For Your Daily Dose of the Tropics
Lake Kissimmee State Park
The bridge to Buster Island across the Zipprer Canal, Lake Kissimmee State Park
In addition to providing access to the recreational possibilities of Lakes Kissimmee, Rosalie and Tiger, Lake Kissimmee State Park also offers living history demonstrations of life in an 1870's-era "cow hunters" camp. The lakes offer fishing, canoeing and boating and wildlife watchers might catch glimpses of bald eagles, wild turkeys, sandhill cranes, white-tailed deer and bobcats on the property.
The Cow Camp at Lake Kissimmee State Park is open from October 1 through May 1 on Saturdays and Sundays only, from 9:30 am to 4:30 pm (although it is closed for Christmas Day).
Lake Kissimmee State Park offers a boat ramp and marina. Boaters have access to 35,000 acres of waterways in the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. The launching of air boats at the state park is not allowed but there are sites nearby off the property that allow it.
The park also offers 60 developed campsites with electric and water hookups. The campground is located on an oak hammock that offers shade and a natural buffer between sites. There are full restroom/shower facilities in the campground area. Nearby is an RV dump station. Maximum RV length: 45 feet.
Lake Kissimmee State Park has two primitive campsites for those who want to hike into the bush and do their camping. Each site has two picnic tables and two ground grills. Everything else, including water, must be packed in. The sites can each accommodate up to 12 people per group and are located along the 13 miles of hiking trails on the property. For groups, at least one member needs to be at least 18 years of age. Primitive campers also need to arrive at the park at least three hours before sunset so that they can reach their campsite and get set up before dark. The park also offers two youth tent camping sites that are less than 200 feet from the parking areas. These sites accommodate up to 25 campers each but also have a minimum 15-person requirement. Amenities at the youth group sites include restrooms, cold showers, picnic tables and seating benches around a fire pit.
There is a Camp Store (snacks, hot dogs, pizza slices, ice cream, ice, drinks, supplies and firewood) located adjacent to Lake Rosalie and it offers kayak and pontoon rentals from 9 am to 5 pm Friday through Sunday and on holidays.
Lake Kissimmee State Park offers hikers thirteen miles of trails through pine flatwoods and oak hammocks past freshwater marshes and close to Lake Kissimmee. Most of that mileage is on loop trails but there is a 1/2-mile self-guided nature trail and the route to the lake is a spur. On Buster Island equestrians will find more than 6 miles of trails that allow horses. Access is via the cow camp bridge in the hay fields. Conditions are primitive on Buster Island (no bathrooms, no water, no facilities of any sort) but the trails do go through oak hammocks, pine flatwoods and areas of freshwater marsh. Just be sure to bring your proof of a negative Coggins test before unloading your horse(s).
There is a large picnic area available near the observation tower. It offers four pavilions and numerous picnic tables, most of them shaded by large, sprawling oak trees. Near the picnic area is where you'll find the children's playground. The observation tower is closed because of structural problems.
For day-users, Lake Kissimmee State Park is open from 8 am until sunset every day of the year. To get there: Lake Kissimmee State Park is located about fifteen miles east of Lake Wales off State Route 60. From SR 60, go north on Barney Keen Road/Boy Scout Road to Camp Mack Road, then turn right and go five miles to the park entrance. From US Highway 27, go east on Chalet Suzanne Road. At the stoplight stay straight ahead (the road will change its name to Mammoth Grove Road). Go to Masterpiece Gardens Road and turn left, then go to Camp Mack Road and turn left again. Go about nine miles on Camp Mack Road, the park entrance will be on the right.
The boat dock area at Lake Kissimmee State Park
Map of Lake Kissimmee State Park