The Avon Park Air Force Range has approximately 78,000 acres of land open to the public for outdoor recreational activities, which includes hunting, camping, horseback riding and hiking.
Cows! There are plenty of them roaming about on the range. Most of them seem to hang out along the entrance road and near the Kissimmee River. Just make sure you watch where you step. There's plenty of fertilizer out there.
You wouldn't think a bombing range would have a lot of birds, but this area is home for a number of endangered species, including the Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, Red-Cockaded Woodpecker and the Florida Scrub Jay. Red-Shouldered Hawks, like the one shown above, are a common sight near the river where they can feed on snakes, frogs and large insects.
A cemetery is all that's left of the once thriving community of Fort Kissimmee. According to the commemorative plaque shown above, there use to be a church and couple of schools located nearby.
Polk County and Highlands County, Florida
From I-4 exit 55, go south on US Hwy 27 until you reach the town of Avon Park (about 47 miles). Turn left (east) onto County Road 64 and follow road for about 10 miles until you arrive at the Avon Park AFR security gate. Ask guard for directions to the Outdoor Recreation Office. It will be about 1 mile further up the road on your left. Look for the brown sign shown below that says "Outdoor Recreation and Fish & Wildlife Program - Bldg 600".
The Outdoor Recreation Office is located at N27 39.974' and W81° 21.444'.
The public recreational areas at the Air Force Range are normally open from Thursday afternoon to Monday morning. Some sections of the range may be closed due to military activities. For details check the recreation schedule on the Avon Park AFS website or call (863) 452-4119 ext. 5 and listen to the recorded message.
No fee is required to hike the 16 mile Lake Arbuckle trail, but hikers must stop by the office and pickup a no-cost permit and sign a liability release form.
Through-hikers entering the area via the Florida National Scenic Trail do not have to pay a fee.
See the Avon Park AFS website for a complete list of permit fees.
The Avon Park AFR has 4 hiking trails: a 16 mile loop trail east of Lake Arbuckle, a 1/2 mile nature trail with boardwalks and an observation tower overlooking Lake Arbuckle, a 6.5 mile loop trail in the Sandy Point Wildlife Refuge, and a 12 mile section of the Florida National Scenic Trail which runs along the western bank of the Kissimmee River.
Pictured above are some sights you might see on the Florida National Scenic Trail. These were taken down by southern terminus before entering Boney Marsh. There is also trail information kiosk at this location (see picture at the top of this page).
Oranges! Lots of them, including grapefruit, lemons and tangerines, grow along the trail and around the campsites. You won't go hungry here, that's for sure.
There are two places to camp along the Florida Trail: the Fort Kissimmee Campground and a primitive campsite (shown below) which just has a bench and a table. If you are looking for a few more creature comforts, such as a port-o-let or a cold shower, then I recommend staying at the campground. They have plenty of sites overlooking the river where you can setup your tent.
The Fort Kissimmee Campground is located at the end of Kissimmee Road, which is about 18 miles from the Outdoor Recreation Office, 5 miles from Kicco and 7 miles from Boney Marsh. The coordinates for it are N27° 35.172' and W81° 09.492'.
The primitive campsite is located about 3.7 miles south of the Fort Kissimmee Campground and 3.4 miles north of Boney Marsh. The coordinates for it are N27° 33.914' and W81° 11.923'.
Remnants of the old Fort Kissimmee community? I'm not sure, but it's located next to the Fort Kissimmee Campground only a few feet from the Florida Trail. The roof is completely caved in so I don't think anyone will want to stay here for the night.
Toxic waste! This is a strange sight to see: dozens of barrels lying around with signs warning of contamination in the area. No need to worry. The park is removing chemicals (pesticides) that were used back in the 1920's and 30's to rid cows of ticks. An old dipping vat use to be here.
For up-to-date information on regulations and current hunting schedules go to the Avon Park AFR website.
Hunting Schedule 2012 - 2013 Archery Sep. 15 - Oct. 14 Muzzle Gun Oct. 20 - 29 General Gun - Deer Nov. 3 - Dec. 3 General Gun - Hog Nov. 3 - Dec. 24 Small Game Dec. 28 - Mar. 3 Spring Turkey Mar. 9 - 10, 16 - 21
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Last updated on 13-Sep-2012