Even the most pampered house dog loves getting outside into nature and sniffing out new adventures. In West Central Florida, there are plenty of opportunities to get your pooch out into the wilderness.
Dogs are Welcome in Many Florida Wilderness Parks
Thanks to the preservation efforts of the Southwest Florida Water Management District, there are approximately 10,000 square miles of beautifully preserved Florida lands in 16 counties in West Central Florida. The land has been preserved to protect Florida’s delicate ecosystem and natural water cycles. Nearly all of this land is available for public use and recreation. The parks within the District provide opportunities for hiking, bicycling, bird watching, camping, horseback riding, boating and fishing.
Best of all for dog owners, many of the parks within the District are dog-friendly.
Dogs Are Welcome in Many of Florida’s Most Beautiful Wilderness Parks
There are 15 parks within the Southwest Florida Water Management District territories that allow dogs. In Hillsborough County, eight of the District’s parks are dog-friendly. These include:
- Edward Medard Park and Reservoir
- Dead River Park
- Flatwoods Park
- John B. Sargeant Park
- Morris Bridge Park
- Off-Road Loop Trail
- Trout Creek Park
- Tampa Bypass Canal
Pinellas and Pasco Counties each have two dog-friendly parks within the District. Pinellas County has Cliff Stephens Park and Sawgrass Lake Park. In Pasco County, dog lovers will enjoy J.B. Starkey Wilderness Park and the Withlacoochee River Park.
Charlotte, Citrus and Sarasota Counties each have one dog-friendly park within the District. These are:
- Charlotte Harbor Preserve State Park in Charlotto County
- Chassahowitzka River and Coastal Swamps in Citrus County
- Myakka State Forest in Sarasota County
Rules for Dogs in Florida’s Wilderness Parks
In order to maintain these breathtakingly beautiful and delicate lands in their pristine state, dog owners must follow specific rules when taking their dogs to the parks within the Southwest Florida Water Management District lands. In general, these rules include:
- Dogs must be on a six-foot leash at all times.
- Dog owners must pick up after their dogs.
- Dogs are permitted only in the areas that are designated as dog-friendly (e.g., some parks do not allow dogs in the campgrounds, equestrian trails, or playgrounds).
- Dogs must not be allowed to destroy or disturb any wildlife or vegetation.
- Dogs must be well-mannered.
Enjoy West Central Florida’s Dog-Friendly Parks
If you plan to travel with your dog to West Central Florida, be sure to make time to experience some of Florida’s natural beauty. Your dog will enjoy it as much as you will.