Air-boating, Bicycling, Canoeing, Camping, Equestrian, Fishing, Hiking, Hunting & Picnics
Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park
Dry prairie habitat is the highlight of this state park. The dry prairie is home to several rare and endangered species, including the Florida grasshopper sparrow, burrowing owl and the crested caracara. Seventy-nine species of butterflies have been documented here, more than at any other location in Florida.
A park office and gift shop serve as the gateway to Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. From here, visitors can find information on the 116 miles of multi-use trails for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. Ask about the next opportunity for astronomy enthusiasts to stay after dark for some stargazing. Swamp buggy tours are also offered on weekends and national holidays throughout the fall, winter and spring. Butterfly and bird checklists are available at the park office for visitors who like to keep track of the sights.
History buffs will enjoy the preserve, too. Military Trail, a dirt road on the property leading to the Kissimmee River, once connected Fort Drum and Fort Kissimmee. The Peavine Trail follows an old railroad bed built in 1910. Alligators often gather in seven mile slough, which is a short walk from the parking area at the corner of the Military and Peavine Trails
Majestic live oaks welcome visitors to Hickory Hammock’s hiking trail. From there, explorers can see marshes, patches of scrub and oak, hickory and cabbage palm hammocks. Remnants of the Istokpoga Slough provide cool relief to the landscape. Hikers and bird watchers are often led to this diverse are by following the Great Florida Birding Trail and the Everglades Trail.
A section of the Florida National Scenic Trail winds for 11 miles through this area where visitors can also find primitive campsites. Visitors who travel three miles north of Hickory Hammock are rewarded by views of the restored Kissimmee River from a footbridge 25 feet high. The trail north through Boney Marsh offers a spectacular walk among live oaks, palms, bay and holly trees on the edge of the Kissimmee floodplain. The Florida National Scenic Trail continues north through Avon Park Air Force Range. Hikers are encouraged to check the South Florida Water Management District web site for trail closures before entering the range.
Horseback riding is popular at Hickory Hammock and Bluff Hammock. An equestrian center with stables, restrooms, night lighting, non-potable water and primitive campsites available. Ten miles of marked equestrian trails, interior dirt roads and fire breaks offer riders a varied landscape.
Bicycling enthusiasts will enjoy riding on a two-mile section of the old Sebring Grade in the southern half of Hickory Hammock. Canopied by overhanging tree limbs, the road connected Sebring and Basinger before U.S. Hwy. 98 was built in 1949. You can also enjoy bike riding on the interior “woods road” an old ranch road through the hammocks.
Oak Creek features many majestic old-growth oaks, some nearly five feet in diameter, along the eastern edge of the Kissimmee River floodplain. This a great spot to enjoy the shade or watch the spring butterflies.
Here, the creek’s floodplain merges into the restored Kissimmee River, so hikers can only use this area during the drier winter months. Visitors will find several bay heads with trees up to 30 feet tall at the eastern end of the creek. Enter through the walk through gate and travel one mile to a secluded campsite. Primitive camping is available at the sites with fire rings and picnic tables.
Fishing is allowed in the restored section of the Kissimmee River. During the wet season, the best access is by airboat, canoe, or kayak from the Starvation Slough Boat Launch. Access is through the north entrance.
The Starvation Slough Boat Launch also provides access to Starvation Slough and No Name Slough.
One of a Kind Activities
Arnold's Wildlife Rehabilitation Center & Butterfly Garden
Arnold's Wildlife Rehabilitation Center is dedicated to bringing people and wildlife together to develop a community awareness of the value of Florida wildlife. Dedicated to the goal to rescue, rehabilitate and return recovered animals to their natural habitat and if not, offer them a permanent home. Arnold’s Wildlife Rehabilitation Center offers tours featuring a scenic trail, 1 ½ mile in length, with indigenous plants and wildlife as well as beautiful Florida landscapes and a beautiful new Butterfly Garden featuring over 60 species of free roaming butterflies. Outreach programs to Okeechobee and neighboring communities are a continued effort to make it possible for people and wildlife to coexist together.
Battle of Okeechobee Historic Marker
Zachary Taylor met the Seminoles who were led by chiefs Wild Cat, Alligator, and Sam Jones in this largest battle of the Second Seminole War. Taylor captured about 600 cattle and 100 horses but his troops suffered about 138 casualties before the Seminoles retreated with an estimated 25 casualties.
Every year in February come and enjoy this battle re-enacted by the Friends of the Okeechobee Battlefield. For more information and this years dates please visit www.okeechobeebattlefield.com