I don't know about you, but I've always loved camping. The wonderful sounds of being out in nature, the birds chirping, the song of the waterway, the wind in the trees, all brings me back to feeling alive with it all and refreshes my whole being. Well, it doesn't have to end, just because you're in a wheelchair. Of course, every one of us in a chair has different capabilities. I have two kinds of chairs, one is manual and the other electric. Living with postpolio syndrome, I have to find a balance for my physical ability is always a big part of my day. So, when I camp we take the electric wheelchair. I use the manual chair as I travel about town for day to day tasks that need to be done.
My hubby, Ron, purchased a great little RV back in 2010 and we've been going on the road as much as possible. So, I'm going to start this off with our most recent trip to the Hillsborough River State Park, which is one of my favorite places to camp. We've been to quite a few campgrounds, KOAs, et cetera, and accessibility is always my first concern.
The Hillsborough River State Park is one of the most accessible campgrounds I've been to yet. There are 112 campsites, 7 of which are accessible paved sites. All of the campsites are large and even the sites that are not paved sites (which are usually the wheelchair accessible sites) are level, smooth and in my opinion capable of wheelchair use, manual or electric. We have camped there three times and have used regular sites twice. There is an absolutely awesome 1/2 acre, salt water swimming pool, which is ADA accessible. Swimming is complimentary for campers. Swimming pool hours of operation are 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. The swimming pool has a ramp that you can roll right into the water if you're in a manual chair, using a walker, crutches or cane. The entire outer perimeter of the pool starts at one foot in depth, and progresses slowly to 4 feet, 6 inches, in center. I'm capable of getting out of my chair, parking close to the edge of the pool, with my one stronger leg, brace on the other, and sitting on the edge, removing my prosthesis and getting into the water that way, since driving my electric chair in the water wouldn't be a good option. It's just perfect for me! Being able to get in the water to move around for a couple hours and exercise all of my muscles is just what the doctor orders for postpolio syndrome. The salt water has many benefits for muscle pain, soreness and stress relief. They have life guards on duty, as well as, acess to the restrooms directly from the pool area for pool users only.
We like to start our day on the 1.2 mile River Rapids Trail, which is scenic, great for picture taking and I have had no issues navigating it in my power chair. Then afterwards, we stop for a little lunch break and off to the pool we go. From what I understand there's a woman who comes to the park and does the entire River Rapids Trail in her manual chair.
The Spirit of the Woods Poolside Cafe and Gift Shop has a great menu for breakfast and lunch, as well as snacks. You can find some necessities there in case you've forgotten something, as well as pick up a souvenir, field guide or books related to the park and Florida.
And did I mention, canoeing? What an absolutely awesome experience to get out on the Hillsborough River and canoe. They have two different types of canoes, the traditional style and canoes with backrests. We utilize the ones with the backrest, which works out just fine for me. And be prepared, because you just might get lucky and see some gators!!!
If you're not all tuckered out yet, during your stay, you can also do a little freshwater fishing in the river for bass, bream, and catfish. (Florida freshwater fishing license required).
Our RV is not equipped with a shower, so utilizing an accessible shower is very important for me. There are two campground areas (not including the primitive), the Rivers Edge Campground as well as the Hammock Circle Campground. If you camp here and you need to use the restroom facility, as well as shower, please ask or look for a campsite online in the River's Edge Campground, as this campground as one building only that houses a full ADA accessbile shower. The Hammock Circle Campground does not.
The park rangers are very knowledgeable, helpful, and courteous. There is also a tour of Fort Foster conducted on a regular schedule. Inquire at the ranger station for this information and accessibility, so they can meet your accommodations.
If I have to grade this campground on a scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score, I would give it a 4.5. There are many activities that you can do in this park from a wheelchair users point of view, which I think is absolutely wonderful. So my score of 4.5 is just due to the fact of there being only one accessbile shower-toilet facility in the camping area. Outside of the camping area there are other accessible toilets that can be utilized, if nature calls, so understand that I am addressing ONLY the camping area when it comes to restrooms.
Some photos of the accessible pool, as well as pics along the nature trail, and sites, are all included in the video.
I'm sure I haven't included all of the information about the Hillsborough River State Park. If you'd like further information about the Hillsborough River State Park, please visit Hillsborough River State Park.