Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park
Length: 20.8 miles (linear)
Leaving Starvation Slough, you enter Kissimee Prairie Preserve State Park. This park was recognized in 2016 as Florida’s first Dark Sky location with incredible stargazing options. This region also hosts the largest remaining section of dry prairie in Florida. Wildlife is abundant in these preserved habitats In this area, you can see crested caracaras and Florida grasshopper sparrows. Florida grasshopper sparrows are one of the rarest birds in North America as so much of their habitat has been eliminated. A primitive campsite is available in the park and requires a reservation. Prepare for a very exposed hike through this section. A pitcher pump is available at the Cowboy Crossing campsite.
Kissimmee Island Cattle Company (KICCO)
Leaving KPPSP, you will enter the land that was once known as the Kissimmee Island Cattle Company (now called KICCO-pronounced Kiss-Oh). The Consolidated Naval Stores Company purchased this land and planned to add it to their thousands of acres in the state and create a cattle ranch with accommodations for the residents and visitors. Homes were quickly built for the 52 workers at Camp Hammock who in turn built the town along the Kissimmee River. The post office, general store, meeting and dance halls, post office, power plant and homes were spread along the bank complete with paved sidewalks, electricity and manicured lawns. Steamboats from Okeechobee regularly brought supplies to the residents. Though a paradise looking in, the town was doomed from the beginning. The flu epidemic of 1918, ticks on the cattle and the costs associated with the town led to demise just a few years later. In 1929, a rebranded “Horseshoe Ranch Fishing and Hunting Club” was opened but lasted only one year due to the Great Depression reaching Florida. South Florida Water Management District purchased the land in 1983. Today, all that can be seen of the original town are the sidewalks beside the river, a quiet remnant of what was.
Hikers in this area will pass through oak hammocks and open cattle fields with KICCO. Be sure to leave all gates as you find them and be on the lookout for cattle. Part of the trail is very exposed so plan accordingly.
Photo credit: Chris A. Jones