This is one of the best paddles you’ve never heard of.
Your launch point is hidden behind a private campground in Palmetto, the Frog Creek RV Resort and Campground.
The resort is really not difficult to find, and while campers are familiar with it, not many paddlers know about it. You can launch your own kayak ($10 fee) or rent one.
What makes this paddle remarkable is that in one trip, it encompasses two completely different environments — a canopied fresh water cypress and oak creek with open water areas flowing into tidal salt water mangrove tunnels.
When you enter the creek and paddle off to your right from the launch you enter very old Florida scenery and are surrounded by an overhanging canopy of cypress, oak, palms and a plethora of Spanish moss.
There are several magnificent old Live Oaks along the early part of the paddle which will make you stop and stare in wonder.
We first did this in April, and along the way we saw a myriad of morning glories, wild petunias and bright red fire bush. You will also see and hear many Florida birds, including Roseate spoonbills, herons, osprey and hawks.
On our most recent paddle in September, the flowers and wildlife were not as abundant, but that can most likely be attributed to the extremely hot weather we had this summer. It is a beautiful paddle notwithstanding.
About 25 minutes into your paddle, you’ll come to a large area of open water where you see a change in the flora from old cypress and oak to salt water mangroves.
Note: A reader reported in October 2023 that mangroves are blocking the kayak trail and you might not be able to paddle the entire route.
You are entering Terra Ceia Preserve State Park, two-thousand acres of wetlands, mud flats, mangrove forests, marshes, and tidal ponds.
Along the way you can see several Indian shell mounds — garbage dumps, if you will — some of which archaeological evidence date to 8,000 BC.
You will now be paddling through some open and some narrow mangroves in a complete change of scenery from the first part of the trip. This is tidal water, and although it was very shallow the day we did it, we had no problem.
A high or slack tide would probably be ideal.
There are no houses along this paddle, but you are never far from road noise, and the closer you get to the end, the noise increases.
If you are unsure which mangrove tunnel to take, just head toward noise on I-275. There are some ribbon markers along the way to help you stay on course, and the RV resort will give you a trail map as well.
When you come to the two I-275 bridges, go under them and head to the third bridge you see (Terra Ceia Road). The white steep bank directly in front of you is your takeout/turnaround point.
NOTE: A planned shuttle service is still not operating, but with a second vehicle, you can arrange your own shuttle from the takeout at Terra Ceia Road (77th Street East) (see this map).
You can do it either one way from the campground and shuttle back, or as we did, return by paddling back the 2.85 miles upstream for a leisurely under-three hour trip.
This paddle is really the best of both worlds, and despite the fact that you can hear some road traffic from I-275 along the paddle, you will very soon tune it out and enjoy where you are.
This is definitely the best paddle you’ve never heard of and a must do.
Planning your trip to Frog Creek in Palmetto
Paddle on Frog Creek (video)
Getting there: Take Exit 2 off I-275 and merge onto US 41 North (Tamiami Trail). Drive ½ mile and turn left onto Bayshore Rd. Frog Creek RV Park is on the right at 8515 Bayshore Road, Palmetto, FL 34221.
After you arrive at the campground stop at the main office to pay the $10 launch fee or to rent a canoe/kayak.
The kayak/canoe launch area is around the corner from the office, and you can drive right up to the creek and unload your gear before moving your vehicle to a parking area. It has an easy kayak launch area and there is plenty of parking, although during the fall and winter season it can get crowded with camper’s vehicles and you may be directed to use alternate parking.
For the best wilderness experience, we always try to do our paddles during the week and out of season.
Kayaking at Frog Creek
Rates listed on the Frog Creek RV Park website:
Single Kayak or Canoe Rental: $15 per hour | $35 Half Day (3 hrs.) | $50 full day of paddling
Tandem Kayak or Canoe Rental: $22 per hour | $50 half day (3 hrs.) | $60 full day of paddling
The kayak/canoe launch area is around the corner from the office, and you can drive up to the creek to unload your gear before moving your vehicle to a parking area.
Reservations are recommended but not required. Call 941-722-6154
Camping at the Frog Creek RV Resort and Campground
Full hookups, including 30- & 50-amp electric, for rigs up to 42 feet. Heated pool, complimentary clubhouse and jam-packed social calendar. Restrooms with showers and laundry facilities, all ADA compliant. Here are RV rates.
Book online at frogcreekrv.com, or call: 1-800-771-3764
Directions to Frog Creek put-in at Frog Creek RV Resort
Take I-75 North to exit 228, (I-275 North) toward St. Petersburg. Take exit 2 off I-275 and merge onto US 41 N/S (Tamiami Trail). Drive for approximately ½ mile and turn left onto Bayshore Rd. Frog Creek RV Park is on the right.
Frog Creek paddle is Chapter 7 in “More Paddles in Paradise,” by Ed and Deb Higgins.
“Paddles in Paradise” and “More Paddles in Paradise” are available on Amazon: Paddles in Paradise. $18.95 on Amazon. More Paddles in Paradise. $18.95 on Amazon. Or you can purchase both books at a discount on their web site, paddlesinparadise.com. The books may also be available at your local bookstore.
Links mentioned in story
More things to do in the Tampa Bay area
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Ed and Deb Higgins are the authors of “Paddles In Paradise” and “More Paddles in Paradise.” Ed is a retired chief of Lynn, MA fire department. An avid fisherman and canoeist, he was also an instructor in the Aquatic Resources Program for Massachusetts. Deb was a Certified Microsoft Engineer with various roles within the City of Lynn Comptroller’s Office and the Lynn Fire Department, computerizing payroll, accounting and record-keeping. The couple retired and moved to Punta Gorda in 2008, where they lead a kayak group within the Punta Gorda Boat Club.