Guide to Polk  

Circle B Bar Reserve

PROS: There is no admission charge; educational kiosks are placed along the paths; the Discovery Center provides air-conditioned relief.

CONS: No pets are allowed; restroom facilities are doublewide port-o-lets near the pavilions; no camping, no alcoholic beverages and of course, no firearms.
This Alligator Alley skirts the northwest shore of Lake Hancock, a shaded dirt path within 10 yards of the water's edge.

Alligator Alley is one of 11 trails at the Circle B Bar Reserve, where connecting with nature while stretching your legs is a short drive southeast of Lakeland.

Within 15 minutes of downtown Lakeland, the Circle B is a family-friendly place to unwind from the hustle and bustle of the city and shift into the quiet rhythms of a fully natural environment.

Circle B Bar Reserve is one of Polk County's many parks, an opportunity for walking and biking for exercise beneath the oak hammocks and around a large marsh, with a variety of wildlife to keep you company.

The 1,267-acre park is an ideal outlet for children to blow off steam, and a place where parents will be constantly quizzed about wildlife. There are 30 species of butterflies, including Zebra heliconians and Palamedes swallowtails that dart around the paths; waterfowl such as herons, ducks and sandhill cranes; and bird life including red-tailed hawks, owls and quail.

Those boxes for wood duck nests on cypress trees along Alligator Alley, which shares its name with the highway through the edge of the Everglades, might provoke a question or two.

The trails, as short as 2/10ths of a mile to 1.3 miles long, meander through and around the sheet-flow marsh, branching out from Polk's Nature Discovery Center.

Early mornings on weekdays are best for solitude, and wildlife is more active around sunrise and sunset. The reserve is open from 5 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. seven days a week.

For those who haven't been to the Circle B since 2008, a paved road leads from the park entrance off Winter Lake Road to parking lots around the Discovery Center nearer the marsh. Parking used to be just off the highway.

The entrance is 2 miles east of U.S. 98 on Winter Lake Road, which is just south of the Polk Parkway. The Circle B is on the south side of the road well before you reach the Saddle Creek bridge. A small sign clearly marks the entrance, but you might drive past it.

– Del Milligan

Created: April 20, 2013 11:59 p.m.
Modified: April 20, 2013 11:59 p.m.
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