Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail offers bicycling adventures

OKEECHOBEE — Bicycling options abound in Okeechobee and the surrounding counties. From the low traffic roads with wide, well-maintained shoulders to purpose-built, multi-use paths and the generally flat terrain, there is truly something for cyclists of all levels of fitness. Here is one of the most popular options available.

The LOST Trail

The Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail (LOST) at one time circled most of the big lake and was very popular with cyclists in the South Florida area. However, continued efforts by the Army Corps of Engineers to shore up and improve the dike and prevent failure of the 80+ year-old structure has impacted the amount of path available these days. Years in the past, a rider could get on a bike in the parking lot of the park at Port Mayaca and ride all the way to the Kissimmee River, only getting on the road to get around the lock at Taylor Creek. The same was true on the south side of the lake, as there was path from Pahokee all the way through Clewiston to the lock at Moore Haven. Efforts to improve the dike and repair or replace large concrete culverts have reduced much of the path on the south side of the lake into a construction zone with no access. However, for the time being, there are still many miles of good riding on the north end of the lake.

With plenty of parking available at the S-191 structure at Nubbin Slough, a cyclist can ride 17.3 miles south to Port Mayaca, without ever crossing a gate or venturing out onto the road. Once through the gate at S-191 and heading south, the path crosses two other control structures that you can ride across.

The first is the Henry Creek lock, where there is parking and a boat ramp. The second is Chancy Bay Creek lock which also has parking and a boat ramp. Be aware, however, that there are no facilities (water or bathrooms) available in this nearly 18-mile distance and as the views are wonderful from the top of the dike on this ride, because of the elevation of the path, the winds can be difficult at times. There is a gate across the path at the north end of the Port Mayaca park, but again, no facilities are available there. There is lots of parking, great views of the lake and the ability to see boats locking into and out of the lake at Port Mayaca, making it a good place to linger for a while before returning to your starting point.

Another nice section of path, but shorter than the distance to Port Mayaca is the trail between the trail head near the Kissimmee River on Hwy. 78 and Taylor Creek, with good parking found where the dike crosses Hwy. 78, just south and west of town near the river. This short section is quite popular with walkers and runners as well as cyclists and midway through its distance is found the new public restroom and parking lot at the Lock 7 park which also has a brand new parking area and a switchback ramp from the lot to the path at the top of the dike that is easy to ride on a bicycle.

The section of the path between Taylor Creek and Nubbin Slough is no longer available to ride, caused by a landowner denying access to the trail at Taylor Creek, and replacement of a culvert about midway between the two points by the Army Corps of Engineers. Further south on State Road 78, Glades County has been busy building a NEW paved multiuse path along the lake. The first new section constructed parallels the highway from the dike just south of Lakeport to where the dike is crossed again a distance of 3.2 miles. Three years ago, a connector was completed from Moore Haven to the south end of the path along Hwy. 78, but it was quickly closed as the Army Corps of Engineers is working to replace one of the original culverts under the dike and has defined a construction zone that allows no access to this new portion of the path.

Glades County has continued with their efforts, however, and last winter opened a new section of path from the bridge across the Harney Pond Canal, south along the dike, over the Lakeport lock and connecting to the older portion of the path, where State Road 78 crosses the dike, just south of Old Lakeport Road. This new path, with parking found on its southern end is lightly used and allows great views of the lake as well as residential Lakeport.

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.

This is commonly referred to as the hiker or biker cemetery, 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.

A highlight of that section is an area adjacent to the lock itself with stone piles sticking out of the dike and called “The hikers cemetery” as the exposed stones resemble headstones. By crossing the Harney Pond Canal Bridge on Hwy. 78, you can continue on this path down the length of the Harney Pond Park, and can find restrooms, as well as easy access to Beck’s Store for food and drinks. When the construction is cleared, and the path is open again, it will be easy to ride off the road from the Harney Pond Canal park in Lakeport all the way to the lock at Moore Haven.

For more information about the LOST, the Army Corps of Engineers maintains a web page that lists closures and provides a map of the path and distances between access points. It is: http://www.saj.usace.army.mil/Missions/Civil-Works/Recreation/Lake-Okeechobee-Scenic-Trail/.

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