Circle B Bar Reserve

While visiting Florida, we always make a point to explore a location that showcases the state’s natural beauty. During our recent trip, we discovered Circle B Bar Reserve in Lakeland, Florida, just a 40-minute drive from home. It is open every day from sunrise to sunset.

Years ago, I came across a Facebook post featuring a large alligator known as “Humpback” at Circle B. This video inspired us to visit the reserve.

Situated on the northwest corner of Lake Hancock, the reserve was once a wetland area before being transformed into a cattle ranch. In 2000, it was purchased by the Polk County Board of Commissioners and Southwest Florida Water to restore it as a wetland, now known as Banana Creek Marsh. Entry to the reserve is free.

large alligator exiting the water at  Circle B Bar Reserve

Spanning 1267 acres, Circle B Bar Reserve is teeming with diverse wildlife, including alligators, turtles, birds, bobcats, raccoons, and otters. Visitors can explore nine different trails of varying lengths, mostly consisting of gravel or grass paths. Remember to wear comfortable shoes, bring water, snacks, binoculars, and cameras.

From the visitors center, we chose to take Shady Oak Trail out to alligator Alley and then return by way of Heron Hideout.

Shady Oak Trail

Shady Oak winds its way through old Florida oak trees draped in Spanish moss resembling times when Florida was first discovered. It has many shady spots to stop and rest along the way. This path is home to many hawks and you may spot an eagle or two soaring overhead.

Alligator Alley

Alligator Alley borders the northern shoreline of Lake Hancock. This trail provides opportunities for picturesque views and sightings of waterfowl like Great Blue Herons, Egrets, and Anhingas. We also encountered raccoons, turtles, Pileated Woodpeckers, and bald eagles along the trail.

Although we didn’t explore all the trails that day, we plan to revisit. Eagle Roost Trail is rumored to have an eagle’s nest, and the Lost Bridge Trail with its boardwalk through the swamp.

Upon arrival at Circle B Bar Reserve, pick up a trail brochure. Use the QR code for an interactive map on your phone to navigate the area effectively. Here are some helpful tips:

  • Bring water and sunscreen.
  • Take your time to observe your surroundings closely; wildlife like alligators may not be immediately visible in the water.
  • It is illegal to feed wildlife in Florida.
  • Stick to designated paths to preserve vegetation and for your safety, as wildlife is not domesticated.
  • Practice “carry it in, carry it out” for waste.
  • Prohibited items include pets, alcohol, firearms, fireworks, and loud music.

For more information visit their website

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