As we slowly boated from the swamp toward Tampa, we were pleased with the relative isolation of the river. The lazy river, confined only by the banks on either side, would eventually be hemmed in by concrete seawalls in downtown Tampa. Years ago, with much foresight, state officials bought large tracts of land in sections of the upper river and then kept those thousands of acres as pristine as possible, knowing that such a condition would promote the health of the river. They did establish a series of parks along the river, but—apart from some camping sites, parking places, restrooms, and boat-launching ramps—kept the river as primitive as possible. A flood-control structure near Temple Terrace is necessary to prevent serious flooding during and after severe storms, but the upper river is remarkably close to what it must have been thousands of years ago.

Those traveling by canoe or kayak can boat the 6.5 miles from Crystal Springs Recreational Preserve to Hillsborough River State Park in about three hours. Boaters should have intermediate boating skills and be prepared to portage their boats at the rapids in the state park. Boaters need to be aware of the level of the river since during droughts the river has rocky shoals, which can become rapids from time to time. High water can be even more dangerous since the fast flow of the river can send the careless into rocks and fallen trees. Fiberglass boats are particularly susceptible to damage from the rocks.

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