Detroit Free Press
by Rick Sylvain
Canoe Trip Glides
Through the Real Florida
Thonotosassa, FL - Upriver maybe 50 yards
from our canoe, moss-draped oaks are white with ibis, the orange-billed wading
"Magnificent," says Joe Faulk. "The most I've ever seen."
The Hillsborough River is like glass. Suddenly, 300-400 birds flutter from
branches in a spectacular lift-off.
"They'll just keep hopscotching
ahead of us," Faulk explains. "They're beautiful, but pretty stupid."
Faulk runs Canoe Escape, a chance to see the Florida of the past, before
developers paved it in theme parks, retirement communities, concrete freeways
and golden arches.
Canoeing the Hillsborough is one wilderness treat
after another: Turtles sun on fallen logs that litter the river. Alligators
siesta in the rushes. We spot egrets, herons, water snakes, one red-shouldered
hawk and a rare, endangered limpkin in the reeds.
Hard to believe
this is the same Hillsborough River that cuts through busy downtown Tampa 12
miles away. Under its canopy of large oaks, maple and cypress, this stretch of
the Hillsborough twists and turns through thousands of acres of preserved
wilderness. Soft sunlight filters down to the hammock; the forest floor is
An upturned tree trunk, river plants, a log lurking
in the brackish water--half the fun of this two-hour paddle is negotiating the
"See over there where it's all rooted up?," asks Faulk.
"Wild hogs. And over there, the trampled areas? Gators."
diet of fish, turtles and birds, the gators never are starved for a meal.
"They're practically comatose," Faulk says.
"One lady counted 37
gators in two hours. People want to see gators in their natural setting rather
than behind bars or on TV."
This is natural, all right. Better than
anything Disney can dream up. Deep in the whisper-quiet Florida wilderness is
the stuff of dreams.
"This is the reason people used to come to
Florida, before the theme parks," Faulk says. "It pretty much sells itself."
The downside of all those ibis? Ibis droppings. Like rain they fall
on the river--and on canoeists like June Hammond of Clearwater.
laughs it off.
"Glad I wore this hat."
Self-Guided River Trips, Rentals
& Shuttles Interpretive
What to Bring Canoe/Kayak Retail Sales Special Events
I See? (list) What Might I See? (list
9335 E. Fowler Avenue
Thonotosassa, FL 33592