Surprisingly wild given its proximity to the historic lakefront community of Lakeport, the Florida Trail along the western arc of Lake Okeechobee bridges the floodplain of Fisheating Creek with the Indian Prairie Canal.
In the 1920s, this was a thriving fishery with canning operations. Today, it takes anglers far longer to reach the open waters of the lake.
Using dikes, locks, and pump stations, water management by state and federal agencies has changed the entire character of Lake Okeechobee, but especially along this shoreline.
No longer do the lake’s waters lap at beaches where nets were pulled in, but marshes stretch off to the far horizon, well visible from this hike.
Full details on the best 7.8-mile segment of this hike, including a trail map, are in our full-color guidebook Florida Trail Hikes.
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Guthook Guides GPS-driven map-based guide to the Florida National Scenic Trail with thousands of waypoints from The Florida Trail Guide. Works offline. For iPhone and Android.
Length: 11.9 miles
Fees / Permits: none
Restroom: at Harney Pond Recreation Area
Land Manager: Army Corps of Engineers
Just like all other segments of the Florida Trail around Lake Okeechobee, there is no shade save at the covered benches provided. This is one of the rare remaining unpaved sections, rough underfoot with shellrock atop the dike.
Due to dangerous bacterial growth in the lake in recent years, backpackers should obtain water from potable sources at trailheads or from taps on water control structures and locks.
The northern trailhead for this hike is the parking area along the south side of Indian Prairie Canal, the Indian Prairie boat ramp in Lakeport off SR 78 just south of the bridge over the canal. Follow the dirt road down along the canal to the well-defined parking area. Do not block the boat ramp.
The southern trailhead is the Fisheating Creek boat access parking area in the Fisheating Creek floodplain, right along SR 78 eastbound into Lakeport from Moore Haven. Avoid blocking boat access.
There are two additional intermediate access points that allow you to shorten this hike by starting or ending at a different spot: Harney Pond Recreation Area and Big Bare Beach at Dyess Ditch. Of the four trailheads on this segment, only the recreation area has restrooms.
From the parking area, a paved bike path leads uphill past the “Welcome to Lakeport” sign to the top of the Herbert Hoover Dike. Walk around the gate and continue onto the paved trail atop the dike.
The first few miles of this hike were paved some years ago to encourage more cyclists to use the trail. Views stretch out across the dense western marshes of the lake, which surround the Fisheating Creek floodplain.
Within a mile, a covered bench down at the level of the Rim Canal draws your attention to Lakeport campsite, a designated campsite for backpackers with a fire ring and picnic table.
The Rim Canal persists on the land side of the dike, while the marshes continue into the distance on the lake side. Reaching the S-131 Lock, notice the granite slabs adjoining it, nicknamed the Hiker’s Graveyard.
Passing a bench along the trail, look out beyond it and you’ll see Harney Pond Canal cutting through the marshes into the distant open waters of Lake Okeechobee.
The paved trail curves left as it reaches the canal and ends at SR 78. It’s necessary to carefully walk across the highway bridge to continue along the trail.
On the other side of the canal, hop the guardrail and head downhill unless you want to make a side trip to the Big Water Deli, a small store with freshly prepared food and ice cream. Other services like a motel and pizza pub are nearby.
The paved trail leads downhill into Harney Pond Canal Recreation Area, also known as Margaret Van De Velde Park. At 4.3 miles, rejoin the Florida Trail atop the dike at the gate.
It’s here that the trail has not been paved, on a stretch that persists all the way to the Kissimmee River. Instead, it will either be grassy or rocky underfoot.
Within a mile, you reach the other intermediate access point at Big Bare Beach, where boaters put in to head out to open water via the Dyess Ditch Canal.
Around the next gate, your surroundings become more wild. While an occasional back yard peeps out from the forests along the Rim Canal, the marshy sweep of Indian Prairie stretches off to the horizon on the right.
Watch for fossils, especially crystallized clam shells, sticking out of the levee. We used to find them all around the lake until the trail was paved for bicycle use.
Beyond the S-129 pump station after 9.1 miles, the trail gets more rugged, more rocky and more grassy in places. It may be overgrown at certain times of year.
The cattle ranches of Indian Prairie start here on the land side, sweeping off to the distant horizon with SR 78 cutting through them, paralleling the dike.
The covered bench and cluster of palm trees at the Rim Canal marks Indian Prairie campsite, the second designated campsite on this section and the quieter of the two.
This section ends just a quarter mile past the campsite. As the levee starts turning away from the lakeside to parallel the Indian Prairie Canal, look down and to the right to see where to descend it to the parking area by the boat ramp.
NORTHBOUND: Indian Prairie to Okee-tantie
SOUTHBOUND: Moore Haven to Lakeport. This section has been closed in large part for many years. Due to reconstruction of the Herbert Hoover Dike, only a three-mile stretch of bike path paralleling SR 78 is currently accessible.
Our slides from hiking this segment of the Florida Trail
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
The Knobby Knee Trail treats you to a sampling of wild and scenic Fisheating Creek and its beautiful cypresses along a 1.7-mile loop trail in Fisheating Creek WMA
Started in 1957 as a roadside attraction to show tourists one of the two Florida experiences they wanted – alligators! – Gatorama still has that funky Old Florida feel.
Learn about the Big O Hike around Lake Okeechobee.