Purchased by Hillsborough County in the late 1990s, Blackwater Creek Nature Preserve protects over 2,000 acres of diverse Florida habitats.
The system of wide trails is designated for hikers only, and the county takes extra measures to maintain the nearly pristine state of this preserve
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Plant City
Length: 6.5 mile loop
Trailhead: 28.128278, -82.154928
Address: 2469 Patrinostro Rd, Plant City, FL 33565
Land manager: Hillsborough County
Open sunrise to sunset. Dogs are allowed on a leash.
The property is known to flood regularly, which may cause closures to the public. It is best to check the website before arriving.
From Interstate 4 in Plant City, head north on SR 39 for 6.7 miles, turning left onto Patrinostro Rd. The road ends at the trailhead in 0.4 mile.
From the trailhead parking, head west through a gate, passing a pair of informational kiosks and a picnic bench.
Follow the service road alongside a small cypress dome for 0.2 mile, turning left at a post marked with the number one to begin the red trail loop.
The trail takes a sweeping turn to the right, passing a marshy depression before crossing a small tributary to Blackwater Creek.
No bridge is available at the crossing, and the water may be deep depending on the season.
Pine flatwoods are the predominant habitat within the preserve, offering panoramic views across a vast landscape of palmettos and longleaf pine.
At a post marked with number two, turn right, heading north down a wide grassy path.
Red-shouldered hawks soar over the expanse, their familiar cries filling the otherwise quiet atmosphere.
At 1.3 miles, a red and yellow topped post marks a junction of the trails. Turn left to begin the yellow loop.
Distant cypress domes rise from the prairie as the pathway traverses the wide expanses between them.
At the south end of the loop, a curious cluster of young sweetgum trees stands in a water spot alongside the trail.
Small prairie ponds border the trail as the the loop heads back eastward, crossing another potentially wet area at the three-mile mark.
Passing a post marked with the number seven, turn left to continue down the red blazed loop trail.
The trail takes a straight path northward for 0.8 mile to Blackwater Creek, passing through a pine savanna maintained by regular prescribed burns.
A bench along the creek offers a shaded spot to rest while the dark, tranquil waters flow downstream.
Backtracking south for 0.2 mile, turn left at a post marked with the number eight. The trail weaves along the ecotone of pine flatwoods and riverine swamp hammock for the next mile.
It then cuts across an open prairie. Golden grasses bow in the breeze alongside vibrant yellow goldenrod flowers that bloom in autumn.
A grassy road winds for the next mile alongside and through several small oak hammocks.
Completing the red loop at first numbered post, turn left for a short 0.2 mile walk back to the trailhead.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Meandering over hilly terrain past numerous scenic overlooks, the Singing Bluffs Trail at Edward Medard Conservation Park provides great birding among documented nesting bird colonies.
As the largest natural area in the Tampa Bay region, Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve is a major destination for recreation, with seven entrances across 16,000 acres
Water in motion: the Hillsborough rapids foam and froth over limestone boulders beneath grand cypress trees in Class II rapids. One of Florida’s oldest state parks, Hillsborough River State Park showcases this masterpiece of nature from an overlook and trail system built by the Civilian Conservation Corps.