E.G. Simmons Park is located at the edge of Ruskin-Apollo Beach just off US Highway 41. The park is comprised of 258 scenic acres of native mangrove, with open land areas intertwined with waterways. An additional 200 acres bordering the park, the Doyle Campbell Memorial Park, has been set aside for a bird and wildlife sanctuary. The park provides a relaxing environment for all age groups. Park facilities include a swimming beach, picnic tables and shelters, playground; nature exhibits, fishing piers, boat ramp, and campsites with modern facilities. For information call (813) 671-7655.
Wolf Branch Nature Preserve encompasses the shoreline of Tampa Bay between E.G. Simmons Park and Apollo Beach, and the basin of Wolf Branch, a tidal creek, from its mouth upstream to Villemaire Road. The preserve includes approximately 1.5 miles of mangrove shoreline, and high marsh native plant communities. A $2 million habitat restoration project is underway which will return the uplands areas to a natural habitat. Access by foot is allowed during daylight hours, and visitors may enjoy fishing, hiking, nature study and picnicking. The open water portions are accessible from the bay by canoe, and are within reach of Simmons Park. Call (813) 975-2160 for information.
Camp Bayou Environmental Learning Center has been created along the shores of the Little Manatee River. A wide variety of animals and habitats are represented in the 160-acre park, from alligators in the inter-tidal wetlands, to gopher tortoises in the pine scrub and flat woods. Activities include educational programs on native plants and animals, interpretive trails and displays, nature library, canoeing and fishing. Also located at Camp Bayou, the Paleo Preserve has a fossil museum and paleontology classes led by Frank Garcia, who discovered major fossil finds in the Ruskin area. Contact the project leader at (813) 645-5994 for information.
The Little Manatee River State Recreation Area has been designated an Outstanding Florida Waterway and is included in the Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve. It is the third largest river in Hillsborough County. Visitors to the 2,416-acre park can enjoy camping, picnic areas, canoeing, fishing, and hiking. Equestrians may bring their horses and enjoy 10 miles of riding trails. There are also four equestrian campsites. Call the park for information or reservations (813) 671-5005.
Cockroach Bay Nature Preserve encompasses an aquatic preserve and uplands with remnant hammock habitats, uplands restoration, and wetlands restoration area. The uplands portion of the preserve is an ELAPP site. Foot access is allowed in the uplands area, except for active restoration areas. Access to the aquatic preserve is at the Cockroach Bay boat ramp at the end of Cockroach Bay Road, and boat ramps along the Little Manatee River. The aquatic preserve is comprised of 8,500 acres of submerged lands; the uplands nature preserve contains 640 acres, and the ELAPP land along the Little Manatee River encompasses approximately 7,000 acres. In addition, the Cockroach Bay Barrier Islands contain about 130 acres of uplands, which are part of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Nature Buffer Preserve. For information contact the Hillsborough County Parks and Recreation Resource Management at (813) 671-7754.
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