The ‘Upside’ of the Little Manatee



Water Clarity – 8+

Natural Quality – 6 thru 9

(depending on the crowd)


Because anything can happen…….


Little Manatee River – Fl


Little Manatee State Park

So the last three years have been sorta sticky, Dad died without a will and it’s taking forever to tie-up those loose ends; it’s still going on!  It’s not something that affects a person physically, but doggone it – its a real ‘anchor’ mentally.  Of course there are other dynamics and complications to the story, but that’s for another day; maybe when we’re ‘belly-up’ with a frosty beverage – if you have the time; I’ll fill your ear (that’s no fun, lets just paddle and think about it).

The Canoe Outpost - LMR
The Canoe Outpost – LMR

Anyway that’s the basis of why I ended up in the area – in checking ahead I noticed a ‘meetup’ group of ‘like-minded’ slackers about to participate with a ‘poker-run’ – live music (Ober Rivers & His D.U.I’s Band) for charity, curious – I signed on.

Signing on with a group is a little ‘out-of-the-box for me, but what the heck – surely they could put-up with me for one day…  While pondering a place to anchor I found that the Little Manatee State park was full, a place for “Little Bessie” (the rv) was out of the picture – not a big deal, with a nearby wal-mart I could adapt.

Canoe Outpost at Little Manatee
Canoe Outpost at Little Manatee


So just like investigating a body of water I gravitated to the ‘headwaters’ of the action – Hwy 301 at the little Manatee river.  There was my answer, Canoe Outpost located right on the river (creek) – with ‘hookups for Bessie, a neat little store with lots of trinkets and it was right on top of the river.  It was a fit! – figure me in.


I didn’t go any further, didn’t need too.  I will say that while there (three days) I gained a lot of respect watching the staff  (Brian, Mike, Chris, ‘B’) go about ‘running’ the place and how they treated folks – it wasn’t an act.  These folks were genuine and the best of hosts all weekend – to everyone and any one.


They also provide a shuttle – for twenty bucks, they’ll haul you up the river (creek) and leave you with a paddle, a group, alone, or anything you want.  Some choose this trip and then camp along the way before returning.

After settling in on Friday I did paddle up the river a couple of hours just to settle my mind from all that estate stuff.  The solitude for those 4 hours was perfect – and with a poker run the next day – I figured it might be the only ‘quiet-time’ I would have – we’ll come back to this point.


Lets run the ‘river,’ first – that’s why we’re here.


On Sunday I took the shuttle up river – the upside I call it because it fits (downside is from 301 to the Bay), at about 6 miles (@ 4 hour) ‘paddle’ of leisure back to the Outpost – I say ‘paddle’ because its mostly with the flow and alot about maneuvering down a creek, decision making stuff – similar to Juniper Springs just at a smaller scale.  The experience is good for anyone – just more difficult with a group, especially when folks start getting ‘bunched-up.’


So yes, I sprang off the bus and away from the group to find my ‘peace’ with this river – alone.




I know its out there, as a kid growing up a few miles south of here it was a regular Saturday event to follow our local ‘drainage ditch’ (Manuel branch) to the river, I recognize parts of the Little Manatee as similar to our ‘drainage-ditch,’ but this is much better than that.  The outfitters have managed the overgrowth and the currents of people that take the route have ‘beaten’ down most of the obstacles leaving a practical and interesting experience for all to enjoy. I saw very little unnatural debris.


The water quality was very good on this date, the tannic water was as clear as the Suwannee’s , for me an easy 8+ (10 would be Rainbow or the Silver) Along the way there’s alot of shoaling too, so water levels may be something to watch.  The sand of the shoals (migrating sand-bars) is easy on the feet – but there is a warning attached;


There are areas that you might be tempted to get out and walk – like this one where one of numerous clear springs flow into the Little Manatee – it’s ok, but keep the kayak at your side when you step out – ‘quick sand.’  The folks at the outpost will explain it clearly, but me being a skeptic had to try it for myself – they were absolutely correct! – your boat is a tool that will help you move from the area (I was at my waist in ankle deep water).  Don’t be alarmed, just be aware.




It can be a peaceful paddle – and for the most part the current allows for a playful ‘free-ride.’




After a few hours this stoic testimony – an old Atlantic Coast RR trestle comes up, its a nice place to stop and stretch.


A little more meaningful for me on this date because just a few days earlier my Uncle Buddy passed (life is not all good at 60),  fine man and absolute character – a retired conductor and fireman for the Atlantic Coast Line Railway, he was 90.  You see my Mom was from a railroad family, her Dad was a hard-driving crew foreman responsible for ‘laying’ alot of track down North to central Florida – so all the kids ended up with the railway too – the Hilliards of Kathleen, Lakeland. – RIP Buddy.


The Little Manatee State Park surrounds the river in areas, there were four-wheelers running ‘about’ this section as I passed…


. IMG_5698.


and yes, if you are running ‘stealth-like’ you just might see a ‘little-buddy’ – nothing to be concerned with, just don’t step on him or call his Mom a hand-bag!…..


Right back to the hwy 301 bridge, an ez 4-hour paddle…


The Canoe Outfitters on the West side of 301


POKER RUN, Saturday

– all those ‘doggone people,’ but for a good purpose



This is another place that I noticed the patience of the staff….. after a career of dealing with ‘people,’ I have to admire those that do it ‘with sincerity.’



and it was ‘feet-up’ and down the river – with a bunch of ‘slackers.  This was a fun-loving bunch of folks that were warm and inviting all weekend – like-minded, friendly, and simply laid-back (good people).



– there were fishermen participating too.



You see a poker-run is not race, its an opportunity to get out with some old friends and enjoy the time. This is Beth, Bonni, and Jodi (the ‘Ladies Auxiliary’) – they were great sports all weekend and old pro’s with the run. I ran into them several times – that happy attitude never changed.  Bonni eventually won with a ‘full-house’ (KKK99) and shared her prize with a 9 year old that participated also – way to go Bonni (and I’m going to check on that tat next time in Pagosa).


Fun folks, good time


There of course were a couple of areas for ‘trail-breaks’ if you liked


– but it was all just simple fun.  There were five buckets along the way, pick an envelope (with a card inside) and have it opened at the end…..



This is Brian of the Outpost, serving up a variety of burgers for all to enjoy –


Then a free shuttle back to the Outpost for some evening festivities….


Alright, maybe this is where the weight of all that estate stuff might have come a little loose.  Ober Rivers & His D.U.I’s Band played at the Outpost through the evening, there were burgers and beverage flowing.  The guys did a fine job, well – my beverage was doing a fine job also.  All’s I could think (the next day) was that they probably have to put up with some nut every now and then, well – I guess it was my night.

Those Cranberry juice/tequila (‘waggitt-adder‘) beverages were tasting pretty good and somewhere in it all my lower mandible got a little loose – it was so good to be where I was, plus it felt good to holler.  Hope I didn’t insult anyone, its really not in my nature, but I do recall a little stumbling around that night (fell off the drum box (cajon) about three times (when they were jamming later) and had a blast making lyrics of no sense (to others).

Oh well…..  thanks guys, you made it fun….



life remains, just a tire-swing……

The ‘upside’ of The Little Manatee River is a great place for an afternoon paddle or weekend visit.  With the way the staff went about their business I would highly recommend the Outpost to anyone.

as for me; – I will return at a later date for the ‘downside’ (301 to the bay), why not?