It’s been more than five years since the Army Corps of Engineers started repairs on the Herbert Hoover Dike in the wake of the 2004-2005 hurricanes, and each year, the project continues to expand in scope.
For several years now, it’s been impossible for section hikers to “do the loop” of the entire circle around Lake Okeechobee on the Florida Trail, unless they were willing to take on ever-growing segments of roadwalk along high-speed highways.
The Big O Hike has continued, last year starting to take on some roadwalk to get around a particularly persistent closure between Pahokee and Port Mayaca. It looks like that will expand this year.
For this hiking season, however, this map from the Army Corps of Engineers says it all. Florida Trail thru-hikers have a daunting challenge in front of them to navigate around Lake Okeechobee in either direction. The western side remains the safer side to navigate, with more backroads options as to how to handle closed sections.
According to the Corps, on the WEST side, John Stretch Park to Clewiston is closed, but open on weekends. Liberty Point to Lakeport is closed. While I’m there, I’ll scout a route for thru-hikers and share it here.
On the EAST side, John Stretch Park to South Bay is closed but open on weekends. Torrey Island to Port Mayaca is closed. I’ll share a roadwalk route here later, but my opinion is that walking the roads on this side of the lake is too dangerous and a heck of a lot of extra miles. Thru-hikers should use the WEST side.
Here is the full bulletin shared by the Army Corps of Engineers
Please note that they do not plan for these closures to be lifted until 2013 or later.