Prairie Pause

“We’re not leaving before sunrise?” Gini had those raised eyebrows which signaled “I don’t believe you”. True, it was completely out of character and I had to explain in detail before she thought I might be serious.

The impeccable weatherman-who-is-never-mistaken had forecast a cool front moving in from the northwest and heading southeast across the state. My plan was to travel to the east side of huge Lake Kissimmee, about an hour-and-a-half from the house. For some time, I’ve wanted to capture one of those sunsets over the lake where the sky is “on fire” with reddish-orange-pink-purple high clouds lit from underneath by the sinking sun.

After a leisurely breakfast and a pot of coffee, we packed some cold chicken and fruit and meandered eastward. Okay, that’s not quite true. The first half of the trip required a harrowing adventure on the expressway toward the Empire of Disney and other assorted tourist magnets. The good news is that receiving a citation for driving above the speed limit is not possible along this stretch of road as one is unlikely to move the speedometer above ten miles-per-hour.

Once past the gridlock, we turned south and were soon actually meandering through pasture land owned by the same families for a couple hundred years. Early some mornings, it’s possible to spot the tall white images of rare Whooping Cranes at the distant edges of these fields. Plenty of deer, feral hogs and turkey feed here as well.

Our initial target was the vast Three Lakes and Prairie Lakes Wildlife Management Areas. Together they include over 70,000 acres (+28,000 Ha) of grass prairie, pine and hardwood uplands, freshwater lakes and marshes. The area was one of the last, large open range ranching in the United States and continued until 1949. The state acquired the property in 1974 in order to protect endangered flora and fauna as well as to preserve some of the last vestiges of Florida’s once vast grass prairies.

This is one of our favorite areas in Florida. Quiet, plenty of wildlife and wildflowers, great fishing and (shhhh!) not crowded.

The sky was encouraging! High clouds scudding across the open prairie promised a glorious sunset opportunity! We slowly worked our way through the back roads to time our arrival at the east shore of Lake Kissimmee just before sunset. The only spot for access is a public boat ramp with a private campground and small store. We had time to enjoy our late lunch/early supper and I found a spot to set up and wait for the magic moment.

Clouds. They move when pushed by wind.

About 30 minutes before sunset, the sky was almost clear. Sigh. Oh, well. A sunset at the lake is still special. Next time maybe a few pretty clouds will hang around.

We managed a few images in the afternoon with actual cloudy skies just to prove there HAD been some!


Cypress domes are stands of trees growing in a low place which usually stays wet year round.  The depression is lowest near the center of the dome and those trees grow more vigorously than the surrounding ones, thus creating the “dome” shape.

Three Lakes WMA


A large Bald Eagle’s nest has adorned this pine tree for years and has seen the birth of many new eagles. I don’t know if the nest has been used this year. It appeared unoccupied.

Three Lakes WMA


Gini called this a “cow tree” due to the pattern left from a fire. The texture of the burned outer bark and smooth inner bark was fascinating.

Three Lakes WMA

Three Lakes WMA


Wildlife activity began to increase as daylight began to decrease. A Great Blue Heron stalked a frog in the grass near the shore of Lake Kissimmee.

Joe Overstreet Landing


A Bald Eagle made a pass over my head in search of a fishy dinner along the shoreline.

Joe Overstreet Landing


After taking this shot, I couldn’t get Frank Sinatra out of my head. Flyyy Me To The Moon …..

Joe Overstreet Landing


Sunset over Lake Kissimmee. Almost clear skies.

Joe Overstreet Landing

Joe Overstreet Landing


We took “the long way” home which allowed us to avoid the Empire of Disney. Whether you like your sunsets with or without clouds, enjoy them as often as you can. And if possible, be with someone you love. That way, clouds just won’t matter.


Enjoy your search for a natural place and come back for a visit!

Categories: Birds, Florida, History, Photography, Travel | Tags: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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18 thoughts on “Prairie Pause

  1. Scenes so familiar to me…home you the cypress dome landscape with its moody clouds.

    • We really love that area! Grew up not far away and spent a lot of time between Kissimmee, Okeechobee, Walk-In-Water and spots in between.

  2. edro123

    Very nice photos, Wally, as usual! I especially like the “cow tree” – great find!

  3. Hi Wally and by the way, you seem to have no Blogger profile since Google + is no longer. Maybe you have to keep a low profile for some reason of your dim and distant past?

    I sympathise with your irritation at all those folks looking to be entertained by folks dressed as animals. But hey, it would be no good if they all decided they wanted to become birders and spoilt our fun in the real world.

    If you need some cloud and rain I’m happy to oblige but be careful what you wish for.

    • Thank you, Phil, for the note about my missing blogger profile. To be honest, I didn’t know I even HAD such a thing! Not only that, I don’t even know what it is. I shall initiate serious research into the matter.

      But first, coffee.

      We appreciate your very kind offer of clouds and rain, but have decided to wait on our local weatherman instead. In Florida, he is correct about 50% of the time. “Today we can expect 50% chance of clouds and rain.”

      Enjoy your week!

  4. Richard Pegler

    Hi Wally. Gini’s ‘cow tree’ is rather special – and delightfully named too! It was fascinating to read your explanation of the Cypress domes. OK, so there weren’t the clouds you hope for in the sunset, but the sunset was fabulous anyway!

    Sorry for the late comment – Lindsay and I are just back from a week away, visiting Scotland. We had a great (even if photographically relatively unrewarding) time.

    My very best wishes to you and Gini – – – Richard

    • Thank you, Richard! Very happy to hear you and Lindsay had a good visit to Scotland.
      Gini definitely has a good eye for unique subjects. Her artistic background helps me immensely!
      Yes, I’m happy to see any sunset (or sunrise) when perched on a shoreline. It was definitely a good day.

      We both hope you both have a wonderful new week!

  5. Echoing dinahmow. And shocked (not) that you were able to resist the temptation to visit the Temple of Disney (and feed its coffers.

  6. Being a staunch supporter and member of The Friends of The Kissimmee Prairie Preserve, I love this post.

  7. Anonymous

    Sorry guess I commented in the wrong place?

  8. Anonymous

    Thanks for all you do to share the beauty of the state I grew up in (Crescent Beach south if St. Augustine). Now living on the Outer Banks of NC, I look forward to receiving news of your posts that offers a welcomed break from my work routine and helps satisfy my longing to return home again.

  9. Beautiful.

    And well worth the slow slog on the highway. 🙂

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