Project Overview

Paddle Boats

The Hillsborough River has played a major role in the life of our region from prehistoric times to today. Rising in the Green Swamp, near the intersection of Pasco, Polk, and Hillsborough counties, it flows 56 miles to Tampa Bay. Once a source of water, food, and transport for Native Americans, it is now enjoying a rebirth as an urban recreational and living site, as well as a key source of water for the region.

The Hillsborough is a natural resource, but its fate has been intertwined with that of human beings since people first set foot on what is now Florida. People have used misused it, polluted it, and tried to control it. But from early times until today, people have been drawn to the river as a place to live, work, and play, and as an inspiration for creative thinking, writing, and art. We invite you to join the Humanities Institute as we celebrate the human connection to the Hillsborough, and contemplate its unique role in our region’s history and culture.

At the heart of our project is a series of events in October-November, in which we showcase the cultural importance of the river through an interdisciplinary conversation that locates it in time, space, and memory. Speakers and activities representing history, archaeology, ecology, art photography, and literary studies will offer public talks and interactive experiences that address the history of human interaction with the Hillsborough, and the significance of the river and other wild places in the human imagination. We emphasize the importance of the river, not only as a unique natural environment, but also as a key component of the cultural heritage of our region. If we understand the long human history of the river, we are more likely to be more informed stewards of a special environment.

Our initiative doesn’t end with this unique set of public events. Through this website, we present a wealth of resources – historic and contemporary photos, videos, and information gathered especially for the project. And we invite you to contribute your own memories, photos, or opinions, further strengthening the Human Connections to this irreplaceable natural resource.