Looking for a way to enjoy the great Florida outdoors?
We had a fantastic afternoon at Circle B Bar Reserve in March 2020. Circle B is a 1,267-acre nature reserve in Polk County Florida, an easy drive of approximately 45 minutes from Emerald Island Resort. The former cattle ranch is located on the NW shore of Lake Hancock. Southwest Florida Water Management and Polk County acquired the property to protect valuable water & wildlife resources, plus to restore the Banana Creek marsh system. There is plenty of parking, a Discovery Center, restrooms, handicap accessible, picnic shelters, beautiful scenery, and tons of wildlife to see. What a great place to spend a morning, afternoon, or whole day outdoors.
This fresh water wetland reserve. The Banana Marsh covers approximately 400 acres of the reserve. Much work has been done in the reserve to improve nesting and foraging sites. This has lead to an increase in the variety of birds on the reserve. In 2008, the reserve was added to the Great Florida Birding Trail. We observed many bird watchers during our visit viewing and photographing the feathered inhabitants. So if a bird watcher this is a great place to bring you binoculars and telephoto lenses. The restoration work has also increased nesting a foraging area for species not seen before in the reserve.
The reserve has a very diverse ecosystem. If wildflowers, trees, and plants are you thing, you will have many varieties to discover throughout the reserve. The reserve also includes part the Sandhill and sand pine scrub ecosystem that are found along the central Florida ridge. So there are plant and tree species not found in other areas of Florida.
Circle B activities include walking, hiking, photography, and painting.
Walking & Hiking
We meandered a total of 3.5 miles on 4 of the 9 trails in the reserve. Every trail is well marked, making them easy to follow. As you can see from the picture of the trails, all are interconnected. But be sure to pick up a map at one of the multiple locations. The trails we traveled are:
– Shady Oak, a 1.3-mile easy shaded walk. Strolling along this trail revealed stately oak trees covered in Spanish moss and resurrection ferns, trumpet vines, lots of birds, and animals.
– Lost Bridge, a 0.5 mile easy mostly shaded walk. This trail reminds you of the past life this reserve as you view the cattle pens. Stop to enjoy the wonderful water view as well.
– Alligator Alley, a 1.0 mile easy mostly shaded walk. Enjoy the walk under the oak canopy as you keep your eyes peeled for the name sake of this easy walk.
– Marsh Rabbit Run, a 0.7 mile easy partially shaded walk. This trail is so named because it is a straight easy walk with marsh on both sides (like a rabbit run). Lots of birds, alligators, turtles, and scenery.
Check out the other 5 trails listed on the Reserve’s website – https://polknature.com/explore/circle-b-bar-reserve. We just ran out of time that day!
The scenery was outstanding! Bountiful wildlife! We saw over 30 alligators! So many different bird species we lost count! Turtles, rabbits, ducks and even a Cotton Mouth!
Photography & Painting
If photography, or painting is your passion or hobby, then this is a perfect place. It is as if the wildlife want their picture taken. The birds and alligators seem to pose. Bird are so accustom to us humans walking by, they are in no hurry to move. The gators are so busy sunning, they could care less. Plus there are many beautiful scenery photo or painting ops!
What a Day at Circle B Bar Reserve!
What a fantastic afternoon in the Florida sunshine! Great exercise, beautiful scenery, alligators, birds, and other wildlife galore! We observed a majority of the approximately 33 wildlife species that inhabit this truly wonderful nature reserve. We will return to walk and see the other areas the Circle B Bar Reserve has to offer.