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Highlands Hammock State Park
Highlands Hammock State Park opened to the public in 1931 as a private park. Four years later, in 1935, it became one of Florida’s original parks when the state park system was created. It comprises 9000 acres in Highlands County, 4 miles west of Sebring.
The park was founded by a group of local citizen activists who bought the land and promoted it for national park status. Although that did not happen, a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp was established in the park. The men assigned to this camp constructed the concession building, the visitor center, park roads and bridges. The rustic style and sturdiness of these structures is distinctive and familiar to regular visitors of state and national parks.
One of the big attractions at Highlands Hammock State Park is the Florida CCC Museum. The museum came about after a group of CCC alumni sent a proposal to the Florida Park Service. On 22 May 1990, Governor Martinez and Cabinet “passed a resolution directing the Division of Recreation and Parks to work with the National Association of CCC Alumni (NACCCA) to plan and develop a Florida Civilian Conservation Corps Museum and Memorial.” Funding for the project was provided by the Division of Recreation and Parks, with a grant from the Florida Department of State. CCC alumni donated archival materials, the museum sign, and object collections such as tools and personal effects.
The museum opened on 5 November 1994 during the Ninth Annual CCC Festival. It is housed in a 1939 CCC building. In addition to the photo and memorabilia displays, there are 3 videos that can be viewed on request: “CCC: A Vacation From Poverty,” is a 15-minute video providing an introduction to the CCC and the State of Florida CCC Museum. A longer film, “The CCC: A Proud Chapter,” with a running time of 30 minutes, features CCC alumni interviews and a guided tour of CCC-built park structures that are still in use today. The third film, “The Historic Journey,” is another 15-minute documentary that was made during the 2010 CCC Festival. It features four men who recall their lives during the Depression and in the CCC. You can also hear an audio of President Roosevelt’s Fireside Chats. The museum is open 9a.m. to 5p.m. daily during the winter/spring season, with shortened hours during the slow season, depending on volunteer availability.
Camping and Outdoor Activities
The park boasts a 3-mile paved loop road popular with cyclists. There are also 9 hiking trails for foot traffic only that run through hydric hammock, cypress swamp, hardwood swamp, and pine flatwoods. A hammock is defined as a “raised area with hardwood trees in the southern U.S.” Wildlife that have been spotted in the park include white-tailed deer, American alligators, gopher tortoises, frogs, otters, golden silk spiders, pileated woodpeckers, red-shouldered hawks, barred owls, Florida scrub jays, black bears, bald eagles, white ibis, gray squirrels, bobcats, and the rare Florida panther.
Camping in developed and rustic campgrounds is available. Developed campsites offer electric and water hookups, a fire ring, and picnic table. Bathhouses with toilet and shower facilities are located in the developed campground, as is a playground and campfire circle. Reservations may be made up to 11 months in advance through the ReserveAmerica website or call 1-800-326-3521.
Highlands Hammock State Park is located at:
5931 Hammock Road
Sebring, FL 33872
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