Welcome to Marshall Hampton Reserve and The Acorn Trail
We have found yet beautiful park nestled on the north east edge of Lake Hancock, just across the lake from Circle B Bar Reserve (one of the best birding areas in Florida). Here lies the Marshall Hampton Reserve and Acorn Trail. The Reserve has an interesting blend of oak hammock areas canopying over mesic flatwoods, hardwood forest wetlands and a 60-acre pond. The site that is just over 1,100 acres is mostly dominated by live oaks, slash pine, sweet gum, and palmettos. The two loop trails provide very different views of the property. The site is open for horseback riding with a special use permit. During our visit we didn’t run into any people until at the very end of our return we came across two horseback riders. This is one article in a series showcasing the REAL Florida…great parks and outdoor recreation right here in Destination Tampa Bay!
As you will notice from our day’s journey we found a lot of birds, wildlife, native flora and fauna. Check out our photo Gallery from this trip.
First here is a little history about the park. The Marshall Hampton Reserve (1,173 acres) was acquired by the Southwest Florida Water Management District in 2008. The Polk County Environmental Lands Program entered a management agreement with the Southwest Florida Water Management District in 2010 to oversee the management of the property. The acquisition and long-term management of this property meets the goals of both programs. The acquisition of this property also protected a significant amount of shoreline and floodplain swamp on the edge of Lake Hancock. Lake Hancock is often referred to as the headwaters of the Peace River.
Marshall Hampton Reserve provides over 7 miles of multiple use trails for hikers and joggers to enjoy. The Acorn Hammock Loop Trail is a shaded trail, whereas the Osprey Overlook Loop Trail is a trail with no shade. So, we chose to take the Acorn trail. But, where are the people? When visiting the Marshall Hampton Reserve especially in the summer, visitors should consider hiking on the Acorn Hammock Trail. This trail is a 3.4 mile very lightly trafficked loop trail that is mostly shaded. The trail is rated as moderate and primarily used for hiking, walking, trail running, and birding. Since we visited in the Summer months it was a good thing that the trail is mostly shaded making the heat more bearable. Visiting early morning or late evening is also better not only for the weather but photos always look better with the softer light found at these time periods.
Besides the plant communities, wildlife can be spotted in the Reserve. Look for foxes, Sherman’s fox squirrels, bobcats and deer. A variety of birds are here including wild turkey, hawks, owls, woodpeckers and warblers as well as migratory birds. Alligators are in the wet areas. Gopher tortoises and eastern indigo snakes also make their home on this site. Besides plants and animals, a variety of wildflowers can be spotted along the trails. Some herbaceous flowering plants include the rattlesnake master, Yuccifolium, large-flower Milkweed, and Elephant’s Foot, Elephant Opus Elatus where spotted on our trip. Visitors can also view the herbaceous plants which include the leather flower like the Clematis Crispa and Mazus Pumilus among other varieties (Now this was tough to learn and a real mouthful for plant names!)
Visitors can enjoy a beautiful pond that was full of some of the most beautiful water lilies and cattails. You’ll find great plants and large trees, a nice variety of wildflowers, insect life and some wildlife! The Marshall Hampton Reserve is a great preserve that many visitors can enjoy. But other than the two horseback riders we had the place to ourselves (with the plants, animals, birds and butterflies that is). With so many beautiful assets, we hope more people will visit this great place in Destination Tampa Bay. And this trip would not be complete without a visit back to the Circle B Reserve. Visitors can enjoy seeing alligators and turtles, a large variety of birds, more beautiful scenery, and plant life galore. The Circle B Reserve is located just 10 minutes west of the Marshall Hampton Reserve. For more details on the Circle B Reserve check out this story and gallery featuring more of the REAL Florida right here in Destination Tampa Bay! (Photos found in this gallery include pictures taken from both reserves as indicated.) Make sure to visit one or both Reserves in Polk county. You will be glad you did!
Marshall Hampton Reserve
3115 Thornhill Rd.
Winter Haven, FL 33880
Hours of Operation:
6:00 A.M. — 6:30 P.M. (Standard Time)
5:30 A.M. — 8:00 P.M. (Daylight Savings Time)
Located in South Lakeland.
From Lakeland, take SR 98 south to Winter Lake Road, travel East on Winter Lake Road to Thornhill Road. Travel south on Thornhill Road, the entrance is less than a ¼ mile on the right.
Story and Photos by Heather Miller for Destination Tampa Bay
For more of the REAL Florida and Great Outdoors consider One of these other articles: