(This article was originally written July 4, 2012 and describes two trips to this area, one in late June and the second in early July.)
One of my favorite places is Lake Kissimmee. The lake consists of almost 35,000 acres and is surrounded by forest, swamp and prairie. The east side of the lake still has large cattle ranches which used to be Florida’s main industry in the late 1800’s. On the southeast side of the lake is a vast area set aside by the state as a protected reserve. A lot of palmetto scrub, oak hammocks, cypress-lined sloughs, a small lake, grassland and a rare area of longleaf pine forest make the area suitable for a wide variety of wildlife. The Kissimmee River exits the lake to the south and the Army Corps of Engineers has completed the first phase of restoring the river to its original flow following their straightening project in the 1960’s which was disastrous to the surrounding ecosystem. Lake Kissimmee State Park is on the western shore and is a great place to see deer, turkey, fox, wild pigs and the Florida Scrub Jay.
June and July are hot months. Here in central Florida we have the extra added attraction of humidity level and temperature racing each other upward. Toward the end of June we prayed for rain. The Good Lord answered with Tropical Storm Debby. I was curious to see what the Kissimmee prairie land looked like a week after the deluge. Nature is truly amazing. All of the water which caused widespread flooding, road closures and general discomfort for humans had been efficiently drained from the area. Granted, all the creeks were full and flowing rapidly toward the nearest body of water.
The circling osprey kept his eyes on me as I stood on the bank of Lake Jackson, just southeast of Lake Kissimmee. I was startled by a large alligator bellowing from about 50 yards away. Likely a territorial notice or maybe just romantic. As we drove through the palmetto scrub, we came upon a “new” pond formed by all of the recent rain. A lone Mottled Duck paddled around gabbling at me to move along so he could resume feeding. Hiking along a canal, I startled a turkey hen and as she ran through the brush, I saw there were at least three others with her. As they fluttered through the grass and bushes, a white-tailed deer jumped up and looked around to see what the fuss was about. On the western shore of Lake Kissimmee, we explored a new county park (Coleman’s Landing) with a grove of oak trees providing shade for yellow wildflowers in full bloom and butterflies were everywhere. Near the lake shore was a young alligator offering water taxi service to a dragonfly. As we headed out of the park toward home a Swallow-tailed Kite put on an aerial display for us to enjoy.
The next day I spoke to a gentleman who loves to hike. I mentioned the area around Lake Kissimmee. “Oh, yeah”, he sniffed. “I’ve been hiking out there and have never seen anything worthwhile.” I suppose my definition of “worthwhile” is a universe away from his. I can’t wait to return. In August. When it’s really hot.
The hickory coals are almost ready to put the country style pork ribs on to flavor them a little after the pressure cooker did its thing. Sweet potatoes are in the oven and I need to shuck a few ears of fresh corn. Sure wish you all were here to share!
(Please check “Lake Kissimmee Area” in the Gallery for additional images.)