Dude Lake, Little Manatee River State Park

The Little Manatee River empties into Tampa Bay after flowing for 40 miles from a swampy area near Fort Lonesome. The Little Manatee River is a designated Outstanding Florida Water and is part of the Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve. Little Manatee River State Park is a 2,433-acre property on the Little Manatee River in Hillsborough County.

Among the wildlife you might find at Little Manatee River State Park are rare Florida scrub jays plus armadillos, warblers, bobcats, river otters and the usual raccoons and alligators.

Little Manatee River State Park offers canoeing, kayaking, hiking, wildlife viewing, horseback riding, camping and fishing. Among the amenities offered are twelve-miles of hiking and horseback riding trails (with four equestrian campsites) and a 6.5-mile hiking-only trail with one primitive campsite. Along the river you'll find a picnic area with tables, grills and pavilions, and a full-facility campground with a youth/group campground nearby.

To get there: Little Manatee River State Park is located on Lightfoot Road (off US Highway 301) about 5 miles south of Sun City. The park is open for day use from 8 am to sunset, every day of the year. Admission fees: $4 per single occupant vehicle, $5 per vehicle to a max of 8 occupants, $2 each for pedestrians, bicyclists and extra passengers. Camping fees: $22 (plus tax) per site, per night, includes water and electric. Youth Camping: $1 (plus tax) per youth per night, $5 (plus tax) per night per adult/chaperone. Renting the large pavilion will set you back $40 (plus tax) per day, the small one: $20 (plus tax) per day.