Located in the north central
area of Pasco County, the Upper Pithlachascotee River Preserve occupies 129 acres
near the south end of Crews Lake. The preserve has 69 acres of bottomland forest
at the headwaters of the Pithlachascotee River (referred to as the "Cotee"
by locals). The Ryals Branch is a small tributary that also crosses the area. In
addition to flood plain along the river basins, the preserve contains a large expanse
of sandhill habitat, along with freshwater marshes.
Two miles of easy hiking trails, including a loop trail north of the Ryals Branch,
provide opportunities to view the preserve. Interpretive signs are posted along
the trails describing some of the plant and animal species you will encounter. Many
threatened and endangered species can be viewed in the preserve, including gopher
tortoises, great blue heron, and snowy egret. A 1,500 foot long boardwalk extends
into the flood plain along the Cotee River, allowing an up-close look at the bottomland
forest. One branch of the boardwalk takes you to a giant bald cypress tree ... thought
to be the largest cypress in Pasco County, and well over 200 years old.
A picnic area, small playground, and restrooms are available near the entrance area
of the park. There is also a house on the property that is only open by appointment,
and is available for special occasions and meetings. Unfortunately, access to the
park is via bumpy unimproved shell roads that wind through a residential area.