Paved the entire length, the walk from Alvin Ward Park in Moore Haven to Clewiston Park offers up the best sunrises to be found anywhere along Lake Okeechobee.
Views are broad and sweeping the entire way: marshes giving way to lake to the left, and vast tracts of sugar cane to the right.
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Length: 11.8 miles
Fees / Permits: none
Restroom: At Alvin Ward Park and Levee Park
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. Off the dike, you’ll find tree cover and a screened room in which to enjoy a cold drink at Uncle Joe’s Fish Camp. Picnic areas with shaded pavilions are at the parks at both ends.
If you’re walking this segment in the morning, you’ll be walking into the sun. Wear sunglasses and a hat.
It’s best not to leave cars at the trailheads overnight. If you’re backpacking, inquire at Uncle Joe’s Fish Camp about leaving your car there and offer to pay to do so. Tell them you’re hiking the Big O.
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 southern trailhead for this hike is at Levee Park. Driving north on US 27 into Clewiston, turn right on Franscisco Street. Pass Roland Martin’s Marina Resort and make a left onto Hoover Dike Rd. It ends up in Levee Park. Park near the restrooms.
Uncle Joe’s Fish Camp can be used as an intermediate access point. It’s north of Clewiston off US 27 on CR 720. Watch for a campground and gas station along US 27. Turn right and follow this narrow road through the cane fields. After it curves within view of the dike, the side road to the fish camp is on the right.
The northern trailhead is at Alvin Ward Park in Moore Haven. Following US 27 north from Clewiston, watch for the Daniels Rd exit just before the big Caloosahatchee River bridge. Look for the signs pointing you towards the Moore Haven Lock, which is at the park entrance. Drive all the way to the far end of the park near the restrooms and picnic area on the Rim Canal. The trail follows the dike.
Leaving Alvin Ward Park, the paved trail follows a long, long straightway. Around 0.6 mile, you finally pass a distinguishable feature, a small cypress stand along the edge of the Rim Canal.
A slender agricultural canal parallels the dike on your right, separating the dike from the sugar cane fields as the trail begins a new sweeping curve to the right.
A historic water control structure, made of brick, is off to the right at 1.3 miles. Where the water flow passes beneath, a stretch of railing can be used as a bench.
Beyond it, the dike curves to the left, a long, slow, curve. This is where you’ll catch the best sunrises on the Herbert Hoover Dike, with twinkling reflections in the canals on either side of the dike.
After 2.5 miles, you’ll see a covered bench down along the edge of the Rim Canal, overlooking a scrubby prairie that stretches out to the horizon.
Beyond the canal, you rarely see a hint of water amid the western marshes of Lake Okeechobee unless the lake levels are very high.
Up ahead, the trail starts a lengthy straightaway. You see tall royal palms swaying in the distance on the right atop a remnant of what was once a tree island in the vast swirl of sawgrass of the Everglades.
The homes of farm workers hug close to this island in the sugar cane.
You can now see the dike make a slight bend to the right. Up ahead is a pump house that just juts out into the agriculture canal.
At 3 miles you pass it, at the end of a perpendicular canal. As the fields are being harvested (or planted) you can hear the crunch of the tractors.
Before the next curve, you see another covered bench on the left, a substantial four-post shelter. Off to the right, an orange juice processing plant is in the distance.
By 3.8 miles the dike starts curving left. Where you are headed is actually over your right shoulder at the moment.
If you check a map you’ll see this sweep of trail takes the shortest route possible between Moore Haven and Clewiston.
This is an immense sweep of landscape for a panoramic view from any trail in Florida. You can look off to the right and see the water control structure beyond the Liberty Point campsite and know it’s still nearly five miles away.
As you approach a very old water control structure, the C-1A, and one of the original covered benches along the dike, you’ve walked 4.9 miles.
A long canal stretches off to the right from the C-1A, with a dirt road for tractors and trucks paralleling it. The dike bumps out into the lake basin a little as it continues curving to the right.
By 6 miles, the cabins of Uncle Joe’s Fish Camp are shaping up into view. Established just after the end of World War II, this is one of the most popular fish camps along the entire lake and worth a visit.
The cabins themselves are a bit of recycled history, having been purchased from Riddle Field in Clewiston right after the war and moved here to start the camp.
British airmen trained in Clewiston during the war, and the folks at Uncle Joe’s say that some of those veterans had returned to camp out in the cabins and relive their memories.
You reach the road access to the fish camp and boat ramp at 6.4 miles, a busy put-in for airboaters.
Uncle Joe’s Fish Camp is a must-stop, between the restrooms and the little store with coffee, cold drinks, candy, and sometimes even ice cream. Want a cold one? Beer’s in the fridge.
You can camp on the property – tent camping or RV – or rent a cabin or a motel room. Follow the guardrail down the dike to the camp.
As you return back up the ramp, leaving Uncle Joe’s, you pass by docks right on the Rim Canal. Folks can put in their boats at the boat ramp and keep them here a while while they are duck hunting and bass fishing.
At 7.3 miles you pass by the Liberty Point campsite perched on the inner agricultural canal, overlooking the sugar cane fields. A trio of cabbage palms marks the location of a sheltered picnic table and fire ring for backpackers.
A low ridge runs through the cane fields near the S-4 water control structure, where you’ll find a tap for water and a welcome shadow cast on the ground to huddle in out of the sun for a break.
The trail starts another long straightaway stretching to the right, passing the next covered bench at 9.4 miles. This part of the dike tends to be very windy, as the wind picks up across the sparkle of the lake along the horizon.
The occasional cypress tree rises from the near marshes, reminders of a shoreline lost to the re-engineering of the lake between the 1930s and 1960s. It is now marshy on the right, as well.
Look down into the marsh, and you’ll see alligator trails through the dark water weeds. A line of white pelicans soars overhead as they follow the Rim Canal.
Coming up to a gate on the dike at 11.6 miles, turn around for a moment. You can see a canal outlining the edge of residential Clewiston.
Along this canal – which was once the location of the original shoreline – are the grand old homes first built in the “Sweetest Town in America” in the 1920s and 1930s on what used to be lakefront property.
Passing around the gate, you can now see Clewiston Park right up ahead, with picnic shelters and parking down by the water on the left and a large boat parking area on the right, beyond the canal.
Piers demarcate where the park begins. Look off to the far left and you’ll see channel markers leading out from the Clewiston Lock to the wide open waters of Lake Okeechobee.
Don’t be surprised to see enormous alligators sunning themselves along the base of the dike on the right.
As you come up to a road that ascends the dike, you’ve reached the end of this section. Walk down the road to the right, towards the restroom area, to complete your hike.
NORTHBOUND: Florida Trail, Moore Haven to Lakeport
SOUTHBOUND: Florida Trail, Clewiston to South Bay
SOUTHBOUND Backpackers: It’s a 1.2 mile roadwalk through this southeast corner of Clewiston – via Hoover Dike Rd to Franscisco Street to US 27 – to cross the canal for the Clewiston Lock and enter the Army Corps of Engineers headquarters complex on the other side to start the next segment of trail.
NORTHBOUND Backpackers: It’s a 2.5 mile roadwalk from Alvin Ward Park via Daniels Rd to US 27 to cross the Caloosahatchee River bridge on the pedestrian walkway, then a walk through Moore Haven on 1st Street NW and Canal Rd to return to the dike on the opposite side of the Moore Haven lock. Presently, that section of the dike is closed.
Our slides from hiking this segment of the Florida Trail
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Learn about the Big O Hike around Lake Okeechobee.