Explore Cockroach Bay Nature Reserve in Southern Hillsborough County


Many of us are looking for ways to stay active while staying a safe distance from others. That’s why Sarah Phinney created a “Walking Club” to highlight some hidden and less hidden trails and parks in Tampa Bay.

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

Where is it?

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

3839 Gulf City Road
Ruskin, Florida 33570

The reserve, unlike conservation parks, does not have washrooms or park rangers.

What’s up with the name?

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

Chris Kiddy, program coordinator for Hillsborough County’s Land Conservation and Environmental 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 realize where the name comes from, and you’re here, you realize this place is really beautiful,” Kiddy said.

The region was once agricultural land.

Hillsborough County purchased the land in 1991 and spent two decades restoring habitat. Work completed in 2012.

“Now that whole wetland is acting like a filter to help clean up the Tampa Bay,” Kiddy said.

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

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

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

And the trails?

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

The blue trail is just over a mile and takes you around a pond. Kiddy says the area attracts bird watchers. In fact, he says, according to eBird, it tops the list in Hillsborough County.

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

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

Want to get out on the water?

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

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

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

There are no rentals available at the moment, but guided tours are available several times a year.

Sign up for the Hillsborough County Trailblazer newsletter to be notified of upcoming trips.

Join the walking club!

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

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