Pulled out of Lake Kissimmee State Park this morning (February 2) on my way to Koreshan with a stop at SKP. Koreshan was one of the last two state parks to reopen after the hurricane and they don’t open until the 3rd. My reservation started today so I’m overnighting at Florida SKP since I had to leave Lake Kissimmee today. Thank heavens for SKP!! But I digress. This post is about the first two days of my two weeks at Lake Kissimmee. Yes, I am behind again. But not toooo much.
Lake Kissimmee State Park is another park like Florida SKP, that in 11 years of spending winters in Florida, I had never been to. It is not exactly on the lake but is on canals that lead into Lake Kissimmee and Lake Rosalie both of which are located within the Kissimmee River. Made possible of course by damn dams.
The park has its good points and its bad points. If you want to be isolated, this is your place. It is 3 miles from the Ranger Station to the campground and 15.5 miles from the Ranger Station to the nearest town, Lake Wales.
The sites are nicely sized and separated with vegetation. There are many trails through the palmettos, sable palms and gorgeous large Live Oak trees. There is a kayak on the canal leading to Lake Rosalie which is too big and too rough to kayak on.
The down side is the internet and fluctuating cell service. Both are quite iffy though there is good wifi if you go to the camp store and not too many others are there. The store is walkable if you are a walker. Say a mile? Or you can drive in a few minutes. It’s on the fishing docks and power boat ramps
Lake Kissimmee itself is full of air boats whose pollution both noise and water make me angry. And the last down side was a big one for me. The mosquitos are out all day long. If you do not have a screened room either plan to use a lot of deet or plan to stay inside unless you are moving as in hiking or kayaking. No reading outside on the patio. I optimistically put my reading chair out on my mat when I first arrived.
There are two campground loops each with one bath house and one washer and one dryer.
I met my first neighbor as I was backing into my site on the day I arrived. In my backup camera, I saw him moseying along taking his time, directly behind me. So I stopped to move him out of the way. When I got out of the rig, a ranger was there in his ATV and moved the gopher tortoise and guide me into my site. It was a very nice welcome.
As I was setting up my patio mat and chair I heard another neighbor snuffling around in the under brush. Take a close look at his designs and colors.
What a face!
Although I only saw the tortoise one other time in the entire two weeks I was here, I saw an armadillo daily somewhere on my hikes or walks around the campground and very often in my campsite.
My second day I scoped out the park. I checked out the store and walked down to the cow camp. 4 or so miles in total.
The store is called the Cracker Shack in honor of the Florida Cracker cattle and horses and those who tended and raised them, the Florida Crackers.
This view from the long docks shows the back porch where you can sit at picnic tables and use the wifi. Not much in the store actually. A few snacks, ice cream bars, t shirts and bait. This side looks a lot like a cracker house (cracker shack) with the low roof to keep out the sun.
I made a big mistake here. Not in hiking to the Cow Camp but in not coming back after my first visit.
This is the trail to the cow camp. It’s a mile or so from the store. Looks like they are funneling the visitors. On this Friday, there was no one but me.
As you walk along there are these signs and a bench to sit and read them
Sign reads: Imagine now that you are stepping into the past. The year is 1876, this is a frontier region of Florida remote from towns, railroads or any of the comforts of civilization. This is a cow camp where Florida cow hunters corral and catch the lean rangy scrub cattle for cutting and branding. You will see the cattle and meet one of the cow hunters…… clearly the sign has not been repaired in some time. But it seems to say this is a living history enactment.
Next sign says: STOP Beyond this sign you will enter the year 1876. Grant is president. The cow hunter you are about to meet is a hard working uneducated Florida cracker. He likes to talk about his life and times and encourages questions. Forget about the 20th and 21st century. That history has not yet been made.
Great lead up I thought and appropriate delivery.
On the left is the pump providing water to the cattle pens. On the right is the chickee, a shelter with no walls originally used by the Seminole Indians
The pump definitely works.
I sent some down the trough and into the pen myself.
There was no cow hunter here today.
One side for his long table and bench on the right and his bed on the left. The other side for a wagon.
I assume there would have been some sort of straw tick on the mattress.
There were several pens but no descendants of the Andalusian cattle brought over and left to run wild by the conquistadors. The cow hunters were hired by the land barons to round up the wild cattle and brand them. I didn’t realize that Florida was the first cattle state in the US. Before Texas. Florida still ranks high in beef production.
The pens overlook “range” as far as the eye could see. I saw a horse out there but he was behind trees and too far away to get a good picture of. Wonder if he was a cracker pony used to herd cracker cattle.
Unfortunately for me, there was no sign anywhere on the hike or here at the camp saying that any reenactment was done any more. I later learned that there is a ranger who portrays the cow hunter on Saturday between 10 and 3. I don’t know if they bring in any cattle or ponies but I doubt it since neither were here on the day before. Apparently they used to.
The next day was Saturday but I usually stay home and away from the increased folks on week-ends and at that point I didn’t know anything was still done at the camp. The next Saturday I had a 24 hour return of my fever and didn’t want to go anywhere. I’m really sorry I missed this as it is the one really unique thing about Lake Kissimmee State Park. So learn by my experience. If you go to Lake Kissimmee State Park, be sure to visit the cow camp on Saturday and tell me all about it.