While much of the eastern end of the Caloosahatchee River is nothing like it once was before settlers came to this part of Florida and wanted it dredged for commerce, this nine-acre peninsula in the city of LaBelle captures the spirit of the past.
An important destination for environmental education in Hendry County, LaBelle Nature Park showcases uplands along the river bluffs. Cross trails and parallel trails make it possible to walk an extra half mile or more in addition to the perimeter loop we outline here.
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Length: 0.5 mile loop
Trailhead: 26.7221, -81.6514
Address: 440 Fraser Ave, LaBelle FL 33935
Land manager: Hendry/LaBelle Recreation
Open dawn to dusk. The park connects to the historic Captain Hendry House in downtown LaBelle.
Volunteers with LaBelle Rotary provide the labor to keep the trails open and invasive species under control.
Hendry LaBelle Recreation Board oversees the park on behalf of the City of LaBelle, who in turn leases the riverfront from South Florida Water Management District.
From SR 80 in LaBelle, turn north onto Hardee Street at the Log Cabin Restaurant across from City Hall. Continue to the end of the street and make a left into the trailhead on Fraser Street.
A kiosk with trail map is provided at the trailhead. There is an extensive trail system to follow. We walked a perimeter loop of a half mile, starting by following the main corridor straight ahead under the oaks.
Turn right on the first side trail to walk down to the trail along the oxbow. This marshy waterway is part of the old meanders of the Caloosahatchee River before it impounded behind locks and dams by the Army Corps of Engineers in 1937.
Strategically placed benches provide places to sit and listen for warblers and to watch for wading birds along the water’s edge. The footpath winds between large oak trees, reaching an overlook on the oxbow.
Where this trail comes to the end of the peninsula with this old oxbow, it meets the open water of the Caloosahatchee River. Turn left and continue to follow a footpath downriver along the river bluffs.
You catch occasional glimpses of the river from beneath the big oaks. Before it reaches the edge of the park, the trail makes a sharp left.
Along the western property boundary, the loop passes through small clearings bounded by oaks, cabbage palms, and understory plants like American beautyberry in this upland habitat.
Expect to see gopher tortoise burrows in clearings. At the time of our visit, markers pointed out particular plants along the loop.
Turning back in from the property fence, the trail is once again under the shade of bromeliad-draped live oaks and tall cabbage palms. When you return to the main corridor, turn right to exit.
See our photos of LaBelle Nature Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Walk along a blackwater stream that sluggishly seeps towards the Caloosahatchee River on the way to a panorama of pines and palmettos along Hickey Creek