Encompassing the eastern shore of the Kissimmee River just north of the SR 78 bridge, Scott Driver Recreation Area is primarily a busy launch point for boaters and paddlers.
But as we discovered by roaming around it, there is more to this recreation area than it appears from when you drive past it along SR 78 to cross the Kissimmee River bridge.
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Address: 10101 SR 78 West, Okeechobee
Restroom: near the boat ramp
Land manager: Okeechobee County
Open 24 hours. No camping permitted. Leashed dogs welcome.
From the intersection of US 441 and SR 78 in Okeechobee, drive 4.3 miles west along SR 78. The turn-in is on the right immediately after you go up and over a levee which the Florida Trail is atop as it crosses the highway.
In addition to its popularity for boating, Scott Driver Recreation Area is an excellent spot for birding once we discovered where to roam.
There are two hot spots for birders: one along the northbound Florida Trail, and one along the Kissimmee River.
Hiking the Florida Trail
Park in the main parking area near the restrooms. From here, you can access the Florida Trail up on the levee that you crossed on SR 78.
The Florida Trail goes northbound from this point along the levee up the Kissimmee River basin towards Platts Bluff, another county park a full day’s hike away.
Around where the trail meets a gate across the levee, about a quarter mile north, wading birds constantly congregate in a small marsh on the east side of the trail.
On all the visits we’ve made here, the birds are always there. We’ve spotted great egret, ibis, snowy egret, cattle egret, little blue herons, and wood storks.
Southbound, you must cross SR 78 to reach the paved path that arcs 3.8 miles to Okeechobee Recreation Area in Okeechobee, recently renamed Cliff J. Betts Recreation Area. The Florida Trail follows this path as it continues southeast around the lake to Clewiston.
While it isn’t as obvious, the Florida Trail also continues west across the Kissimmee River bridge – which is not a comfortable crossing since there is no pedestrian separation from traffic – to connect to the southwest side of Lake Okeechobee.
In all, the Florida Trail loops Lake Okeechobee for more than 112 miles. This is the top of that loop. Scott Driver Recreation Area is the primary access point for that loop as the trail leaves it to go north up along the Kissimmee River.
To walk more than a half-mile loop around Scott Driver Recreation Area, follow the boat basin canal leading out to the Kissimmee River.
Two gaps in the chain link fence at the river end of the park enable hikers to ramble out beneath ancient cypress to the riverfront.
Where the boat basin canal meets the river, you’ll see the greatest bird activity. We spotted limpkins, wood storks, and ibis along the waterfront.
A large pavilion in this waterfront area is used for special events, so sometimes the gate is open to drive back into this area. If it is not, you can still loop around and exit through the gap in the fence to the main parking area.
Boating and Paddling
Boaters and paddlers have 24 hour access to the boat basin and an ample parking area in which to store their trailers while headed up the Kissimmee River.
North of this point by water, Paradise Run and the S-65E Impoundment are excellent destinations for paddling and fishing. Since airboats are not allowed in this old river channel, it is one of the best destinations for paddling in the region.
South of Scott Driver Recreation Area, the Kissimmee River flows under the SR 78 bridge, past Okee-Tantie Recreation Area, and empties out into Lake Okeechobee adjoining Buckhead Ridge.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Where the Kissimmee River pours its waters into Lake Okeechobee, Okee-Tantie Recreation Area offers access to the river and a wild marshy stretch of lakeshore
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
14.9 miles. Panoramic views across cattle ranches and the channelized Kissimmee River are the highlights of this connector from Lake Okeechobee to natural lands north of Okeechobee