What a delightful surprise. This is definitely the little park that could cure the blues.
I went in to register at the Ranger’s Station ($5 entry fee) and to get maps and information. While I was having a cordial conversation with the staff, Belle started barking excitedly. Coming through the entrance was a horse trailer with REAL, LIVE HORSES (this is a big deal for a city dog). I knew then this was not going to be your ordinary Sunday walk in the park.[easymedia-gallery med=”4578″ size=”260,220″]
Camping (primitive & full facility)
There are secluded camping areas nestled in the pine forest away from the busier areas of the park. Full RV campsite and hook-up are provided at 34 campsites. There are even two ADA-accessible campsites. Each site is equipped with electricity, water, a fire ring and a picnic table. The park offers full showers, restrooms, washers and dryers to registered campers.
I was really impressed how native Florida plants and wild flowers were planted between sites to give each camper maximum privacy. Belle is happy to report that well-behaved animals are also welcomed.
Little Manatee River State Park is well-planned, well-maintained and very welcoming.
I give this outdoor experience two thumbs up. Belle gives it four paws.
Check it out!
As it happens, Little Manatee River State Park also is known for having the best hiking trails in the area. Belle and I set out that morning, determined to walk all 6.5 miles of the maintained footpaths. The trail winds through a diversity of habitats, coming out on the river several times. Your walk will give you a good perspective the camp’s facilities, including well-designed canoe launches, primitive campgrounds and screened meeting rooms.
There are also paved roads that make a loop around the park. Many people bring their own bikes, but you can rent one at the Ranger Station for two hours ($5) or all day ($10).
Bird and Nature Watching
Throughout the year the park is home to songbirds, insects and wildflowers. While I was there, the purple beautyberries were brilliant and summer butterflies were abundant. I do recommend wearing insect repellant, especially in the summer. Unfortunately, I didn’t plan ahead, and I had several chigger bites as souvenirs when I got home after my walk.
It turns out that this park has more than 12 miles of dedicated riding trails, not shared with bikers, pedestrians or dogs (sorry, Belle). If you want to take your steed on vacation, this is the place. There are four equestrian campsites available for rent, complete with stalls, hitching posts and full hook-up.
If you want to ride, but don’t happen to own a horse, Kathy and Robert Wolfe bring their very well-behaved horses to the park several days a week. (Go to: www.BornToRide09.com or call 941-812-1980.) They organize guided rides by reservation for private groups. You and your friends will be paired with horses suited to your experience level, whether that’s walking, trotting or cantering.
Kathy positively glowed about the park’s equestrian trails. They feature a wide variety of scenery from shady forests to open fields. There are small “creek crossings,” hills, lakes and lots of photo ops.
Fishing, Canoeing and Kayaking
Boating and fishing on the Little Manatee River are the big draw. This part of the river is still quite pristine and relatively narrow, but the currents are seldom strong. That makes it great for freshwater fishing. Bass, bream and catfish are abundant.