Our family recently had the opportunity to visit a true Florida beauty. The Circle B Bar Reserve, on Lake Hancock just outside Lakeland, Florida, is a 1,267-acre wildlife preserve. Once a cattle ranch, it has been restored to its original wetlands and now is home to an array of animals: birds, bobcats, armadillos, snakes, squirrels, river otters, wild pigs, alligators, and more.
Free to the public, The Circle B Bar Reserve has over six miles of walking trails to explore.
As you enter from the parking lot, you’ll see Polk’s Nature Discovery Center. Here you can learn more about the plants, animals, and ecosystems of the reserve. You can also get maps of the trails. Polk’s Nature Discovery Center is open every day except Mondays and holidays.
Unfortunately, we visited on a Monday afternoon, so we weren’t able to check out the Nature Discovery Center. Our visit was spur of the moment. We learned of the Circle B Bar Reserve on our trip and decided to squeeze it into our schedule. We only had a couple of hours to spend there but what we saw in that short time convinced us we that must visit again soon.
It is a breathtakingly beautiful place. The pictures in this post don’t do it justice but perhaps will give you a glimpse of how incredible this nature preserve is.
Everywhere we looked there was something to see and oftentimes something looking back at us! This little gray squirrel was in a tree right above us as we walked by.
In the short time we were there we walked under shady oaks draped with Spanish Moss, strolled through a grassy meadow, walked by the marshland and swampy area shown above and made our way to Lake Hancock. The Circle B Bar Reserve gives you an idea of what Florida must have been like a century ago.
Escargot anyone? At the edge of the swamp area were the largest snails we have ever seen. Some were almost as large as my fist.
There were only a handful of people there the day we visited, so it was quiet. Except for the sounds of nature – rustling leaves and grasses, birds singing, and all sorts of wildlife noises.
We saw a variety of birds, especially as we got closer to the shore of Lake Hancock. The two pictures above are of Blue Herons.
As we came to Lake Hancock, this shy little guy stuck his head out but quickly ducked back into his hiding place.
Not sure what kind of bird this is resting on the branches over the lake. Maybe we will find out at the Nature Discovery Center the next time we visit. Or if you know, please tell me in the comments below. He was beautiful and not shy at all. He posed for several minutes before flying away.
As we were making out way back to the parking area, this armadillo crossed our path. He paid very little attention to us. He was more concerned with eating the small green leaves you see in the photo. We stood and watched him while he ate his dinner.
When he finished his meal, he turned around and made his way home. And so did we….
If you are in the Central Florida area near Lakeland, stop by the Circle B Bar Reserve. You won’t find a better place to spend the day than here. And you can’t beat the price. FREE!
A few words of caution though. It is a wildlife area. While we didn’t see any when we were there, it is home to snakes and alligators. There’s no need to be afraid of going, but you do need to be cautious while you are there. Always stay on the marked trails and keep your eyes open.
And don’t bring your pets. They are not allowed on the reserve.
For more information on the Circle B Bar Reserve: