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Ft. Fraser Rail Trail
The Fort Fraser Trail is a 7.75-mile asphalt-paved, multi-use trail that connects Bartow on the south with Lakeland on its north end. The trail runs along a former CSX corridor that was once part of an Atlantic Coast Line Railroad line linking Lakeland with Naples. The historic Ft. Fraser, for which the trail was named, was built in 1837 during the Second Seminole War. Its approximate location is marked by a plaque beside the trail south of Highland City.
The trail supports three trailheads. The Lakeland (northern) trailhead is located adjacent to the Polk County Sheriff’s substation. Motor vehicle access to this trailhead is via the Hwy. 98 entrance to Polk State College. The Bartow (southern) trailhead can be driven to from North Wilson Avenue, off Hwy. 60. The main trailhead in Highland City is located on 4th Street, SE. From Hwy. 98, turn east onto Clubhouse Road, take the first right turn onto 3rd Street SE, another right turn onto Central Avenue, then a left into trailhead parking. The trailhead has a paved parking area as well as restrooms, water fountains, and picnic shelters. A McDonald’s restaurant is located across Clubhouse Road from the trailhead.
Along the length of the trail you will find sheltered benches and signs at intervals that give details about the natural and human history of Lakeland, Bartow, and Polk County. The trail crosses three bridges along its path. The northernmost bridge spans Banana Creek just south of the Polk State College campus, the middle bridge crosses South Creek just north of Ernest Smith Boulevard, and the southernmost bridge across Bear Creek is located near the trail’s southern terminus. A butterfly garden, planted and maintained by master gardeners, can be found on the east side of the trail near the City of Lakeland’s plant nursery. Geocaches have been hidden all along the trail’s path.
Two spurs branch off from Ft. Fraser Trail. One, at its Lakeland end, is a half-mile extension that runs east to an entrance into Circle B Bar Reserve. The other, at its Bartow end, continues east along Ernest Smith Boulevard, crosses Saddle Creek, and terminates at Hwy. 17.
Ft. Fraser trail parallels Hwy. 98, so you will be within sight or earshot of the traffic along this route. You will also be crossing roads that intersect with Hwy. 98. The busiest of these are Clubhouse Road and Boy Scout Ranch Road in Highland City, and Ernest Smith Boulevard in Bartow.
Upcoming plans for the trail include a 1-mile extension north to Combee Road and access to the Panther Point Trail around Lake Hancock.
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