Highlands Hammock is one of eight Florida State Parks originally built by CCC members. At this park they developed additional park facilities and the beginnings of a botanical garden. Other Florida parks (such as Fort Clinch) and other parks in the US were also built by the CCC. There is even some of their work at El Yunque Rainforest in Puerto Rico.
The CCC was originally an idea of FDR to employ young men who were out of work and at the same time to do public projects. Highlands Hammock has a museum at the park which has just recently undergone a $275,000 renovation. The museum features an interactive experience of the CCC life in Florida. Listen to audio clips of actual CCC men, try on their uniforms, read their mail back home, and learn all about this important time in our nation’s history. Enjoy a DVD presentation of early park construction and CCC life in the video viewing area, or relax in a CCC era arm chair and listen to President Roosevelt’s "Fireside Chat" on the old time radio."
This was a very interesting museum
In 1968, we visited Sebring, and went to the State Park there. We walked along an elevated boardwalk over the water - I think this must have been Charlie Bowlegs Creek where even today, an elevated boardwalk traverses an old-growth cypress swamp. These are digitized slide that I took at the time. The water was tea-colored with lots of alligators. In those days, it was commonly accepted practice to feed marshmallows to the alligators. That is not considered ecologically correct today.
When we revisited in 2007, they were in the middle of a drought and there was no water under the boardwalk.
8 a.m. until sundown 365 days a year
Admission Fees - $4.00 per vehicle for up to 8 people.
Single occupant in vehicle - $3.00
Bus admission - $40.00
Pedestrians, Bicyclists, Extra Passengers, Passengers In Vehicles With Holder of Annual Individual Entrance Permit, Members of Organized Groups - Admission Fee $1.00
All Year: $18.00 plus tax
Senior/Disabled camping (all year) - $9.00 per night plus tax
Tram Tour Fee
Adults - $4.00; age 6-12 - $2.00; under 6 is free
Private tram tours - (by advanced reservation only) $70.00 plus tax
Individual daily equestrian fee is $6.00 (includes tax) Negative Coggins report required.
Family daily equestrian fee is $14.00 (includes tax) Negative Coggins report required - family fee covers entrance for the vehicle, trailer in tow, and up to a four person maximum.
Rentals - $100.00 per day plus tax
(after hours fee - $30.00 plus tax).
The swamps along the Catwalk are lovely, with patches of lilypads throughout, beautiful butterlies fluttering wildly past your face (no, I couldn't chase them to get any pics, it was too swampy!), and all manner of birdsongs, luring you in further like swamp sirens.
The famous Cypress Swamp Catwalk is the most popular trail of all, wending its way through the floodplain of the Charley Bowlegs Creek. Be forewarned that the Catwalk is aptly named - if you have any balance issues or impairments, this is probably not your best choice for a stroll. The original Catwalk built in the Depression is still intact, with a railing that's at the proper height for midgets and children. Being about 5'9" myself, I found it a bit useless, and just tiptoed along carefully.
I think early in the day would be best for wildlife sightings, or perhaps at sunset. I was there in mid-afternoon, and that's not the prime time. I didn't see much of the teeming wildlife on my brief visit, but did enjoy learning about the park nonetheless, and loved taking pictures of the hammock's flora.
Many are cone-like in shape, while others are more gnarly. They are often harvested by woodworkers who treasure their wonderful shapes. As long as the harvesting is done selectively, it apparently causes no harm to the trees, since they will just grow replacements.
The cypress forests typically have lots of the strange knobby protuberances called "cypress knees" poking up from the water. While there are many speculations as to the purpose of cypress knees, it is at least known that they seem to provide more stability for the trees growing in these swampy grounds, spreading out and meshing with the knees of adjacent trees to form an anchoring mat of growth.
Although the park encompasses 9000 acres, it has many easy trails for walking or bicycling. Most of the 9 trails in the main area are about 1/2 mile long, for a total of 6.5 miles if you walk them all. You'll be passing through various habitats, including cypress swamp, pine flatwoods, sand pine scrub, bayheads and marsh.