As of May 1, 2013, the Army Corps of Engineers has closed yet another segment of the Florida National Scenic Trail around Lake Okeechobee, this time from John Stretch Park to South Bay. The section will not reopen until a water control structure is replaced, as late as late 2014.
Section hikers, thru-hikers, and backpackers in general should stick with the western side of Lake Okeechobee when hiking the Florida Trail. Closures on the eastern side have made the trail impassible and roadwalks are dangerous through this area due to the amount of high-speed and agricultural traffic that traverses the only roads that parallel the dike.
This closure affects our planning for the 2013 Big O Hike, held during Thanksgiving week. With nearly 1/3 of the dike currently closed due to multiple ongoing construction projects, this year’s hike will focus on the portions of the Florida National Scenic Trail around Lake Okeechobee that are open to hiking at the time of the event. Additional field trips to nearby trails may be added.