Part of the Lake Okeechobee dike trail now ‘lost’ to hikers and cyclists

OKEECHOBEE — The Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST) continues to be an important resource when it comes to hiking and cycling in the Okeechobee area. However, much of the LOST continues to be a construction zone, so opportunities are limited.

We are lucky here in Okeechobee, as there is still plenty of miles of the trail nearby available to ride or walk or hike. Starting at the Kissimmee River, there is open trail from there to Taylor Creek a distance of about 6 miles. This trail is in good condition, and enjoys an improved parking lot with rest rooms and drinking water available at about the midpoint where the path continues past the Lock Seven park. This is a popular section of the path, nearest to Okeechobee.

The section of the path from Taylor Creek to Nubbin Slough is currently closed, due to construction, but access on the east side of Taylor Creek has been restricted for the last several years anyway, due to a landowner gate.

Further to the east, is Nubbin Slough and the LOST here is one good continuous path all the way to the Port Mayaca bridge over the Okeechobee Waterway. This is a 17.3 mile long section of the LOST that is not heavily used and includes some really excellent areas to view the lake and the associated wildlife that live along its shores. In the past, I have observed all manner of birds, including turkeys, wading birds, and of course gulls and pelicans. I have also had the good luck to spot, fox, bobcats, raccoons, and one time what looked for all the world to be a panther, while riding here. I also had the good luck to film a dragonfly hatch taking place, and for several miles rode through a vast cloud of new dragonflies, though not a single one ever touched me, as they soared and swooped around my head as I pedaled up the path toward Okeechobee.

Further to the south, along the path there are only three areas that are currently open. One is an unpaved section between Canal Point and Pahokee of 3.4 miles in length. Right near South Bay, there is a 2-mile section of paved path that is open, and just to the west of Clewistion there is access granted through the edge of the construction zone to a 5-mile long section of the LOST. I have not seen this section of the path, and may need to go down and investigate in the near future.

This is commonly referred to as the hiker or biker graveyard, and can be seen along the LOST on the north end of the lake. The lock keeper called it a “wave break.” Photo by Tom Timmons.

Finally, in Glades County there continues to be a very nice portion of path to ride near the town of Lakeport. Though not reflected accurately on the Corps of Engineers map, there is a paved path that parallels S.R. 78 for several miles, and then joins a newly paved section that follows the top of the dike along the lake side of the town of Lakeport and terminates at the park along the Harney Pond Canal. Not to be missed along this stretch of the LOST and adjacent to the Lakeport Navigational Lock is an area long referred to as the “Hiker Graveyard” a section of the dike with stone columns sticking up out of a graveled swale, that really resembles a rough cemetery.

Constructions projects that close the path are primarily to replace old culverts that were put in place when the dike was constructed in the 1930s, and it seems that to replace a culvert is about a 2 or 3-year project. The Army Corps of Engineers expects these projects to continue until at least 2020, so the closures that I have noted will continue until at least then.

Still, the LOST trail continues to be a great place to get out and see the lake and enjoy the cooler temperatures that we enjoy in the wintertime here in Okeechobee.

There is a map available from the Army Corps of Engineers, that identifies where the closures are, and it can be found on-line at the following site:

http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Recreation/Lake-Okeechobee-Scenic-Trail. What you will see when you access the map is that there has been no real change in the closures since this time last year.

Hiking and biking the LOST trails around Lake O.

Hiking and biking LOST trails

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