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Cockroach Bay Preserve (Land)

Birding / Hiking / Adventuring Roadtrip Info

Andrew Thoreson
Feb 2019
 Typical view [?]
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Typical View (44)

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GRADES: Click each for info, * = Note
Revisit? A
Birding B
Wildlife B *
Summer Heat D
Terrain B
Fun Hike B
Maintained B
Mosquitos C *
Biting Files A *
Ticks B *
NOTE: Lots of scat
NOTE: I'd say C- D+.
NOTE: Noseeums and other little biting things can be a problem here though.
NOTE: Never had any
 LOCATION: Accuracy: Read me
Map On Big Map: Click map (or on google maps). Address: 3839 Gulf City Road, Ruskin, FL, Hillsborough, USA, 33570

1) What It's Like

The county park on land - not the aquatic preserve. Fresh water duck ponds next to salt water mangrove swamp, a great scenic view hill (for ducks and Tampa Bay), and trails with lots of birds. Great spot.

2) Kinds of Birds

Great place for ducks and tons of random birds in general. Lots of wading birds as well.

3) Wildlife

There is always predator scat out there - so I assume bobcat or coyote. Still - we've never actually seen anything out there despite many visits. It is the kind of place you think you'll turn a corner and see a bobcat paused way down the trail.

4) Amenities

A parking area, trails are maintained well. They try to do signs but locals (I assume) have a habit of destroying them. Often people will be here, never seen anyone less than friendly.


5) Directions

If you searched for the Cockroach Bay Boat Ramp - that is 1.2 miles past the land park. You turn onto coachroack bay road from the highway and turn right at Gulf City Road. Most of the park - the part you likely want - you're looking at at that far right corner and there's a sign there for it but it's easy to miss. After you turn it will be the first place to turn in on the left - it's like 1/2 a mile. There's a wooden fenced in area to park and you can see the hill. On the other side of the street is a different private park of some kind so don't get confused. Hillsborough County uses white signs to say if something IS or IS NOT a designated access point - they look the same unless you get close. You can pull to the side of the road a little past Gulf City Road and enter the park at a locked gate on either side of the road as well - it's walking distance to the other entrance but the park continues on the other side of the road here. There are also duck ponds on the left before you reached Gulf City Road - you aren't allowed in there as far as I know but you have a fair chance of being able to see some of the ducks in there as well.

There is a trailer with offices up the road a tiny bit from the main entrance - that isn't where you park.

6) Time Requirements

You could spend a couple hours. We usually spend 1 or a little more. The must see spots are the hill to overlook the main duck pond and the great scenery - that's pretty close to the entrance. Also you can walk to another duck pond that's by the 2nd entrance I mention in the directions. There are fewer ducks in there but sometimes different ones like Pintails. The whole place is nice to hike but if I was short on time I'd be concerned with those places.



Cockroach bay is pretty amazing. Tons of birds, tons of ducks specifically, just an interesting place to walk around, and it has views of the entire Tampa Bay that I didn't think was possible to get from one place.

See the map at the bottom for the rest of these comments.


The numbers are things you aren't going to. 1 - The admin offices. (I removed this - 2 was along the road to the left - The Cockroach Bay Boat Ramp (though there might be like 1 shore bird hanging out there), 3 - It's some private park that looks public. 4 - A sod farm - there might be birds there but unlikely anything of interest. 5 - some mobile home park to the right with Hawaii in the name I think.

Trails here - they are building new ones and some though they aren't on maps are just very very clearly there - you aren't killing plants to walk on them.

The red and blue are the actual official trails that they call the red and blue trails.

The main entrance is where the red hits the road.

The red trail (official):

It goes from the parking area, past an odd abandoned building that we call "The Murder Shack" - because it looks like where a psycho killer would take someone. The loop at the end is just going up and down the other side of "Mount Cockroach". This hill is where you get a great view of what I'll call the main duck pond. There are always ducks and wading birds here. Sometimes an alligator. In winter - whistling ducks, coots, blue winged teal, and randomly you might see a rarer duck. Glossy ibis, and just wading birds in general are always around. Sometimes you'll see turtles. All year you'll see gallinules. The other part of the hill as I mentioned is the view. You can clearly see downtown Tampa AND St.Pete, any big ships going through the bay, and the Skyway bridge. You can also see the rest of Cockroach bay which is helpful in deciding where you want to walk. The water by 1 is salt water and the wetlands between the purple line and the red are mangroves (so more salt water). I've never seen fresh water so close to salt water like this - I'm not sure what separates the water table in such a small space.

The gold (NOT official):

It just goes along that salt water area and you can see some mangroves. It dead ends at a mangrove canal/channel on the left and at the admin offices on the right. There are some pretty cacti along the way over that sometimes flower.

The blue trail (official):

It goes around the secondary pond but you are really only looking at the pond on the lower 1/3 of it. At the right season there are TONS of blackberries along this trail... and those are definitely edible. We've also seen a lot of scat along here from a predator so I assume bobcat or coyote. The best view of the pond is probably in the middle bottom. A second entrance to the park is at the gate where the blue trail meets what I marked as white. You can park on the side of the road and just stop to check out the 2nd duck pond. They are making another trail going left from the left side of the blue trail but we haven't checked it out yet.

The purple (NOT official):

It looks scenic from the hill - you walk along a sort of sandy shore with dry trees (oak, palm) on the right. At the end someone built a little wooden bridge over a ditch but we haven't gone into whatever that is. It's a pretty walk and it can be packed with palm warblers (which get annoying).

The white (NOT official):

It's just a trail that goes around the periphery inside the fence. You see birds here just like everywhere else. We saw some bobwhite here near the blue trail once. I forget how the white connects back up to the entrance but I know we've done it - so I left a dotted line.

The green line - just parking along the road. It's marked as NON-approved access points here but there are a couple duck ponds. It's hard to see much but you can see some ducks from the side of the road.

The pink (NOT official):

You cross the road - there are gates on the blue side and the pink side and both side are marked as APPROVED access points. It's much less tended here and what I marked is pretty clearly trail but it becomes questionable when going left and right. Near the beginning there are a couple of ponds but you might see one egret in them. The dead cabbage palms along it often have wood peckers - we saw our first northern flicker here. There are some ruins of some concrete thing around the right arrow and the ecotone between salt and fresh is sort of interesting. But again - if it's grown in and you're killing plants you probably shouldn't be here.

There are likely more trails in here but the main show is just the duck ponds and in general you're likely to see the same birds on the marked trails as you are on others.

When we've driven past the park along that road - there are ponds - we haven't seen much in the way of ducks. Nearby Wolf Branch is pretty similar to this in terms of birds but the trails are much less developed and I've never had as many ticks on me as from that spot. Never had ticks at Cockroach bay.




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