Lady paddling an Eddyline sandpiper on tampa bay with mangrove island in background.

Cockroach Bay

The Cockroach bay paddle trip takes us on the south shore of Tampa Bay. Through an important preserved area of the bay.  There is even an Indian Mound if you know where to look.

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Cockroach Bay

Cockroach Bay Aquatic Preserve is a protected area that includes 4,800 acres of partially submerged lands in Hillsborough County near Ruskin, Florida south of Tampa, Florida. Archaeological evidence from indigenous tribes have been found in the area. The coastal uplands, freshwater wetlands and estuarine habitats provide sanctuary for young fish including red drum and snook as well as numerous birds, crustaceans and other species. Aquatic habitats include seagrass and oyster beds.


Cockroach Bay Preserve State Park is a series of islands in the south eastern region of Tampa Bay.


The islands are located in the mouth of the Little Manatee River and extend southward along the shore of Tampa Bay.  The islands are only accessible by water using private watercraft. There are two canoe/kayak paddling trails that meander through the aquatic preserve that surround the Islands.

The islands total acreage is 617, of that, about 500 acres are mangrove swamp. It is a fisherman or bird watcher’s paradise. The islands do not have any facilities on them so you will need to plan your trip accordingly and remember to “pack it in, then pack it out.”

Horseshoe crabs were once so abundant along the shores of Florida’s west coast that early Spanish explorers called them cockroaches, believing them to be seagoing cousins of the insects. Many people believe that is how Cockroach Bay received its unlikely name.

The nearest public boat ramp is located west of Highway 41 at the end of Cockroach Bay Road, four miles north of the Manatee County line.

The Cockroach Bay Ecosystem Restoration Project represents one of the largest, most complex coastal ecosystem restoration projects ever developed for Tampa Bay. The 20-year restoration project was initiated and managed by the Hillsborough County Parks, Recreation and Conservation Department and the Southwest Florida Water Management District’s Surface Water Improvement and Management Program.

Before the restoration, this area suffered from a number of environmental problems including habitat degradation, invasive plant infestation and poor water quality. Hillsborough County purchased the Cockroach Bay property in 1991. Planning began immediately and work soon started to restore 500 acres of wetlands, uplands and coastal habitats. Stormwater treatment and agricultural runoff also were improved as part of the restoration.

The final phase of the project included restoring two shell pits, funded by the Tampa Port Authority. The completion of this work in 2012 marked the successful end of the 20-year restoration effort that has improved the health of Tampa Bay and its sea life.



Paddling Locations