The Sarasota / Bradenton Rivers are a great location for photography and fun, from paddle boarding to water skiing. Sarasota is well know for the pristine beaches, especially Siesta Key, however, there are some great rivers to explore with tons of wildlife and great fishing. I always find something to photograph and I love the peach and tranquility these waterways offer.
Little Manatee River
Originating in eastern Hillsborough and western Polk counties the river travels 40 miles to empty into Tampa Bay at Bahia Beach. The upper 28 miles is mostly wilderness, narrow and winding, making for great paddling with new scenery around each turn. Manatees are sometimes seen in the lower parts of the river.
Manatee County Blueway
Inspired by local public servants and with assistance from the National Park Service, Manatee County was ahead of the curve on blueways, establishing trails in early 2002. Seventy-five miles of trails provide non strenuous paddling in normal conditions.
Upper Manatee River
The Upper Manatee River Canoe Trail is officially designated as part of Florida’s Statewide System of Greenways and Trails. This trail makes an ideal half-day trip. Only a few miles from Bradenton, the Upper Manatee River is easily accessible and you can paddle both ways so you don’t have to arrange for pick-up. The river’s gentle curves and slow-moving current make the trip a peaceful and leisurely paddle. Wading birds search for food along banks lined with subtropical vegetation, while osprey fly overhead.
A 4 to 5 mile peaceful paddle between Linger Lodge and Jiggs Landing. This paddle requires you to bring your own canoe or kayak; you’ll also need a friend who can park a car at the take-out at Jiggs Landing.
While canoes can be rented in Myakka River State Park east of Sarasota on State Road 72, you cannot take these canoes out of the park. Thus, traveling the river usually depends outfitters and guide services that lead regularly scheduled trips. The Myakka offers perhaps the largest — and certainly the most prolific — alligators in the area. While it’s not a river for the gator-phobic, paddling groups do safely make the trip each year and are treated to incredible natural sights.