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Kayaking the Cotee River in the James E. Grey Preserve: New Port Richey, Florida

Traveling has always been one of my passions. I love the joy of experiencing new cultures and the excitement of exploring our amazing world.


One of the great things about the west coast of Florida is that you can always find a quiet secluded area to go kayaking even in the midst of a relatively crowded urban area. In our continuing effort to discover the best locations to kayak in the general Tampa area, we recently found our way to the Pithlachascotee River, otherwise known as the Cotee River, in New Port Richey.

For those of you not familiar with the central gulf coast of Florida, New Port Richey is located about 30 miles north of Tampa on the gulf coast in Pasco County. The community has a population of about 15,000 residents and is fairly densely populated. The Cotee River, while not particularly long, runs for approximately 23 miles from its source near Crews Lake through the Starkey Wilderness Park and the James E. Grey Preserve right through the heart of New Port Richey before entering into the Gulf of Mexico near Miller’s Bayou in Port Richey.

James E. Grey Preserve Kayak/Canoe Launch

James E. Grey Preserve Kayak/Canoe Launch

While you can kayak or canoe through the populated sections of the lower Cotee River for this outing we headed inland to the peace and quiet of the James E. Grey Preserve. As one of the few remaining undisturbed areas in New Port Richey, the Preserve makes for the perfect setting for a quiet afternoon on the Cotee River.

The James E. Grey Preserve encompasses over 80 acres of old Florida wilderness and was first established in 2003. It was extensively renovated in 2007 with the assistance of state grant money. In addition to the kayak/canoe launch, the park added three picnic areas, a covered pavilion, restroom facilities, a new parking lot and a beautiful boardwalk that takes visitors to a new fishing pier. The park also has over two miles of trails for hiking. Future plans call for the construction of an education center complete with a resident ranger although no timetable has been set for this future expansion.


So what can one expect while kayaking the Cotee River? If you depart from the launch at the James E. Grey Preserve and head down river you will follow the twisting turns of the Cotee River that is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail. The river, depending on the season and water level, can be shallow in areas and the water is brackish and generally dark with sediment. The currents are mild in the Preserve but are apt to increase as you get closer to the gulf but should rarely be of concern. Along the way there is the possibility to see a variety of wildlife including wild boar, deer, manatee, turtles, alligators, and over 100 species of birds.


On our leisurely trek down the Cotee River we saw a number of large turtles, a bald eagle circling overhead, turkey vultures, osprey, kingfisher, and a number of other water birds. The river narrows in sections through the Preserve and for the most part is bordered on both sides by thick forest and swampy areas. There are a number of overhanging trees and limbs, which in addition to providing some shade make for a very picturesque setting. And above all else, while in the heart of the James E. Grey Preserve you can hear nothing but the sounds of nature.

Cotee River

Cotee River

After about a mile and a half or so heading down the river you will exit the Preserve and approach the Francis Avenue Park launch site. At this point the river widens and the scenery changes. You will now be paddling through a residential area with houses on both sides of the river, still scenic but in a different sense. You can turn around here and head back to the launch area where you started or you can continue down river toward Sims Park and then on to Nick’s Park and Miller's Bayou where the Cotee River empties into the Gulf of Mexico. This section of the Cotee River is apt to have more traffic as both of these parks have a boat ramp and this lends itself to more recreational boating. The total distance from the launch in the James E. Grey Preserve to Nick’s Park on the gulf is approximately 6 miles.


For our trip we turned around shortly after leaving the James E. Grey Preserve and retraced our paddles back up the river to where we started. The entire trip took us approximately two and a half hours. I must say if you are familiar with the New Port Richey area then you will be pleasantly surprised at the wild and pristine nature of the Preserve, which is embedded in the midst of otherwise busy New Port Richey. It's nice to see that you can still experience the beauty and serenity of nature even in a busy urban setting.

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If your travel plans are taking you to the west central coast of Florida and you are looking for a kayak adventure check out the Cotee River and the James E. Grey Preserve. If you are visiting from outside of the area and you need to rent kayaks check out Gill Dawg’s, which offers rentals and self-guided tours on the Cotee River for a reasonable rate.


Other interesting and scenic locations in the Tampa area for a day of kayaking include the Weeki Wachee River located about twenty miles north of New Port Richey. The Weeki Wachee River offers crystal clear spring fed water and is a favorite winter spot for manatees.

For a little more adventurous trip head southeast from New Port Richey to the Hillsborough River with outfitter Canoe Escape. Located on US 301 in Thonotosassa just fifteen miles north of Tampa and forty miles from New Port Richey you’ll see an amazing variety of wildlife on your trip down the Hillsborough River.

Questions & Answers

Question: Is there ever a problem with alligators on the Cotee River?

Answer: We did not see any alligators while we were kayaking on the Cotee River. To the best of my knowledge alligators are not a problem, especially on the lower portion of the river.

© 2015 Bill De Giulio


Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on May 19, 2020:

On the day we kayaked the Cotee River we did not, but we have seen them numerous times on the Weeki Wachee River. It is a thrill to have a manatee swim right under the kayak.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 19, 2020:

Thanks for showing us another beautiful area in Florida to do some kayaking. The wilderness scenery is so enjoyable to view. Did you spot any manatees?

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on September 29, 2017:

Gill Dawg Marina.

sarah on September 28, 2017:

where can we rent kayaks?

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 22, 2015:

Thanks Robert. There are just so many great spots to kayak in Florida. Whenever we are down there we try to hit a new spot. Hopefully you are successful in getting out more this year. Thanks so much for stopping by. Have a great week.

Robert Morgan from Hutchinson Island, FL - Myrtle Beach, SC - Gilbert AZ on July 22, 2015:

What a great place to Kayak. We are planning on doing more kayaking this year. We have some great areas just east of us on the Indian River. Great article as always. Blessings.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on July 19, 2015:

Hi thumbi7. Thank you. This section of the Cotee River is both beautiful and peaceful. We really had an enjoyable time. Thanks for the vote, share, etc.. Have a great day.

JR Krishna from India on July 19, 2015:

Beautiful and quiet river

Your photos are excellent

Voted up and shared

rebekahELLE from Tampa Bay on February 01, 2015:

I posted it after I made the previous comment. You can see it if you filter your hub feed to see status updates. :)

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on February 01, 2015:

Hi Rebekah. Wonderful, so glad that you got to enjoy the "jungle" with your granddaughter, Clara. If you know of any other hidden gems in the area I would love to hear about them. I look forward to seeing the photo. Have a great day.

rebekahELLE from Tampa Bay on February 01, 2015:

Hey Bill, thanks again for this hub. I took my little granddaughter to the preserve yesterday and it was delightful. We followed the wooden bridge through the Florida 'jungle', as she called it, and enjoyed the beauty of this quiet, serene, relatively hidden gem only minutes from my home. I'll post a photo on the feed along with how I found this park! It will be a status update. Thanks!! Clara loved it and we found the playground at the end of our exploration hike.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 24, 2015:

Hi Glimmer. Thank you. Whenever we are visiting in Florida we try to find someplace new to go kayaking. There certainly are a lot of options there. Thanks for stopping by, have a great weekend.

Claudia Porter on January 24, 2015:

Oh boy Bill this looks wonderful. We enjoy kayaking but it's not nearly as exotic in NW PA as it is in Florida! I'm ready to go. Now if I could only convince my husband and daughter (she'd be ready to go anytime).

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 14, 2015:

Hi Sheila. You should give it a try sometime. It's very peaceful and relaxing especially when you are out in the wilderness away from humanity. The gators are there but we certainly respect their domain and they graciously leave us alone. Thanks so much for the pin. Mohave a wonderful day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 14, 2015:

Hi Flourish. Thank you. It seems like we kayak more when on vacation than when we are home. Not sure why that is? More free time I suppose. The thought of gators does concern my wife but we have never had an issue despite seeing a fair number of them while kayaking over the years. We leave them alone and they return the favor :). Thank you for the vote, pin, etc. Have a great week.

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on January 14, 2015:

This sounds like a wonderful trip! I have never gone kayaking before but I think I would really enjoy it. I think I would be a little concerned about the alligators though. Pinning this to my "places I would like to visit" board. You never know when I might find myself in this area and I would definitely want to go here!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 13, 2015:

Hi Rebekah. Sounds like you had a great walk. I am very much looking forward to our next visit and Starkey Park will be at the top of my list. It's so cold up here right now that sunny Florida sure sounds great at the moment.

Thank you so much for the great tips. It's a wonderful area with great parks, beaches and all these hidden gems.

rebekahELLE from Tampa Bay on January 13, 2015:

Hey Bill, I made it to the park on Sunday and was amazed at what was at the end of that bumpy, dirt road! We walked around for a while and I took some photos on one of the kayak docks, but I didn't make it directly into the preserve when I saw the signs prohibiting dogs. Since it is a wildlife sanctuary, domestic animals are not allowed. Yogi loved what he was able to explore. I'll go again this weekend. It's so close to my home. I'm happy to have finally found it. It also has a new playground.

When you're down here again, you must explore Starkey Park. It is beautiful, and very large. There are numerous trails including a bike/jogging paved trail. Windows are open tonight, it's lovely here.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 13, 2015:

Hi Johan. Yes, the Swanee River is north of where we were and I believe it runs into Georgia also. I'm sure it was beautiful. We'll have to add it to our list of places to visit. Nice to see you here and a happy new year to you.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 13, 2015:

Hi Lisa. Glad you enjoyed the hub. My in-laws live in New Port Richey so we visit there often, small world indeed. Wish I were there now with the cold weather here :).

A happy new year to you also.

Johan Smulders from East London, South Africa on January 12, 2015:

Great Article! We canoed on the Swanee River in 2009 during our road trip around the USA and Florida does offer great places to visit.

Liza Treadwell Esq aka Liza Lugo JD from New York, NY on January 12, 2015:

Great hub! Made me a little homesick since I used to live in Spring Hill. My best friend lives in New Port it is indeed a small world. Great photos! I look forward to reading more of your hubs.

May the new year bring you many wonderful things.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 12, 2015:

Hi Linda. Thank You. This really is a hidden gem in NPR. We've been visiting there for years and just recently discovered it. Makes me wonder what other gems are out there that we haven't discovered yet. Something for the next trip perhaps.

Linda Crampton from British Columbia, Canada on January 11, 2015:

This sounds like a great place to go kayaking, Bill. I'm always impressed when city planners leave some unspoiled areas in a city. Thanks for sharing this useful and interesting guide and the lovely photos. I hope to visit Florida some day.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 11, 2015:

Hi Rebekah. Thank you. We have not yet made it to the Starkey Wilderness Park but it's on my radar for our next visit. There really are a number of these hidden gems in the area and we enjoy searching them out on our visits. It's a beautiful area. Hope you had a nice walk and a happy 2015 to you also.

rebekahELLE from Tampa Bay on January 11, 2015:

Wonderful hub. Now you are in my home territory. This area of New Port Richey is still a hidden gem. I've never kayaked the Cottee, but this looks so peaceful. On the east side of Plathe Road (from Rowan), the river winds behind the trees and people use the area for swimming during the summer. I see that you mention Starkey Wilderness Park. Have you hiked through this beautiful Park? It's one of my favorite places to walk. As you have mentioned about kayaking the Cottee, while hiking the Starkey trails, it is absolutely quiet except the sounds of nature. You've inspired me again about my own area. It looks like a perfect day to take my dog for a nature walk in the Preserve. Have a happy 2015!

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 10, 2015:

Hi Blossom. Thank you, glad you enjoyed the hub. I would imagine you have a fair number of great spots for kayaking in Australia. Thanks so much for stopping by.

Bronwen Scott-Branagan from Victoria, Australia on January 10, 2015:

Kayaking can be such fun. I have never done it where you discuss in this hub, but I love the photos and the whole hub is interesting and well written.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 10, 2015:

Hi Mary. Thank you. It was a nice break from the cold weather but we are back here now freezing our butts off. Glad you enjoyed the trip, have a great weekend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 10, 2015:

Hi Bill. We love to hit the water in kayaks whenever we get the chance and there are numerous possibilities in the Tampa/New Port Richey area. Would love to have you join us sometime. Enjoy the weekend and go Pats and Seahawks.

Mary Craig from New York on January 10, 2015:

I always love your travel hubs Bill. They are filled with information and really beautiful pictures. I'm sure anyone heading down to New Port Richey will be checking this out, with or without a kayak.

Voted up, useful, and interesting.

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on January 10, 2015:

I would so be with you on this trip, Bill. I do a lot of kayaking in Puget Sound and just love it. Thanks for taking us along on a great trip, and have a wonderful weekend.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 10, 2015:

Hi Adam. Thanks for coming with us, we had a blast. I tried to enlarge the eagle photos but he was just too high and they just weren't clear enough after enlarging. Hope all is well in Georgia.

Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on January 10, 2015:

Hi Barb. Always looking for something new and exciting to do there in New Port Richey. You'll have to join us for our next adventure.

Adam Stacy on January 10, 2015:

Melissa and I had a blast, Dad. Great article, but it's too bad our eagle didn't come in for a close-up.

Barbara Laliberte on January 10, 2015:

Thanks for sharing Bill. You always seem to find the best spots to visit. This is going on my to do list next visit to New Port Richey. I love the cute turtles on the log picture. You sure made the best out of your Christmas/New Years vacation.

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