While preparing for the Big O Hike, we received the latest map yesterday from the Army Corps of Engineers as to which sections of the Florida Trail are open or closed.
As you can see on the map, South Bay to Pahokee has reopened. However, it’s an island between two closure areas, so we continue to recommend to long distance hikers that they utilize the WESTERN side of Lake Okeechobee to walk the Florida Trail around the lake. The eastern side has 18.1 miles of trail closed by the Corps, and for 9 miles of that, your only alternative is to walk along US 441, a high-speed, busy truck traffic road. In addition, the Corps does not mark that there is an unresolved landowner closure at Taylor Creek, effectively forcing hikers onto US 441 between Nubbin Slough and the Taylor Creek bridge for an additional three miles.
The western side has two major closures: John Stretch Park to Clewiston (4.1 miles) and Liberty Point to Alvin Ward Park (7.6 miles).
Between John Stretch Park and Clewiston, your alternative is a walk along US 27 – where (unlike US 441) there is a broad berm on both sides. You’ll pass by Crooked Hook RV Resort on this route, where tent campers are welcome. Resume the trail route where it exits the Corps of Engineers office at the east end of Clewiston and utilizes US 27 to cross a canal bridge before ducking back towards the dike.
Between Uncle Joe’s Fish Camp (near Liberty Point) and Alvin Ward Park, there is an alternative backroad roadwalk. The road is narrow but has light usage, and leads through the sugar cane fields between Uncle Joe’s and US 27 within sight of the Caloosahatchee River Bridge in Moore Haven. Northbounders, walk out along the road from Uncle Joe’s and make a right at the T intersection. Follow this road to where it reaches US 27 and turn right. You’ll walk along the broad berm of US 27 for a few minutes before finding the orange blazes coming in from a road on the right to lead you up and over the pedestrian portion of the tall Caloosahatchee River Bridge.
Due to the closures along Lake Okeechobee, our Big O Hike route will skip over closed sections; we’ll be hiking some alternative routes during a couple of days of the hike.