Are you are looking for a place to enjoy a day outdoors and see a diverse array of wildlife, trees, flowers, and aquatic areas in a natural environment? If so, head to the Circle B Bar Reserve in Polk County, Florida. Here, you can walk on trails that wend through large oak groves, along boardwalks built over marshes and swampy grounds, and near wetlands that are home to wildflowers, birds, alligators, and insects. Take your hiking shoes, bicycle, and a picnic lunch to enjoy the sounds and sights of nature.
If you go early, you can watch the sunrise over Lake Hancock and experience the natural environment as it transitions from night to day. Be sure to tour the Polk Nature Discovery Center, which features interactive exhibits and tells the exciting story of the natural landscape and resources of Central Florida.
Circle B Bar Reserve Tops the List of Outdoor Things To Do in Lakeland, Florida
Situated on the northwestern shore of Lake Hancock, the Reserve is always at the top of the list for outdoor experiences in Central Florida. In the mid-1900s, it was a large cattle ranch. The area’s wetlands were turned into pasture for livestock. The Polk County Environmental Lands Program and Southwest Florida Water Management District purchased the land in 2000 with the goals of enhancing and protecting the Banana Creek Marsh and Upper Peace River Watershed, restoring the wetlands, and creating a nature preserve. By 2006, many of the natural aquatic habitats had been restored. Marshes, hardwood swamps, wetlands, and large stands of oak define the essential ecosystems of this 1,267-acre reserve.
The area includes 7 miles of unpaved bike and hiking trails, five picnic areas, and public restrooms. Marked trails go through stands of oak covered in ferns and Spanish moss. Oak hammocks and forested areas are home to snakes, birds, butterflies, bobcats, and rodents. Boardwalks transverse marshes and other aquatic features, giving the feeling of walking on water.
Circle B Bar Reserve is known as one of the best birdwatching places in Central Florida. The area is designated as a Great Florida Birding Site, home to native and rare birds. Visitors can see bald eagles, roseate spoonbills, white ibis, woodpeckers, wading birds, great blue herons, and great egrets. From a safe distance, visitors can often see alligators that live in the lake and marshy areas.
Trails are well-marked and easy to follow. The Nature Center has maps, brochures, and other information about the Reserve. Take time to enjoy the scenery and look for the hidden treasures of colorful flowers, insects, birds, and other wildlife in the area.
Reserve Rules and Hours
The rules of the Reserve give right-of-way to wildlife. Be on the lookout for armadillos, squirrels, and other critters. Visitors should be aware that some areas are periodically closed off to protect the wildlife, vegetation, and wetland areas. No pets are allowed in the Reserve.
It is open every day from 6 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. during standard time and from 5:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. during daylight saving time.