On Christmas Day 1837, Seminole and Miccosukee warriors went into battle, led by their chiefs Holata Micco, Halpatter Tustenuggee, Coacoochee, and medicine man Abiaka.
It was on this ground that they fought off the invaders, a unit of militia determined to remove all Native peoples from Florida.
Protecting part of this hallowed ground where men from both sides fell in battle, Okeechobee Battlefield Historic State Park tells their stories. It was commemorated as a National Historic Landmark in the 1960s.
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Address: 3500 SE 38th Ave, Okeechobee
Restrooms: near the parking area
Land manager: Florida State Parks
Open 8 AM to 5 PM Wed-Sun. Leashed pets welcome. An entrance fee is charged during the re-enactment.
From Okeechobee, follow US 441 to its junction with SR 78 in front of the dike around the lake. Turn left at the light and continue 3.1 miles south along US 441, crossing Taylor Creek. Watch for a road sign pointing left onto SE 38th Ave. Continue a quarter mile to the park entrance on the right.
After more than a decade of waiting for the park to open after its sign first appeared, we were delighted to find a picnic spot under a chickee and some rough walking trails on our most recent visit.
Most of the park is passive recreation space, open and grassy and edged by the marshes that played an important role in the battle.
A large marker commemorating the historic significance of the battle was moved to this site from its former location in front of the now-defunct “Old Habits” bar along US 441 near Taylor Creek.
An annual reentactment draws many visitors for both the battle scenes and the encampments, Seminole and U.S. Army, with their related handicrafts.
The park interprets and honors both sides involved in the Battle of Okeechobee, a turning point in the Seminole Wars. At the time, the United States government was removing Native Americans from their homelands by force.
The Seminoles and Miccosukees largely fought removal to Oklahoma. On Christmas Day 1837, this decisive battle was the largest and bloodiest of the battles of the Second Seminole War.
Camped along the shores of Lake Okeechobee, Seminole and Miccosukee were attacked by a militia led by Colonel Zachary Taylor, who would later become President of the United States. The nearby creek is named for him.
Using a sawgrass marsh and cypresses for cover, the Seminole and Miccosukee fought off the encroaching forces. But when the Army soldiers broke ranks and rushed them, the warriors fled.
At least a third of the soldiers, including most of Taylor’s officers, died. Although they succeeded in routing the natives, few of the warriors fell in battle.
Taylor gained the nickname “Old Rough and Ready” after word of the battle reached his superiors. As for the Miccosukee and Seminole, they chose to retreat to more defensible positions deep in the Everglades.
The reenactment at Okeechobee Battlefield State Park captures both sides of the story. While the battle itself raged out to the historic lakeshore, the reenactment is held each February to commemorate the event.
The initial extent of the battle covers much more ground than the park itself could protect. Artifacts have been found in surrounding neighborhoods and in the big cypresses that mark the original lakeshore, as seen along US 441.
See our photos of Okeechobee Battlefield Historic State Park
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Also known as Lake Okeechobee Recreation Area, this waterfront park in Okeechobee offers expansive views of Lake Okeechobee from its shoreline and pier
3.8 miles. On the sweep of Lake Okeechobee shoreline between Okeechobee and the Kissimmee River, expect some of the best birding along the lake as you walk along the dike
Encompassing the ancient shoreline of Taylor Creek and man-made marshes, this wetlands park is a gem for birding and wildlife watching just north of Okeechobee.