A flash of pink on the mudflats means the roseate spoonbills have swooped in for a visit, using their oversized bills to sift through the soft muck for their dinner.
Terra Ceia Preserve State Park is one of Florida’s aquatic preserves. It protects the northern shoreline of Terra Ceia, an island north of Palmetto.
Resources for exploring the area
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Trailhead: 27.580767, -82.572208
Address: 130 77th Street East, Terra Ceia
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open sunrise to sunset for land access, 24/7 for boater access. Leashed pets welcome.
For land access, follow Terra Ceia Rd east from US 19. Turn left on Hightower Rd and pass under Interstate 275. The road ends at the park entrance.
Boaters and paddlers can access the preserve from a launch point at the west end of Moccasin Wallow Rd.
About the Park
Largely a shoreline along Tampa Bay, Terra Ceia Preserve encompasses nearly 2,000 acres of wetlands, mudflats, mangrove forests, marshes, and tidal ponds.
It offers a puzzle of waterways to be threaded through along the 3-mile Bishop Harbor Blueway, with picturesque names like Hell’s Half Acre.
The preserve lies within sight of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge and is bisected by Interstate 275, accessible only from US 41 north or from the water.
Cyclists and hikers can explore three marked trails from the Hightower Rd entrance: the 3.1-mile Pine Flatwoods Loop, 3.2-mile Salt Flat Spur, and the 2.7 mile Hammock Loop.
Together, these interconnected trails make up the Hightower Trail System.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Where the Manatee River meets the Gulf of Mexico near Bradenton, Emerson Point Preserve protects the Portavent Mound, one of Florida’s most ancient temple mounds
Directly across Tampa Bay from St. Petersburg, two loop trails in Cockroach Bay Nature Preserve navigate restored wetlands and a lookout point known as Mount Cockroach.
Protected since 1948 as Florida’s first state archaeological site, this is a 20-foot-high temple mound along the coast of Tampa Bay