Walking Trails

Upon entering the park proper (past the ranger station and road to the campground) the first walking trail leads to the Big Oak, a1000-year-old tree that obviously has survived many adversities.

Next, at the entrance to the loop road, is an Orange Grove, which is the recommended site for observing such beasties as deer and feral pigs, particularly in the evening or early morning hours. Though I dutifully appeared at those times, the beasties failed to cooperate. Pity!

The Orange Grove's history is worth noting for it is actually the prehistory of Highlands Hammock State Park. The hammock was known from the mid-19th century until the 1930s as " Hooker's Hammock." A faint legend behind glass in the Grove provides this intriguing account:

Florida history records the settlement of the Peace River valley during the first half of the19th century. Until the mid 1880s, the only community between the Peace River and the Kissimmee River was Crewsville. "Hooker's Hammock" was located some five miles north of Crewsville. The property derived its name from the fact that a Captain Hooker maintained a "cow camp" a short distance west of the hammock. He was a veteran of the Indian wars of the 1840s and 50s and was stationed at Ft. Meade.

One authority states that neither Captain Hooker or Cab Collier ever owned the hammock but Johnathan Skipper purchased from them any claim they may have had to the property. Johnathan Skipper cleared land, planted an orange grove, and built a log house only a short distance from the site which was later developed as a residence area for park service personnel.

The two types of trees that symbiotically configure the hammock may be seen in the photos taken along the Young Hammock Trail. Look for the juxtaposition of oak and pine. Here, since the hammock is expanding, oaks are replacing pines in a process called "succession." We shouldn't think of oaks a "bad guys." If there are "bad guys," they are the well-intentioned eco-pioneers who, when the preservation of forrests first were seen as a value, vigorously combatted all fire, from whatever source. One of the "lessons" taught at Highlands Hammock State Park concerns the beneficial character of fire -- for both hardwoods and conifers.

Along with the oaks and pines are the palms, which seem to grow everywhere. Underneath are palmettos (baby sable palms, the Florida state tree) and the appropriately-named saw palmettos. Mature sable palms are medium tall trees that add to the diversity of the hammock.

Florida ParksHighlands Hammock Definitions
Walking Trails
Cypress Swamp
The Tram