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Circle B bar Reserve Part 1 Alligator Alley and Lake Hancock - Orlando / Florida Guide

Florida Guide > Places to Visit

Circle B bar Reserve Part 1 Alligator Alley and Lake Hancock

Circle B Bar Reserve was once a cattle ranch on the shores of Lake Hancock in Polk County. The importance of water management in this area is such that the land was purchased in December 2000 and has been transformed by a 400acre marsh reclamation project into a haven for birds and wildlife.
The reserve is now full of nature trails for cycling and hiking which all depart from the Nature Discovery Centre. From Orlando, take the I4 leave at junction 41 and then Polk Parkway Junction 14
Circle B Bar Reserve is located at 4399 Winter Lake Road (State Road 540) in Lakeland.

The trails divide at the centre and this article follows the day when I took the Shady Oak Trail followed by Alligator Alley. First of all remember to have insect repellent, water and appropriate footwear. I made the mistake of watching out so carefully for the gators etc. that I forgot about the ants and on a number of occasions when I stopped on the trails I found myself bitten on the ankle. I increased the insect repellent after the first walk.

Shady oak trail took me through an oak hammock with cabbage palms and the Spanish moss dripping like decorations in the sunlight. It was very peaceful for the first 500 yards and then a cacophony of sound heralded the presence of the rookery near the lake where the oak canopy opened up and you could just see Lake Hancock glistening through the trees. Lake Hancock is Polk’s fourth largest lake and sits at the headwaters of the Peace River.

As I moved from the oaks to the shore walk I took note of the alligator warning signs and so should everyone who walks around this area. I have never had so many close up encounters with gators in the wild despite my numerous visits to State Parks. This is the place to see and photograph gators.
My first glimpse was early on, in the lake, through the trees. Huge, horizontal figures gliding by. After walking for some way I came to the covered observation platform. From there I could see many gators drifting through the water and the lake splendid in the sunshine. Not a boat or a house in sight for miles…Marvellous. An osprey flew overhead with its fish (tilapia or I think) held in that unmistakable position facing forwards. On the shore I could see blue heron, anhinga and the smaller gators laying on logs in the sun.

I continued along the path and as the trees prevented some views to the left I scanned the marshy canal on my right. I spotted numerous turtles and little blue herons a number of alligators and many colourful butterflies. There was also a male and female red cardinal in one of the many cypress trees allowing me to catch tantalising glimpses of their activity but always out of the range of my pocket sized digital camera.

As the path led away from the lake shore and bent right into the marsh area I decided to retrace my steps in order to see what I may have missed the first time. The vegetation is dense on both side and different windows open up when walking in a different direction.

More Gators on the canal side were in evidence and I managed to catch the male cardinal on the path. I knew I was close to the end of the path when I heard the rookery noise and was quite glad when I got back to the centre as I had not expected it to be quite as hot. I decided to go early next day.

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