Camp Beneath the Stars
Campsites at Hillsborough County parks provide a fresh-air remedy to the daily grind.
Whether your thing is disc golf or horseback riding, fishing or bird-watching, a tent or a fully-equipped RV, there's a patch of land waiting - if you arrive early.
The County's full-amenity campgrounds at E.G. Simmons, Edward Medard, and Lithia Springs conservation parks fill up on weekends when the weather is cool and pleasant. Sites are available on a first-come, first-served basis. There's also primitive camping, with no amenities, at Alderman's Ford and Upper Tampa Bay conservation parks, and Lake Rogers Park.
The fee is $24 per night for a site at the three full-amenity campgrounds. Seniors (age 55 and older) pay $18 per night.
Wondering what you'll do all day? There are many options. Fishing, for instance: There are campgrounds near freshwater springs, lakes, and rivers, and others close to saltwater canals and Tampa Bay.
Here are the County's three parks with full-amenity campgrounds, and some of their features:
E.G. Simmons Conservation Park: This 258-acre park along the Tampa Bay coast in southern Hillsborough County has 103 campsites. There's a 700-foot beach, waterfront shelters, and a ramp for canoes and kayaks. Saltwater fishing is a favorite activity, along with bird-watching and picnicking. The campground is popular with RV owners, and generally fills to capacity in winter.
Edward Medard Conservation Park: Boating, fishing, horseback riding, and disc golf are among popular pastimes at this almost 1,300-acre park, which includes a 700-acre reservoir. The park is southwest of Plant City. Tent and RV campers both use its 40 sites, and there usually are spaces available on weekends for those who are punctual.
Lithia Springs Conservation Park: Known for its freshwater spring with 72-degree water throughout the year, the 160-acre park in eastern Hillsborough County is great for swimming, bird-watching, hiking, and canoeing and kayaking on the Alafia River. The park is popular with tent and RV campers, and draws crowds on weekends. Arrive early to claim one of the 44 campsites.
David and Sharon Rasmussen are "perpetual travelers" whose last permanent address was in Tennessee. They discovered Lithia Springs Conservation Park a few years ago, after fellow RV campers told them about the "hidden treasure" in eastern Hillsborough County. They are so enamored with the park - they swim in the spring, hike and bike beneath the Spanish-moss draped oak trees - they now volunteer as greeters at the park's entrance. "We've been volunteers here for two years now and love seeing how the park continues to blossom and improve," David Rasmussen says.
Groups such as Cub Scout packs can reserve primitive campgrounds at Alderman's Ford, Lake Rogers, and Upper Tampa Bay. There are no restrooms, picnic shelters, or other manmade features at these campsites. Like the full-service campgrounds, these areas also are popular in winter.