The Upper Tampa Bay Park offers a wide range of outdoor recreational opportunities, from canoeing and fishing to hiking and picnicing. This public park is located at the very northern end of Old Tampa Bay, where Double Branch empties into Mobbly Bay.
Tampa Bay is an estuary, and in Upper Tampa Bay Park you can see this clearly for yourself, from the open bay waters, to the mangroves and marshes, and on up stream to inland creeks. In just a short walk on the Eagle Nature Trail (yes, named appropriately for the birds that live around here), you can experience several different environmental settngs: hardwood hammocks, freshwater marshes, salt barrens, mud flats, saltwater marshes, and mangroves. Shallow waters close to shore teem with young fish, while their larger brethern lurk in deeper waters, dodging the lures and bait of fishermen. Creatures you might encounter include fiddler crabs, deer, bobcats, racoons, snakes, and birds. And lots and lots of lizards rustling in the palmetto leaves.
The park is very well laid out, and manages to combine nature trails, a canoe/kayak launch, a nature center / educational building, picnic pavilions, playground, sand volleyball court, restrooms, and convenient parking without seeming like everone is falling over each other. This is a popular place for school field trips. The nature center includes live animals (turtles, snakes, and a bee hive) as well as interpretive displays. One panel explains how the park came to be, deriving from the 1960s Bay Port Colony development and environmental review of dredge and fill permits (You can click on the photo below for a larger view).
Entry is free, but donations are welcome and are used to pay for improvements such as the canoe launch. Remember to take and use insect repellant to ward off mosquitos and noseeums.