A popular place to hike, kayak and paddleboard is this 682-acre preserve along the south shore of the Manatee River. Formerly agricultural cropland, the preserve is being restored as salt marsh, one of the rarest coastal habitats. At the northern entrance, a relocated historic home provides a welcome center, with clean restrooms nearby. The kayak launch, adjacent to the parking lot, provides access whether launching your own or renting from a vendor. The launch even has racks and a hose to rinse down your boat.
Paddling trails follow a shallow mangrove lagoon with a calm surface ideal for stand-up paddleboarding or family kayaking. One passageway meanders through an ancient mangrove forest and leads out to the Manatee River. At the confluence of the river and Lower Tampa Bay, the shallow waters near shore quickly give way to deeper waters and expansive views of the Sunshine Skyway. A great feature of the paddling trails: places to beach the kayak and explore on land. One such area is at the base of a timber observation tower that rises over 50 feet above the salt marsh. Perched this high, there are jaw-dropping views in all directions. For those exploring on land, wooden boardwalks for hikers and cyclists cross over the paddling trails. An array of native flowering plants is found along the trails, bringing the diversity of the salt marsh habitat into focus. North entrance, 1704 99th St. N.W., Bradenton; south entrance, 10299 Ninth Ave., N.W.
- Careful grading and leveling was required to precisely replicate the proper elevation for salt-marsh restoration success.
- Owned by Manatee County Government
- The 50-foot-tall observation tower allows for 360-degree views.
- Get there early; this is a popular destination.
- Use the north entrance at 1704 99th St. N.W., Bradenton.
- Bring a hat and sun protection; there is very little shade.
- Even a short trip can turn into a few hours, so bring a picnic lunch.
- No glass or alcohol, pets on leash OK
- A portion of the trails is closed for ongoing salt-marsh restoration.
- Open 6 a.m. to sunset—do not get locked in!