Next Three State Parks

AlafiaRiverSP04112014 (50)The next three state parks on our list is Alafia River State Park, Hillsborough River State Park and Lake Louisa State Park.

Information for Campers:

Alafia River State Park is located just off County Road 39 in Lithia, Florida. They have a relatively small campground with about 20 spaces designated for Family Camping and 11 for Equestrian Camping. All the sites are fairly large with about half being pull-throughs and the other back-ins. They are nicely spaced but there is not much privacy. You have a grassy area around the asphalt driveways, electric and water only. There is only one bathhouse with one shower on each side (males/females). Of course, this shower doubles as ADA compliant and the hot water comes from Solar Panels on the roof. There is a wide expanse of grassy area with picnic pavilions, tables, and benches all facing a nice little lake.

The day-use area has a playground, volleyball court and large bathroom facilities with a drink machine and bike wash just outside. This park caters to horse riders and bike riders mostly. There are quite a few trails in and around the main park area with a small pocket park to the north of the main entrance next to a tributary. South of the main entrance is a small dirt road leading down the the river where you can fish off the dead-end bridge. This are is where the main maintenance shop and the park manager lives.

The best thing is the place is pretty quiet, most of the time, you get 5 bars on your cellphone and TV reception with just a small outside antennae. There are large power lines running just behind the main entrance with Osprey nests new and old on almost every pole. And during the week you will hear multiple gunshots off in the distance as the park is across from the Hillsborough Training Facility for local law enforcement. But all in all it is a very nice, newer park that really could use sewers on each site. Watching the horses prancing around near the barn and off down the trails is kind of nice too.

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Hillsborough River State Park is a large, complex place with a pool, (when it reaches over 72 degrees), a cafe, Surrey rentals, golf cart rentals, a large picnic area as well as a very large, mostly shady campground. There are lots of trails and a bike path along the “One-Way” roadway. Most of the resources our located on the right side of the road with the exception of the pool/cafe/rental area and the park’s maintenance shops which seem to be mostly located in the center of the large circular roadway. The bathhouses are older and could really use a redo on the inside. Each bathhouse has two showers, two washers and dryers and a coke machine. The laundry machines and coke machine costs $2.00 each.

We didn’t check on the pricing of the golf cart or Surrey rentals but it is a nice convenience if you have the money to spare. The Surrey’s are two-seaters and pedal powered. There are several trails leading in and around the Hillsborough River and you can launch a canoe or kayak at several places. This park boasts a “Rapids Area” along the river which you can view from one of the trails. We only got between 2 or 3 bars while in the campground and a few on-air TV stations. So, not bad all-in-all.

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Lake Louisa State Park

Lake Louisa State Park is located us off US Highway 27 pretty close to Walt Disney World. We could here the fireworks going off from our campsite. There are still lots of orange trees in the area and indeed the park has about 100 acres of them within the park boundaries that they lease out to a local farmer. Sadly, they are slowly dying out with one thing and another and the park rangers will not be replacing them. Anyway, you wind up and down a twisting road all the way to the back of the park to get to the camping area. The sites are long, half have sewers on site and there is shrubbery and small trees between most of the spaces but it still feels pretty open. The bathhouses are heated using solar panels and they each have one washer and dryer a piece. To our delight they only charge $1.00 per load here.

There are three different large lakes within the main park boundaries not only Lake Louisa but Lake Hammond and Lake Dixie. They have 20 large cabins that run along Lake Dixie with fire pits, barbecue grills and picnic tables outside each. The campsites also have a picnic table, fire pit as well as clothes line posts. The only place you can swim is in Lake Louisa and it is still too cold and windy for that. There are fishing piers out into the other two lakes and quite a few people were making use of them one of the sunny days were were there. Since, the camping area is in a valley area you only get between two to three bars on your cellphone and no air TV stations without an antenna booster. This park has a quiet time of 10:00pm where most of the others are until 11:00pm.

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Information for Campground Hosts:

Alafia River State Park does not have sewers onsite for campground hosts. But they do have nice large sites in a very pretty setting. It is smaller than most campgrounds and fairly new, compared to some of the other parks we have visited, so most everything works. Their maintenance area is located outside the main park down County Road 39 on Thacker Road. We only saw one RV there most likely a maintenance person. As with most State Parks in Florida Alafia River really could use help from May to October almost every single year. The Volunteer Coordinator wasn’t available to speak to us while we were camping and we are still waiting to receive a response to our email for more information. If you would like to find out more please contact the park directly or go online and apply: Florida State Parks Application Info

Stevens, Ronald
Park Ranger and Volunteer Coordinator
(813) 672-5320

Hillsborough River State Park campground hosts and other volunteers will have the use of a campsite with water and electric only. They do have laundry facilities available in the campground as well as the maintenance shop area for hosts. And, like most state parks, if you have mechanic and/or carpentry skills you can stay in the Volunteer Village in the shop area. The volunteer coordinator, Alex, came by our RV to talk to us about volunteer opportunities at his park. He tries to do his schedule at least 12 months in advance, and the winter months are already scheduled. If you would like to try being a campground host he is willing to work with new-comers with a 2 week trial basis. If you like what you are doing and they are satisfied with your work then he will work with you on extending your stay. They also need lots of help during the off-season, May to October, so give them a try. If you have any questions or want to check up on more volunteer opportunities please contact the park directly. You can also apply online at: Florida State Parks Volunteer Program

Kinder, Alex
Park Ranger and Volunteer Coorindator
(813) 987-6870

Lake Louisa State Park would be a very nice place to spend a few months volunteering. It is a large park with lots of different recreational activities and plenty of work to do. We spoke with the volunteer coordinator, Jenny, who stated that they have most of the volunteers lined up for this year but can always start scheduling for next year as well. At this time there are two campground host positions that include the site, water, electric, sewer and a laundry stipend. Currently, they need local volunteers to work taking out the exotic plant life. And, of course, May to October is the hardest months to get people to stay. She is also currently working up a proposal to get a cabin cleaner volunteer site established. They would be mainly responsible for washing the laundry for the cabins, getting the supplies ready for the cleaners and helping the cleaners with the inside and outside cleaning of the cabins themselves. She prefers at least a three to four month commitment from both of these types of volunteers as well as the usual 20 to 24 hours per week. If you are interested or have any questions she asked that you contact the park directly. You can also apply online at the Florida State Parks Volunteer Page

Vogel Kehlenbeck, Jenny
Park Service Specialist and Volunteer Coordinator
(352) 394-3436