Rye Wilderness Park
"Take nothing but pictures. Leave nothing but footprints."
This page is dedicated to our Manatee County Park Rangers. The many hours, for they are there to assist in every word.
Experience a slice of old Florida at the Rye Preserve. You don't have to travel far, the Rye Preserve is closer than you think.
Rye Preserve is a 145 acre property located just northwest of the Lake Manatee Dam. The preserve features nature trails, horseback trails, picnic areas, a playground and a canoe/kayak launch.
The preserve's trail system leads visitors through four distinctive ecosystems, including sand pine scrub, xeric oak scrub, oak hammocks and the river community. A variety of interesting creatures can be seen in these areas including the rare gopher tortoise and Florida scrub-jay.
Rye Preserve is home to a piece of Manatee County's early pioneer history. Within the preserve visitors can view the Rye Family Cemetery, the last remaining reminder of the old Rye river community.
Accessibility: There is a trail around the picnic pavilion made of packed dirt or shell. The remaining trails are dirt and may not be accessible depending on the environmental conditions. Be aware: Any area not on a designated trail may have a very soft surface.
About Rye Preserve
Rye Preserve is a 145 acre preserve located on the Manatee River just northwest of the Lake Manatee Dam. The original river settlement dates back to the post-Civil War era. Erasmus and Mary Rye moved to the area to establish a homestead in 1889. A small community began to build up around the Rye homestead utilizing the upper Manatee River as the primary means of travel and access to the outside world.
In 1910, the United States Government dredged the Manatee River from Tampa Bay east to Rye to allow steamships access to the small settlements that were scattered along the river. The river steamship allowed the community to flourish. At its peak, the Rye settlement was occupied by 72 families, with stores, sawmill, gristmill, post office, and school.
Increased accessibility by car and train caused steamship lines across the nation to fold, including the Manatee River service, bringing about the end of the river trail era. The Rye settlement was once again isolated and had to survive without commercial access to the large coastal communities.
By 1929, even the post office had closed its doors. Until 1988, there were still standing structures where the Rye settlement once was, but a suspicious fire destroyed them. The small Rye family cemetery, maintained by the descendents of the families interred there, is our only reminder of this river community.
Rye Preserve's four distinctive ecosystems, sand pine scrub, xeric oak scrub, oak hammocks, and the river community, have remained relatively undisturbed over the years. Dry upland portions of the park are home to several threatened animal species, including the gopher tortoise and Indigo snake. A variety of birds, including Florida scrub jays, owls, herons, warblers, turkeys, and several species of woodpecker seasonally visit and occupy the preserve. Larger animals, such as white-tailed deer, bobcat, and gray fox, can be seen around sunrise and sunset.
Rye Preserve's recreation plan, which combines all recreational uses on the property, includes the following elements: