Little Manatee River

Little Manatee River

Canopy over Little Manatee River
Canopy over Little Manatee River

The third of three new paddle spots on our camping weekend in Hillsborough County. On this day we launched and paddled the Little Manatee River. This river is winding, shallow and narrow. There was a lot blooming on this trip through canopied and open stretches. An easy, quiet paddle…James

The Little Manatee River flows from east Fort Lonesome, Fl, 51 miles into Tampa Bay. It is listed as an “Outstanding Florida Water“. These waters are protected due to their natural attributes, see the list of Outstanding Florida Waterways here. The Designated Paddle Trail runs from the US 301 bridge 9 miles downstream to Wildcat Park Boat Ramp.

The river is tannic and usually shallow with a sandy bottom. Rainfall runoff from a watershed of over 140 sq miles determines it’s clarity, depth and flow. There is a rich diversity of Flora along this river, which is part of the Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve.


Paddle Notes LogoLittle Manatee River Details:

icon-location-smLocation: The 5 mile section of the Little Manatee River is located in Hillsborough County.


icon-launches-smLaunch for this Paddle: Canoe Outpost, Little Manatee River, 18001 US Hwy 301, Wimauma, Fl. 33598. There is a launch fee of $5.00 per kayak and a shuttle fee of $22.00, if needed.

Take Out: Camp Bayou Boat Launch, 4236-4296 24th St SE, Ruskin, FL 33570. No fees.


icon-distance-smPaddle Distance: 5.42 miles


icon-difficulty-level-smDifficulty: Easy. This is a shallow winding river with a slow current. There may be some downfall to maneuver but we did not encounter any.


icon-time-duration-smAverage Paddle Speed: 1.82 mph, included breaks


icon-width-depth-smWidth and Depth: Little Manatee River is no more than 30′ wide at the launch and remains narrow, semi-canopied for most of the paddle. Nearing the 4-5 mile marker it becomes more open and 150′ wide. On this paddle it was quite shallow no deeper than 3.5′ and at times less than 1.5 ‘ deep.


icon-current-tidal-smCurrent – Tidal: This was a slow paced river but further downstream approaching Cockroach Bay the tides will start having an effect. During times of heavy rainfall, the current increases significantly.


icon-side-paddle-smSide Paddles: NA


icon-restrooms-smRest Areas: There were a few areas that allowed for exiting a kayak. Cougar Run, Owl Rest and several other sandy beaches are great stopping spots.


icon-information-sm-orangeImportant Information: Check the water levels for this river. Too low or too high is the difference between portaging shallow areas or moving quickly around the twists and turns.

The Little Manatee River Paddle Map…

Little Manatee River Paddle Map
Little Manatee River Paddle Map

Canoe Outpost Launch…

The Canoe Outpost at Little Manatee River is a pleasant launch. The folks are friendly and helpful, there is plenty of parking and there are restroom facilities available. The launch is both a wooden dock and a sandy soft slope with adequate space for staging.

Since we were camping, the launch fee was waved. For non campers it is $5.00. We were also required to sign in before we launched. This place gets busy and though there is a large parking area, it can fill up quickly.

The Little Manatee River…

The Little Manatee River
The Little Manatee River

We embarked on this narrow waterway just before noon and it was getting warm. The first thing noticeable was the very shallow water and some dense tunnel-like canopies overhead. There was such a diverse display of flowering plants and vines throughout the entire paddle.

Oaks, Ash and Willows lined the banks with many of the Willows being blanketed with the vines and blossoms of Moonflower ( Ipomoea spp. ). Beautiful pink seed pods clustered on the Ash, while the Willows displayed there tubular cluster of white blossoms. Blue Flag Iris, Swamp Lilly, Primrose, Salt marsh Fleabane and several species of Tillandsia provided additional color along our paddle. Ducks, Turtles and Hawks were among some of the Fauna observed, and we did not see any gators.

This was a quiet, enjoyable paddle and ended our three day camping trip that covered paddling the Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve, The Alafia River and The Little Manatee River, all three, firsts for Florida Paddle Notes!

Little Manatee River photo gallery…

Guides, Maps & Info…