Morris Bridge Road

 

As a pre-Interstate alternate route to US Highway 301, Morris Bridge Road was completed in 1961.  This 17 mile route links the Florida cities of Temple Terrace and Zephyrhills.

Interstate 75 was completed to the west in 1965, but continued along the part of current-day Interstate 275.

When Interstate 75 was rerouted to the east on its path to Naples in 1985, part of the construction near Fletcher and Fowler Avenues near Temple Terrace caused a reroute of Morris Bridge Road.  Parts of the old road still remain, now known as Old Morris Bridge Road.

Temple Terrace

About three miles east of Temple Terrace, Morris Bridge Road begins its trek north from a three-way intersection with Temple Terrace Highway and Harney Road.  A few old houses from the early 1960s still dot the sides of the road.

Soon the highway makes a slight jog to the west, beginning a configuration that was built to accommodate the addition of Interstate 75.

The first major intersection is with Fowler Avenue near the banks of the Hillsborough River.  The City of Temple Terrace’s Rotary Riverfront Park is on the left, and provides a boat ramp and a handful of picnic tables under large and shady trees.

Trees at Rotary Riverfront Park
Trees and picnic tables at Rotary Riverfront Park along the Hillsborough River.

Being near the interstate and two adjacent interchanges, there are a few hotels and restaurants nearby while trying to maintain a rural standing.

Old Morris Bridge Road

This one mile stretch of road still is present after the re-route of Morris Bridge Road.  Morris Bridge Road can be accessed via 127th Avenue, between Fletcher and Fowler Avenues.

The stretch features single-family homes, as well as a former mobile home park that was bought by a developer, demolished, and never built upon.

Intersection with 127th Avenue, the lone access road to Old Morris Bridge.
Intersection with 127th Avenue, the lone access road to Old Morris Bridge.
View along Old Morris Bridge Rd.
View along Old Morris Bridge Rd.
Abandoned house.
Abandoned house.

Morris Bridge Road/Fletcher Avenue

The two roads are concurrent roughly a quarter-mile between the Fletcher/Morris Bridge intersection and the interchange with Interstate 75.  East of Interstate 75, Fletcher Avenue ends and Morris Bridge continues briefly along mostly an easterly trek.

This starts an area of on-road bike lanes that were the first in Hillsborough County, linking University of South Florida to the Cross Creek area.

Wilderness Park Area

Morris Bridge Road through the Flatwoods area.
Morris Bridge Road through the parklands.

For the next several miles, the scenery is mainly forest, most of which is conservation land.

Trout Creek Park is located on the north side of the road just east of the Tampa Bypass Canal bridge.  On the right sits a facility-less Wilderness Park trailhead known by mountain bikers as Hole in the Fence.  A 14-mile mountain biking loop makes one of its two crossings of Morris Bridge Road at this point.

Two more Wilderness Park trailheads–one on each side of the road–are located at the Hillsborough River bridge.  The two trailheads are connected by foot via a wooden boardwalk that runs beneath the bridge.

A roadside guide to the local parks.
A roadside guide to the local parks.
Morris Bridge Road at the Hillsborough River from
Morris Bridge Road at the Hillsborough River.
Parking area at Morris Bridge Park.
Parking area at Morris Bridge Park.

1.3 miles north of the Hillsborough River bridge is the main trailhead for Flatwoods Park.  It features a ranger station open on weekdays, and numerous primitive picnic sites.  The mountain biking loop goes through all of these parks.

Branchton

James Madison Branch founded the settlement of Branchton in the late 1800s.  Branch previously settled in Seffner, but wanted his own settlement in order to maintain a rural lifestyle.  Branchton once had a post office, but was discontinued in 1918.  Before Morris Bridge Road, Branchton was accessed by a series of dirt roads through the swamp.

Morris Bridge Road through Branchton.
Roadway through Branchton.

Branchton now is still very rural.  However, the rural nature is being challenged by Tampa’s growth to the north, south, and west.

A few churches and the Branchton Farms farmers market are the main landmarks in town.

Branchton Farms.
Branchton Farms.
Branchton Farms is owned and operated today by the Branch family, direct descendants of Branchton’s founders. Much of their produce is grown on site.

 

Cross Creek

Coming out of Branchton, Morris Bridge flirts briefly with suburban sprawl.  At the relatively new intersection with Cross Creek Boulevard, there is a Publix shopping center and a few stand-alone commercial buildings.  Numerous newer housing developments, schools, and businesses line both sides of Cross Creek Boulevard on its way to New Tampa.

One newer subdivision, Easton Park, is just north of the Cross Creek intersection.

The east side of the road is still forest, with the exception of a few smaller buildings.

Country Again

After Easton Park, Morris Bridge returns to forest and cow pastures.  The bike lanes paralleling Morris Bridge soon abruptly disappear.  The travel lanes themselves get narrower.

Pasco County

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Shortly after crossing a small river, Morris Bridge makes its passage into Pasco County.  The country views still prevail, along with the occasional single-family home, most of which are on properties of an acre or more.

Within the next 5 years, there will be an intersection with an extended State Road 56 two miles north of the Hillsborough County line.  The addition of this new road will provide much more direct access to Interstate 75 from the north.

Zephyrhills

Zephyrhills has been a haven for senior citizens for the past several decades.

This becomes evident pretty quickly as 55-and-up communities line both sides of Morris Bridge.

The northern end of Morris Bridge Road is at the intersection with State Road 54.  The site of the old Hill’s Grocery at the southeast corner of 54 and Morris Bridge is now a CVS Pharmacy.  Once farmland at the northwest corner, there’s now fast food outlets and a large shopping center.

North end of Morris Bridge Road in Zephyrhills.
North end of in Zephyrhills.

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