Lake Kissimmee State Park

Lake Kissimmee State Park
Lake Kissimmee State Park is a 5,930-acre piece of old Florida located 15 miles east of Lake Wales off State Highway 60. It is bordered by Lake Rosalie on the west, Tiger Lake to the south, Lake Kissimmee to its east, and Allen David Broussard Catfish Creek Preserve State Park to the northwest. Lake Kissimmee is the largest of the lakes with a surface area of 54.61 square miles.

History

The area that comprises Lake Kissimmee State Park was used for raising cattle during the 19th century. These cattle were then shipped to the Confederate Army or traded with Cuba for supplies. In 1969, the state of Florida purchased 5,030 acres of land from the William Zipperer estate to establish a state park. The park was opened to the public in 1977. Later, in 1997, an additional 900 acres was purchased and added to the park’s western boundary.

Activities

Activities available in the park include wildlife viewing, boating, fishing, horseback riding, camping, hiking, picnicking, and geocaching.

One of the park’s main attractions is the 1876 Cow Camp. Open only on weekends between October 1 and May 1, the camp is a living history exhibit in which a Florida “cow hunter” demonstrates what his life was like along a cattle drive route. These camps along the trail consisted of a holding pen for the cows and a primitive shelter for the men. Their lives were similar to those of the western cowboys, except that the Florida topography precluded the use of lariats. Instead, they used dogs and whips to drive the cattle. It was the cracking sound made by these whips that earned them the name of “crackers.”

The park contains 4 hiking trails. At 6.7 miles long, the Buster Island Loop is the longest trail. It traverses scrub, pine flatwoods, and oak hammock plant communities. One of the primitive campsites is located along this trail. The North Loop, with a 6-mile length, is the second longest trail. The other primitive campsite can be found along this trail. The Gobbler Ridge Scenic Loop Trail is 2.8 miles long and offers a view of Lake Kissimmee. The short, 0.25-mile-long Charlie Gafford Flatwoods Pond Trail is a self-guided nature trail.

For all boaters, there is a boat ramp and marina within the park on Lake Kissimmee. For paddlers, there is also the 11-mile-long Buster Island Paddling Trail that circles Buster Island through the Zipperer Canal, Lake Rosalie, Rosalie Creek, Tiger Lake, Tiger Creek, and Lake Kissimmee. It is Florida’s 53rd state designated paddling trail. Canoes and kayaks can be rented at the marina. Phone 863-696-4888 for information and reservations.

Camping opportunities consist of a developed campground and several primitive campgrounds. The full-facility campground consists of 54 campsites, in 2 loops, each equipped with water and electric hookups. Each loop has its own restroom and shower building. A dump station for wastewater disposal is provided. Primitive camping is offered in an equestrian campground, along hiking trails, and in 2 group sites. The 2 sites along the hiking trails have picnic tables and ground grills. A maximum of 12 campers can occupy each site. The 2 group sites are equipped with cold showers, restrooms, picnic tables and benches around a fire pit. Groups of 12 or more people can use these sites. Pets are allowed in all camping areas.

Reservations for the developed campground can be made up to 11 months in advance on the Reserve America website or by phoning 800-326-3521 between 8a.m. and 8p.m. Reservations for primitive camping can be made by calling the park at 863-696-1112.

Park location and hours of operation

The park is open from 7a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year.

It is located at:
14248 Camp Mack Rd.
Lake Wales FL 33898



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