Boardwalk over Swamp
Narrow Catwalk over Water
Catwalk through Bald Cypress Trees
Bald Cypress Growing over Catwalk
Bald Cypress Knees in Water
Bald Cypress Tree and Ferns
Reflections of Bald Cypress in Water
Fall Webworm Caterpillar on Boardwalk
Hardwood and Ferns on Ancient Hammock Trail
Hollowed-Out Base of Live Oak
Over 1,000-Year-Old Big Oak
Tree Surgery Visible (center) at Base of Big Oak
Highlands Hammock State Park is a hidden gem! It is located near Sebring, Florida (south of Orlando), and is one of the state’s oldest parks. It was initially submitted for status as a national park, but was considered too small. The park first opened to the public in 1931, and the catwalk over the Cypress Swamp was built in 1933.
Bald cypress trees grow throughout its swamp. The trees send up fantastic knobby roots (“knees”) above the water line. Theories about the purpose of the knees range from helping the plant breathe, to providing stability in the water. One tree was even growing over and onto the boardwalk. Walk carefully on the narrow catwalk, and watch for alligators. This lush jungle feels like it is straight out of Jurassic Park!
Other trails lead through the Ancient Hammock and to some of the state’s oldest trees. The Big Oak is over 1,000 years old, 36 feet around, and still has some new growth sprouting at the top. If you look carefully, you can see the Big Oak’s tree surgery in 1930. At that time people thought you could stabilize and extend the life of a tree by filling the hollow space inside with concrete. More info about Highlands Hammock State Park is at: http://www.floridastateparks.org/Highlandshammock/default.cfm
And by the way, Florida just won the National Gold Medal for Excellence in the United States Park System again – the only state to have won three times!