Donated to the Southwest Florida Water Management District in 1969, the land that became Edward Medard Conservation Park was once the site of a phosphate mine.
An artificial reservoir and remnants from past mining activity established a peculiar landscape where nature slowly adapted to these disturbances.
The Singing Bluffs Trail is a highlight among multiple recreation opportunities at the park, which include fishing, boating, equestrian trails, camping, and disk golf.
The trail is part of the Hillsborough County Hiking Spree program, which encourages you to tally miles on different county trails each year to earn prizes.
Resources for exploring the area
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Location: Plant City
Length: 1.4 mile loop
Trailhead: 27.92519, -82.16683
Address: 6140 Turkey Creek Rd. Plant City, FL 33567
Fees: $2 per vehicle
Restroom: At the fishing dock, playground, and boat ramp
Land manager: Hillsborough County
Opens at 8 AM. Closes 7 PM in spring and summer, 6 PM in fall and winter. Leashed pets allowed.
Camping is available on a first-come, first-served basis in an on-site developed campground.
While park facilities are managed by Hillsborough County, this public land is otherwise under the care of Southwest Florida Water Management District.
From Interstate 75 in Brandon, head east on SR 60 for 9.5 mile. Turn right onto Turkey Creek Rd. The park entrance is on the left a mile down the road.
At the trailhead, take note of a kiosk displaying a wealth of information about the park, and the large variety of birds that reside here.
Passing through a gap in the fence, the trail immediately veers to the right, cutting through a sea of ferns.
This dense forest of oaks and thick undergrowth widens into a small field in 0.2 mile. A secondary trailhead will be to the right; turn left to head out onto the bluffs.
The trail is well defined and marked with a series of posts designating the main trail scenic overlook.
The first marked scenic outlook will be to the right, a shaded side trail along a sliver of raised land jutting out into the reservoir.
It is a 0.2-mile round trip to a picturesque little fishing spot at the end.
Turn right when returning to the main trail. Elevation changes become more apparent.
Paralleling the shore of the reservoir, the pathway narrows while passing a small water-filled depression covered in thick green vegetation.
At the next intersection, a post marks another scenic outlook to the left. It is accompanied by an impressive checklist of birds spotted in the area.
Notice the sign about the resident vulture population. A perfectly placed bench offers a spot to take a rest, overlooking the water.
Turn left. The scenic overlook is a small loop of about a tenth of a mile. Vulture activity quickly becomes apparent as they flap their wings heavily in the tree canopy.
A bench is situated about halfway along the loop. After returning to the vulture sign at the trail, head south on a grassy path toward the main loop.
Live oak limbs hang low overhead, draped with long gray strands of Spanish moss. A dense mix of ferns and palmettos line the trail on both sides.
As the loop ventures out onto the bluffs, the terrain gradually becomes more challenging. The trail climbs up and over a series of inclines, with many roots and moss-covered limestone rocks underfoot.
This hilly trek is well worth the effort, as the carefully placed benches on each marked outlook provide broader views of the water and of a multitude of birds.
Much of the trail is shaded under a thick canopy, though the understory has surprisingly diverse flora.
Following the edges of a small peninsula, the loop returns to the main trail in little under half a mile. Continue on the main path for 0.4 mile back to the parking area.
After you finish this hike, it’s worth checking out a couple of remarkable features within the park.
From the parking area, take a short walk or drive to the east on the main park road, then turn left at Sacred Hills Rd.
Pavilions, restrooms, and a playground are situated alongside an artificial hill left behind from phosphate mining.
Large live oaks sit upon this bluff, bringing attention to the time passed since mining operations ceased.
The unnatural piling of the soil, and subsequent erosion, has exposed tangled masses of roots as these tenacious trees continue to thrive.
Another point of interest is an observation dock at the end of the park road, before turning into the campground.
Although the park maps show an observation tower, the boardwalk to this structure was compromised in 2017 by Hurricane Irma. A section of the boardwalk has been restored, offering unique views of the reservoir.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Discover a surprising play of whitewater across the Alafia River where the river churns as it winds through a deeply eroded channel.
Straddling the confluence of the North and South Prong of the Alafia River, Alderman’s Ford Conservation Park provides immersion into lush riverine forests.
An island of high ground in the Alafia River basin, Rhodine Scrub Nature Preserve protects more than 400 acres of Florida scrub habitat south of Riverview