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Walking Club: Exploring Cockroach Bay Nature Preserve in southern Hillsborough County

Walking Club: Exploring Cockroach Bay Nature Preserve in southern Hillsborough County
Posted at 8:10 AM, Jun 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-04 07:50:26-04

Many of us are looking for ways to remain active while also staying a safe distance away from others. That's why Sarah Phinney started a ‘Walking Club’ to highlight some hidden, and some not so hidden, trails and parks across Tampa Bay.

Consider checking out Cockroach Bay Nature Preserve this weekend! Don’t let the name scare you. There’s a good reason for it, and it’s not what you think!

Where is it?

Cockroach Bay Nature Preserve is in southern Hillsborough County. Put this address in your phone:

3839 Gulf City Rd.
Ruskin, FL 33570

The preserve, unlike conservation parks, has no restrooms and no park rangers.

What’s up with the name?

Don’t let the name of this spot stop you from visiting!

Chris Kiddy, program coordinator for Hillsborough County's conservation environmental lands management department, says Spanish explorers saw horseshoe crabs in the water and thought they looked like cockroaches. The name stuck!

“It’s not the prettiest name, but once you get here and you realize where the name came from, and you’re out here, you realize this place really is beautiful,” said Kiddy.

The area was, at one time, farmland.

Hillsborough County purchased the land in 1991 and spent two decades restoring habitats. Work wrapped up in 2012.

“Now all this wetland is acting as a filter to help clean up Tampa Bay,” said Kiddy.

Visitors will now find a giant mound, made from all the dirt that was leftover from the project.

Kiddy calls it one of the best places in the bay area to catch a sunset.

“You can see the Skyway, St. Pete and Tampa Bay,” he said.

What about the trails?

There is a red trail and a blue trail. The red trail is about a half-mile and takes you up and around the mound.

The blue trail is just over a mile and takes you around a pond. Kiddy says the area attracts birders. In fact, he says, according to eBird, it’s at the top of the list in Hillsborough County.

“This site has more listed species that people have identified than any other site in the county,” said Kiddy.

Visitors should know that there is limited shade, especially on the blue trail. Plan accordingly!

Want to get out on the water?

You can launch your kayak, canoe or boat a the end of Cockroach Bay Road.

There are two trails for paddlers. The Horseshoe Crab Canoe Trail goes south. The Snook Canoe Trail goes north.

“Really great kayaking trails, they go through mangrove tunnels,” said Kiddy.

There are no rentals available right now, but guided tours are available several times a year.

Sign up for Hillsborough County’s Trailblazer Newsletter go be notified about upcoming trips.

Join Walking Club!

Post photos of your adventures, ask questions and learn about upcoming #WalkingClub stories in Sarah’s Walking Club group on Facebook!

You can also keep up with Sarah on Instagram and Twitter