Okeechobee West

Length: 40.5 miles (linear)

This section of the Florida Trail follows the Herbert Hoover Dike and a three mile stretch of SR 78, (across Fisheating Creek floodplain) near Fish Eating Creek WMA around the northwest side of Lake Okeechobee. This is the most remote and scenic stretch of the levee, where views of the lake yield to views across expansive marshes like the palmetto-dotted Indian Prairie. Views away from the lake include sugarSandhill crane dance cane fields stretching to the horizon, and scenic cattle ranches with prairies, palm hammocks and remnants of the original lakeshore.

The marshlands and trees attract an abundance of wildlife. Birders on the Great Florida Birding Trail will especially enjoy this section of the Florida Trail for the number of species that can be spotted, including meadowlarks racing along the dike, flocks of sandhill cranes gathering on the prairies within the cattle ranches, and wading birds such as egrets, herons, and wood storks. White pelicans have been spotted here, as well as swallow-tailed kites. Small mammals seen along the marsh edge include nutria, otters, and raccoons.

Hikers pass several navigational locks and pumping stations that are features of the flood control works protecting the lands around the lake. One of the more unusual man-made features is known as the “Hiker’s Graveyard,” a collection of granite slabs driven into the dike to add stability.

Fisheating Creek is the only waterway that retains its natural flow into Lake Okeechobee, so there are several miles where there is no dike along the creek’s floodplain. Hikers must follow the berm of SR 78 to resume walking atop the dike.