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Into the Great Wide Open (With Your Dog)

Into the Great Wide Open (With Your Dog)

By Dr. Bob Encinosa

Dog parks are great, but what if you want some outdoor quiet time alone with your dog(s), and maybe a little exercise for yourself as well? You are in luck!!

South Hillsborough County is blessed with a large number of parklands, and within a 15- minute drive from the heart of Riverview, more than 20,000 acres of wooded and open spaces are just waiting for your exploration. Besides the large number of county and state parks, such as Alderman’s Ford, Wortham Park and Alafia River State Park, there are thousands of acres of land under the direction of ELAPP (Environmental Land Acquisition and Protection Program). These stretches of green space offer a variety of habitats to hike and explore, and dogs are allowed while on leash.

While housing construction continues in the south county, there are numerous tracts of land interspersed, some over 5,000 acres in size (8 square miles) and protected from development. The Rhodine Scrub, Fishhawk Creek Preserve, Triple Creek, and the Balm Boyette Scrub are all very unique areas within a few minutes of Riverview, Lithia, Apollo Beach and Ruskin.

While Florida wilderness areas are not nearly as foreboding as some would have you believe, there are some things to be careful of in these places. The biggest threats come from bacteria, bugs (mosquitos and ticks), heat and dehydration….not snakes and alligators (although you should look out for those as well). Make sure your dogs are on a good heartworm preventive, and a good tick preventive. Also make sure they are vaccinated against Leptospirosis, which are bacteria common in puddles and shallow ponds.

For yourself, sunscreen and insect repellant can make the hike, and the days following the hike much more enjoyable. Last, but not least, if you plan to explore the deeper reaches of these areas in the warmer months, bring plenty of water for yourself and your 4-legged companions. So, get out and enjoy what your tax money paid for!