverse ecosystem. Guests are encouraged to take extra time on any trip for nature observation, picnicking, photography, or fishing. Whether you are renting canoes or kayaks or Canoe Escape is shuttling yours, all paddling adventures start at Canoe Escape located in John B. Sargeant Park. You will be launched at or transported to the start of your trip from John B. Sargeant Park. (John B. Sargeant Park charges a $2.00 per car parking fee.)

We provide a river map, an explanation of your trip, and information about current river conditions. Our staff is happy to provide cursory paddling pointers to review the basic strokes in case it's been a while since you've paddled or if you are a first-time paddler. Knowing the draw stroke in the bow and the J-stroke and rudder in the stern of the canoe will help you navigate your way down the Hillsborough more easily.

Sea Kayaking the HillsboroughAll trips are downstream. Approximated paddling times will vary with your paddling proficiency, weather conditions, and the water level. Although a rare occurrence, since this is a wilderness area it is possible to encounter a downed tree or other obstruction that may require a portage on any trip even though we do our best to keep all self-guided trip sections free of objects blocking the path.

Whether you are renting canoes or kayaks or we are shuttling yours, reservations are strongly recommended on all trips to secure trip time and availability. By making a reservation you assist us in doing our best to stagger-start launches so everyone can enjoy the wildlife and serenity. Reservations and advance prepayment are required for groups of 8 or more canoes. Canoe Escape is open year around however we are closed Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve Day, and Christmas Day. We open at 9:00 a.m. daily.

Because this river is of such great ecological importance to the Tampa Bay area, we believe that these trips are best suited to wildlife watchers, families, and those seeking the serenity of the outdoors. If you are looking for a social outing that revolves around a lot of alcohol, this is not the place for you. We have only a few rules that are simple to follow and they exist for your safety as well as that of the wildlife. We look forward to providing you with one of the greatest outdoor experiences you'll ever have!


Self-Guided, Downstream Wilderness Park Trips
The Wilderness Park is a 16,000-acre wildlife preserve. It is part of the Florida Wildlife Commissions's Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail and was recognized by the Florida Wildlife Viewing Guide (currently out-of-print) as one of the best places to view wildlife in Florida and is one of Hillsborough County's jewels.

Canoe Escape's Self-Guided, Downstream Wilderness Park trips are divided naturally into three different two-hour sections that can be taken individually or in combination. Small county parks with picnic tables and restrooms are conveniently located each two hours' paddling time apart. The river in this area is flatwater with generally a one-half to one mile per hour current. The approximated paddling times are at a leisurely pace. Our latest launch for a 2-hour trip is 2:00 p.m.; for a 4-hour trip is noon; and for a 6-hour trip is 10:00 a.m. You are welcome to take as much additional time as you like on any of our downstream trips however our last pickup is 5:00 p.m., no exceptions! At the launch site you will be asked to schedule a time that you would like to be picked up.

Additional information and rates follow trip descriptions. Reservations strongly recommended.

Call 813-986-2067 to make a reservation.

Spotting a Great Blue Heron...
Trip 1 - Sargeant Park to Morris Bridge Park
"Look at that alligator!" "Hey, over there's a limpkin!" "Did you say there were 14 turtles on that log?" "We came around this bend in the river and there was a family of wild pigs down at the edge of the river bank!" "I can't believe I saw a river otter!" These are typical things you might say to yourself and your friends when you're done paddling this trip. Trip 1 is everyone's favorite for its abundance of wildlife. It's the best place to see alligators in the wild. This is the trip we recommend for first time paddlers, birders, and photographers.

2-hour paddling time; 4-1/2 miles
20 to 60 feet wide, canopied by large oaks and cypress;
70% shade alternating sun and shade

the thick, green canopyTrip 2 - Morris Bridge Park to Trout Creek Park
Feelings of adventure and isolation await under a thick, green canopy as the river twists and turns the first hour and-a-half of this section. Then the river widens out. This section affords an opportunity to see a variety of different species of flora and fauna although not in the quantity that Trip 1 provides. As you pass Nature's Classroom watch out for the "trespassing" vultures. The winter months will provide you a glimpse of a staggering number of them as migratory vultures join with the year around resident population. You'll definitely want to "look alive" so they don't mistake you for lunch. This wide area of the river is great to view osprey and in low water times (typically May/June) roseatte spoonbills. Exploring Trout Creek near the end of the trip takes you out of the cypress swamp into a hardwood hammock.

2 hour paddling time; 4 miles
80% shade first 1-1/2 hours; then full sun

A fantastic area for sun lovers...Trip 3 - Trout Creek Park to Rotary Park
This is a fantastic area for group outings and sun lovers. You'll see some 'gators and wading birds here, but the wider section of the river makes it easier for canoers to paddle side by side to enjoy the company of close companions. The incredible beauty of the forest and sky reflect in the calm water as you paddle through the "Narrows". Although not narrow for a canoe, this was as far up from Tampa Bay as ships (pirates?) could come and thus it was named the narrows. The last 40 minutes of paddling will take you through the edge of the suburban area of Temple Terrace. There is still a lot of nice scenery to take in as well as some breathtaking estates.

2-hour paddling time; 5 miles full sun

Trip 4 - Sargeant Park to Trout Creek Park
A combination of Trips 1 and 2 for four hours of Tampa's best wilderness paddling and wildlife observation. Morris Bridge Park (the midpoint of the trip) makes a great stopping place for lunch, to stretch your legs, or just relax before heading downstream.

4-hour paddling time; 8-1/2 miles
75% shade first 3-1/2 hours; then full sun
Birds in flight.

Trip 5 - Morris Bridge Park to Rotary Park
A combination of Trips 2 and 3 for four hours of contrasting scenic beauty between the Wilderness Park and suburban Temple Terrace. Trout Creek Park (the midpoint of the trip) is a great place to have lunch, stretch your legs, or just relax before heading on downstream.

4-hour paddling time; 9 miles
80% shade first 1-1/2 hours; then full sun
On the water...

Trip 6 - Sargeant Park to Rotary Park
A combination of Trips 1, 2, and 3 for a full-day escape to the joys of nature. Each two hours along the way is a developed park area with picnic tables and restrooms for a "civilized" wilderness experience. Due to the slow-moving nature of the river, the 6-hour trip is only recommended for frequent paddlers. You'll earn every mile on the Hillsborough. Less frequent paddlers may be happier taking a 4-hour trip and making it last six hours.

6-hour paddling time; 14 miles
75% shade first 3-1/2 hours; then full sun


Wilderness Park Self-Guided, Downstream Trip Rates

  • Prices do not include park's $2.00 per car parking fee.
  • Prices do not include 7% sales tax.
  • 10% discount on non-holiday weekdays for Seniors (55 or older), AAA members, or active military. Please let us know when you check in that you are eligible for a discount.
  • Ask about our VIP (Very Important Paddler) Program to earn freebies, discounts, and work toward a free trip!
  • Rates subject to change without notice.
  • Major credit cards accepted.
  • Gift Certificates available.
  • Shuttle fee, paddles, life vests, and river map are included in self-guided, downstream rental rates.
  • Reservations strongly recommended. Please call 813-986-2067 to reserve.

    Tandem canoe or kayak
       Trips 1, 2, or 3: $49.00 per tandem (includes 2 paddlers)
       Trips 4 or 5: $59.00 per tandem (includes 2 paddlers)

       Trip 6: $69.00 per tandem (includes 2 paddlers)
    Some tandem canoes are large enough to accommodate center passengers as follows:
       under 12 (2 center passengers maximum): Free
       12 - 17 (1 center passenger maximum): $8.00
       18 or older (1 center passenger maximum): $12.00

    Solo kayak
       Trips 1, 2, or 3: $46
       Trips 4 or 5: $51
       Trip 6: $56
  • Allow extra time on self-guided, downstream trips for wildlife viewing or picnicking at no extra charge. Last pickup is 5:00 p.m. NO exceptions.
  • Paddling times are approximate and will vary according to paddlers' skill, weather, and water conditions.
  • For your protection, we reserve the right to cancel or alter trips because of inclement weather, high water, or river conditions.
  • Fishing on the river is permitted, however, a fishing license is required.
  • Dress for the weather. Bring plenty of water and perhaps snacks or lunch. (What to bring list)

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Canoe Escape, Inc.
Information and Reservations (strongly suggested!!)

e-mail: info@canoeescape.com