Outdoor Adventures

Let's Explore Palmetto's Emerson Point Preserve

Walk shaded trails and explore ancient Native American artifacts at this preserve on Snead Island.

By Allison Forsyth August 26, 2020

Emerson Point Preserve is on the west end of Snead Island, on the north shore of the Manatee River.

Image: Chad Spencer

As one of the oldest preserves in Manatee County, Palmetto's Emerson Point Preserve is filled with shaded boardwalks, hiking and biking paths and routes for kayaking and canoeing, but it also has historical remains left behind Native American tribes and settlers from the 1800s. The 365-acre, state-owned preserve is located on the west end of Snead Island and the north shore of the Manatee River, making it the perfect place for fishing, scenic views and exercise.


5801 17th St. W., Palmetto


The preserve is open daily from sunrise to sunset. The mossy trees hanging over winding bridge paths and pavilions provide enough shade to visit any time of day.

What to Bring

Bring a bike, backpack and other biking gear if planning to explore the mile-long paved biking trail. If fishing, be sure to pack your gear and be prepared to carry it out to the water. Pavilions at the park have picnic tables, perfect for a snack or lunch break. And if you want to get a closer view of the wildlife, bring a pair of binoculars to spot those hidden birds.

Roseate spoonbills inhabit the preserve. 

What to Expect

With eight hiking trails to choose from, Emerson Point has a variety of scenery to be discovered. Take the Beach Walk Trail to catch a beautiful sunrise or sunset view, or the Terra Ceia Bay Trail to go fishing. The preserve's observation tower is also a great lookout. To learn more about the preserve's Native American history, take the Point Replica Mound or Portavant Temple Mound trails. Maps can be found at the site, or on Manatee County parks department website.

Emerson Point's history begins as early as 800 A.D., when a Native American tribe called the Safety Harbor Culture occupied the land. The tribe built temple mounds in various shapes in the Tampa Bay area and the remains can still be seen today. Mounds stood about 13 feet high and 154 feet by 246 feet wide at the base. They were made out of soil and debris from middens—old dumping grounds for artifacts and domestic waste. The largest temple is called the Portavant Mound (or Snead Island Temple Mound), which has educational signs describing more about the lives of these ancient inhabitants.

Native gumbo limbo trees and mangroves line the trails, and wildlife like gopher tortoises, osprey and roseate spoonbills inhabit the preserve, as well as sea life in the tidal canals and Terra Ceia Bay. Learn more at the park ranger stations, which are open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m Saturdays and Sundays.

For more information about Emerson Point Preserve, click here or call (941) 742-5923. 

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