In the small piece of Port Charlotte south of the Myakka River, Cape Haze Pioneer Trail Park is an interesting destination on its own.
Besides its obvious purpose as a trailhead for the Cape Haze Pioneer Trail, it offers some schooling in the origins of this region.
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Location: Port Charlotte
Trailhead: 26.930718, -82.222957
Address: 1688 Gasparilla Rd, Port Charlotte
Restroom: Flush toilets
Land manager: Charlotte County
Open dawn to dusk. Leashed pets permitted. Your dog will appreciate the dog watering basin at the water fountain.
From the junction of US 41 and SR 776 at Murdock, follow SR 776 west for 8 miles, crossing the Myakka River. Make the left at the light onto Gasparilla Rd. The trailhead is on the right immediately after the Publix shopping center.
About the Park
The park has two picnic shelters, each with a single picnic table, and a bench in the shade.
There are restrooms, a water fountain, and a clever sculpture of a cyclist under the willow trees. Alligators sometimes sun along the slough that the trail parallels.
At mile 0.0, the Mercer Trailhead is the northern terminus for the popular Cape Haze Pioneer Trail.
Cape Haze Pioneer Trail
A legacy of Florida’s early phosphate mining, the Cape Haze Pioneer Trail now provides a protected greenway through a very residential corner of Charlotte County
If you walk up around the corner where the Cape Haze Pioneer Trail starts its due south straight-line route, you’ll find a paved path to the right.
This leads around a large pond where birds are often active, a half-mile round trip to walk up to Hopkinton Avenue and back.
Opened in 1999 and dedicated to Dr. Robert and Ann Mercer, Cape Haze Pioneer Trail has two historic markers on site.
One speaks to the community of McCall, which was established here by the Charlotte Harbor and Northern Railroad (CH&N) as they extended their rail line towards Boca Grande.
Mr. McCall ran the freight and passenger operations for the railroad, so they built a railroad depot here in 1905 and named it for him.
It was a hopping place for more than 20 years, as fortunes rose with the railroad providing access to massive pine forests that had never been touched by loggers.
That changed quickly. At the same time that the CH&N was shipping phosphate south to the ore-loading dock at Boca Grande, they were also carrying timber back north.
McCall vanished once the depot was decommissioned, but its name lives on with McCall Rd (SR 776) being the main road between Port Charlotte and Englewood.
The Placida Bunk House, which was built along Coral Creek to house workers building the railroad, was moved here in the mid-2000s.
It’s a two-story wood frame Vernacular typical of the early 1900s, and is the last remaining structure from the CH&N in all of Charlotte County.
Future plans are for restoration of the bunk house and for it to include interpretation about the railroad, similar to what we found in Sebastian along the Trans-Florida Central Railroad Trail.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Tippecanoe Environmental Park
With 380 acres of uplands and wetlands along the rim of Tippecanoe Bay, Tippecanoe Environmental Park can be explored on an extensive interconnected network of hiking trails.
Tippecanoe II Mitigation Area
Set aside for the conservation of gopher tortoise and Florida scrub-jay habitat in Port Charlotte, Tippecanoe II sits just south of Tippecanoe Environmental Park
Ann & Chuck Dever Regional Park
A popular recreation destination for local residents, Ann & Chuck Dever Regional Park also encompasses significant uplands along Oyster Creek
Myakka State Forest
Along the southwestern Gulf Coast of Florida, Myakka State Forest offers an extensive trail network along the Myakka River basin, with tent camping under the stars.