Circle B Bar Reserve

Circle B Bar Reserve
In 1994, the voters of Polk County approved a sales tax increase that funded the county’s purchase of environmentally sensitive lands. The measure was proposed by local environmentalists. Since that time, over 25,000 acres have been purchased and managed to “to protect Polk County’s water, wildlife, and wilderness” and to provide education about and appropriate recreational use of these lands. Circle B Bar Reserve, located on the western shore of Lake Hancock, is one of these areas.

Circle B Bar Reserve derives its name from the cattle ranch that once occupied the property. A few of the ranch’s original structures can still be seen in the cow camp section and along several of the hiking trails. Its 1,267 acres was jointly purchased by Polk County and the Southwest Florida Water Management District “to protect the floodplain of the lake and to restore the Banana Creek marsh system.” In 2005-2006, the original hydrologic systems were restored, resulting in an area that teems with a variety of birds. Circle B has a world-wide reputation as an excellent destination for birders. Other wildlife that can be seen in the reserve include alligators in Lake Hancock, marsh rabbits, armadillos, bobcats, and, unfortunately, feral hogs. Ecosystems comprising the reserve are oak hammock, freshwater marsh, hardwood swamp, and the lakeshore.

In November 2008, construction of the Nature Discovery Center was completed. It contains exhibits on the reserve’s ecologic and hydrologic features. Children will enjoy climbing on the indoor treehouse. The center is free of charge to the public and serves as an environmental education classroom for local schools. It is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, and from noon to 4 p.m. on Sunday.

You can walk or bicycle the trails, but you can also take a free, narrated tram ride. Call 863-668-4673 ext. 205 for the tram tour schedule. Trails are sometimes closed due to alligator nesting. Because of its large population of alligators, no pets are permitted inside the preserve. But be sure to bring your camera.

Other Circle B activities include fishing in Lake Hancock with a valid Florida license, geocaching, and picnicking. Picnic shelters are located near the entrance and near the Nature Discovery Center. Portable toilets are available at each picnic area. Restrooms and water can be found inside the Nature Discovery Center.

Circle B Bar Reserve is located at 4399 Winter Lake Road (SR 540), Lakeland FL, 33803. It is open daily from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. during standard time and from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. during daylight-saving time.

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