The Kissimmee Prairie Preserve presents an opportunity to explore the last large chunk of undisturbed Florida dry prairie, an ecosystem that once covered millions of acres across the central part of the Sunshine State. At 54,000 acres this is one of the largest nature preserves in Florida and is well worth the effort to make the journey on rural back roads into the far hinterlands of Okeechobee County.
In this park you are encouraged to explore on foot, bicycle, horseback or by guided swamp buggy. Private vehicles are forbidden from venturing beyond the beautiful oak draped campground near the entrance to the preserve. With over 100 miles of dirt roads and trails this place is a hikers paradise.
The park offers excellent seasonal birding opportunities and is home to the endangered Florida grasshopper sparrow, as well as the crested caracara and sandhill crane. We encountered the largest alligator that I have ever seen in the wild (see photo below) as well as deer and many different species of raptors and aquatic birds. Kissimmee Prairie is also a well known spot for astronomers because it is located in one of the most remote areas of the Florida peninsula with very few urban lights to obscure the dark night sky.
The terrain is characterized by vast open plains dotted with hammocks of palm and oak that is interspersed with shallow waterways and sloughs. The western boundary of the park is the Kissimmee River, which eventually empties into Lake Okeechobee, and links the waters of the Floridian Aquifer in the northern part of the state to the drainage system of the Everglades in the south. The Kissimmee Prairie is an excellent place to experience the subtle transition from swampy forests to grassy open glades which takes place in this part of Florida.
It's located in an extremely remote area so bring plenty of food and supplies before you set out and make sure to stay for at a least a full day to absorb the beauty and majesty of this incomparable landscape that is unique to Florida and a treasure for us all.