Encompassing a variety of ecosystems, the Jack Creek tract of the Lake Wales Ridge WEA protects over 1200 acres of scrub and the Lake Placid West Chain-of-Lakes watershed.
Wetlands on the south end of the property form Jack Creek, which flows into Josephine Creek before ending up in Lake Istokpoga.
These quiet trails are open to foot traffic only, where birds and deer are the most likely animal encountered by hikers.
Resources for exploring the area
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Length: 3.9 mile loop
Trailhead: 27.380074, -81.424890
Address: 4501 Grand Concourse Road, Sebring
Land managers: Southwest Florida Water Management District
Phone: 352-796-7211 ext. 4470
Open sunrise to sunset. Leashed dogs allowed.
Use sun protection as shade is very limited.
From the intersection of US 27 and CR 621 E in Lake Placid, head north on US 27 N for 6.4 miles before turning left onto Sebring Lakes Blvd N. In a half mile, turn right at Temple St. Continue for 0.1 mile as Temple St becomes Majesty Ave on a left turn. Majesty Ave becomes Byrd St. at a right turn in 0.2 mile. Byrd St ends in 0.1 mile at a left turn where the road becomes Grand Concourse. The trailhead is a small parking area to the left, immediately after crossing a bridge over Josephine Creek.
Starting at the entrance gate, head southward down an embankment adjacent to Josephine Creek.
Red-shouldered hawks cry overhead while following a raised access road past a concrete water structure with water roaring over the edge.
Descending from the berm in 0.8 mile and passing through a corridor of shady oaks, the trail opens to a panorama of scrubby flatwoods.
At the first intersection turn left to follow along an ecotone between dry and seasonally damp soils.
A grassy corridor lined with fetterbush and coastal staggerbush sweeps westward, dotted with an occasional pine covered with smilax.
In the cooler months, gray catbirds flutter in the bushes, calling in a distinct meow-like manner.
Approaching the two-mile mark, scrub habitat becomes more evident with gnarled sand pines rising in the distance.
As the soil becomes drier, grass transitions to a white sandy pathway pocked with countless animal tracks.
Coastalplain honeycombhead, prickly pear, and sandhill St. Johns wort cluster close to the ground, all sporting buttery yellow flowers at different times during the year.
Florida rosemary flourishes in these dry conditions, surrounded by patches of white sand due a chemical the plant releases to inhibit growth of other vegetation.
As the trail rises to a high spot in the scrub, the characteristic call of Florida scrub jays can be heard among the dense shrubs.
They may come out to the edge to get a closer look at a passerby.
One of only a few birds endemic to the state, the Florida scrub jay is highly dependent on this specific habitat to survive.
Although thunderstorms dump dozens of inches of rain on this delicate environment each year, the water drains quickly through the sand, resulting in desert-like settings.
Many of the plants are specialized to retain water and rebound quickly after lightning-induced fires that periodically sweep over the scrub.
Reaching the northwest corner of the loop at 2.7 miles, turn to the right, following a tree line eastward.
Spanish moss draped oaks line the path alongside scrub hickory trees, a species endemic to Central Florida.
In 0.7 mile, turn left to climb the berm alongside Josephine Creek, then follow the road back for a half mile to the trailhead.
A virtual hike at Jack Creek
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Home to Florida scrub-jays, this 3.5 mile loop in the Lake Wales Ridge Wildlife & Environmental Area provides views of the lake and a walk through ancient scrub.
Protecting 845 acres of the whitest, brightest sand on the Lake Wales Ridge, Lake June-in-Winter Scrub Preserve State Park has one of the highest concentrations of rare plants in North America.
One of Florida’s oldest state parks, Highlands Hammock protects an old-growth forest while enabling you to explore it on a network of fascinating interpretive nature trails