The Great Florida Outdoors: Lake Louisa State Park

Dr. Robert Norman, Clinical Professor, Dermatology • Nova Southeastern University

I was coming back to Tampa from Howey in the Hills, driving on US Highway 27, seven miles south of State Road 50, when my car was taken over by a mysterious force. The next thing I knew, I was at the entrance gate to Lake Louisa State Park.

OK, actually I had planned to stop at the park on this clear, crisp Sunday in January. I had just left a conference at the Mission Inn and I noted my serum walking and photography level was running low. I drove into the park and headed toward the shore of the cypress-fringed lake. I parked at the nature trail sign and got prepared—my water, walking stick, hat, and camera at the ready—and applied my sun block.

I noticed a man that was just leaving the trail, binoculars around his neck and resting on his chest. He told me about multiple bird species he had seen and had the relaxed features of a satisfied nature enthusiast.

We introduced ourselves. Fred was visiting from Massachusetts, was mostly retired, but occasionally ran nature tours to Costa Rica and other locations.

I walked over the sea of pine needles, along carefully marked numbered trails and stopped to look at interpretive signs. Having just finished a three-day course on interpretation as part of the Florida Master Naturalist Program, the characteristics of quality signs was fresh on my mind.

The signs included deer moss and epiphytes and provided a tutorial for those walking the trails. Along the path there were a number of benches for those needing a rest or just to sit and listen to the silent majesty of central Florida wilderness.

After leaving the trail after refreshing three mile hike, I headed to the lake and explored. The tannin-filled water lapped up in small waves onto the abundant shore. A playground hosted several children and a group of adults gathered on the beach Lake Louisa is a 4,500 acre park that lies within the easternmost boundary of the Green Swamp, an area of critical state concern, and the northernmost boundary of the Lake Wales Ridge. Two small streams, Big Creek and Little Creek, flow north from the Green Swamp through the park into Lake Louisa. Lake Louisa is the source of the Palatlakaha River, one of the headwaters of the Ocklawaha River.

Lake Louisa, the largest in a chain of 13 lakes, is designated as an Outstanding Florida Waterway. Opportunities for fishing, canoeing, and kayaking can be found on Lake Louisa, Hammond Lake, and Dixie Lake.

The park is home to 11 distinct natural plant communities and white-tail deer, fox squirrel, raccoon, gopher tortoise, bald eagles, bobcat, osprey and many other species. The Treaty of Moultrie Creek in 1823 designated this area as part of the Seminole Indian Reservation.

However, the area was never used as a reservation by the Seminole Indians and in 1910, John and Louise Driggers Hammond settled most of the land surrounding Lake Louisa. On the land was the Hammond family home, a combination school and church, a turpentine still, sawmill, shingle mill, commissary, worker’s cabin, and cooperage. Goods were exported by way of steamboats and barges across Lake Louisa.

A narrow gauge railway was used to haul logs from Lake Louisa swamp to Hammond Sawmill. The Bronson family acquired some of the property in 1923 and established orange groves and a cattle ranch, some of which can still be seen in the park today. The park was purchased by the state in 1973 and became a state park in 1974. Lake Louisa State Park opened to the public in 1977.

Activities in Lake Louisa State Park include swimming, picnicking, horseback riding, hiking, camping, fishing, and canoeing. Amenities include a canoe/kayak ramp, 16 miles of equestrian trails, and a primitive equestrian campground, and 20 miles of hiking trails, fishing pier, playground, and picnic pavilion. The park is open from 8:00am till sundown year-round at 7305 U.S. Highway 27 Clermont, FL 34714. Phone: (352) 394-3969.

Come to Lake Louisa State Park to enjoy the Great Florida Outdoors!

Dr. Norman is an award-winning dermatologist and author of 15 textbooks on dermatology. Please call him today at 813-880-7546 to schedule an appointment.

 

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