On March 2, 2013, the boardwalk at Big Tree Park reopened as part of the Seminole County Centennial celebration. The Senator is no more, but a clone of the Senator was planted on the grand reopening day. A second Big Tree, Lady Liberty, is still standing at Big Tree Park, and a hike into Spring Hammock Preserve will wow you with the wonders of numerous cypresses more than a thousand years old.
As old Florida postcards can attest, Big Tree Park has been a major tourist attraction for decades. It’s “The Senator” that kept them coming. Named for Senator M.O. Overstreet, who donated this massive cypress and the land around it to the people of Seminole County, the tree towered more than 129 feet tall, and that’s only 2/3 of the height it stood when it was a regional landmark for Indians and settlers passing through the region. Like most big trees, its top came off during a hurricane — the 1925 hurricane that spilled Lake Okeechobee into the towns that surrounded it. Unfortunately, on January 16, 2012, this living icon was destroyed forever by fire. For a news story on how the iconic Big Tree was lost – by drug-induced vandalism – see this video from WESH TV-2 Orlando.
Length: 0.3 mile
Lat-Long: 28.720417, -81.331533
Fees / Permits: none
Bug factor: low
This small park has restrooms, picnic tables, and a boardwalk through the floodplain forest to showcase the spectacular cypresses. The park is open 8 AM to sunset daily, and yes, they do lock the gates—so don’t stick around too late.
From US 17-92 in Winter Springs, take General Hutchinson Parkway west for 1 mile to the park entrance on the left. The park is between US 17-92 and SR 427 in Longwood.
As you walk the 0.3 mile round-trip, notice how large all of the trees are here. “Lady Liberty” is large enough that only a panoramic camera can capture its stature—and you’ll be craning your neck to see the tops of the trees. The park is a part of the larger Spring Hammock Preserve, where there are more ancient cypress hidden in the woods along their trail system. Along the Cross Seminole Trail, The Florida Trail passes by the entrance to Big Tree Park, making this a good place to leave a car while day hiking this segment (park gates close at dusk) or a nice stop for long distance hikers for a break.
0.1 Observation deck in front of the former site of The Senator
0.2 Observation deck in front of Lady Liberty
0.3 Return to trailhead