The Other Florida: HIGHLANDS HAMMOCK

February 22, 2003

The Central Ridge of Florida ranges from around 350 feet above sea level to (roughly) thirty feet. The highest point is near Lake Wales. Around the area of SR 70, which runs across the state from Ft. Pierce on the east coast to Ft. Myers on the gulf side, it sort of peters out into the lowlands. The coastal plain wraps around it northward on both sides, making the Highlands a sort of finger down the middle of the peninsula. The town of Sebring sits on the very western edge of the ridge. Center Street slopes down to Lake Jackson which, in turn, is at the edge of the plain. Immediately west of Lake Jackson and US 27, about 2½ miles down SR 624, lies Highlands Hammock State Park.

A hammock, according to Webster, is “a fertile area in the southern U.S. and especially Florida, that is usually higher than its surroundings and that is characterized by hardwood vegetation and deep humus-rich soil.” As you can see from the photograph below, Webster missed out completely on the beauty part.

The Big Oak

This Live Oak (Quercus virginiana) was full-grown when the Battle of Hastings was fought in 1066. It was nearly as old as the United States is today when the Magna Carta was signed in 1215. There is no European-built building in the Western Hemisphere that is more than one-half as old as this tree. There's also no way to show the whole thing, so Shel and I decided to provide some scale.

Highlands Hammock State Park has areas for primitive and mobile camping. Concessionaires operate a small snack bar where soft drinks and sandwiches may be purchased. A museum, with exhibits showing how the park was developed by the CCC during the 30’s depression, along with various nature exhibits, is across a grassy area from the concession stand. Abundant picnic tables and barbeque grilles are available nearby. Shopping is available in Sebring, only ten minutes away. There are no swimming facilities in the park, but Lake Jackson has several well-maintained public beaches within a few minutes’ drive. For further information, check here.

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