The Kissimmee Prairie is an area of immense historical significance, with its main drive formerly being part of the Peavine Railroad. Built in the early 1900s to take advantage of the land boom in central and south Florida, the rail line no longer exists, although its remnants still linger.
Back in its day, potential property buyers were brought to the dry prairie to a hotel, as the temperatures were pleasant during the winter months and the soil was dry. People purchased land expecting to be able to farm, but soon found out that the sweltering summers made it practically impossible and had to leave. Consequently, the Colonization Land Company went bankrupt and the elevated rail line was dismantled and utilized for ranching and commerce.
Various settlers of the Kissimmee River Valley’s expansive grasslands pursued the free-roaming cattle that descended from the herds of Spanish explorers. People would travel on Peavine Road to trade, shop and socialize, only to have their access restricted when the Latt Maxcy Corporation fenced off the land in the late 1940s.
The landscape changed when, in 1940, the military acquired some of the land for the purpose of training B-17 aircraft crews in air-to-ground bombings during World War II. The Avon Park Army Air Field was born, and bombers used bombs ranging from 15-pound practice bombs to 2,000-pound demolition bombs containing high explosives. Accidental fires caused by exploding bombs probably helped keep the prairie in excellent condition, similarly to natural fires.
After the war, the military put part of the land up for sale, which was bought by different cattlemen. At present, the Kissimmee Prairie burns more frequently than any other ecosystem in Florida, once or twice every three years, with warmer weather bringing lightning which reduces woody encroachment, fertilizing the prairie and furnishing diverse species with plentiful habitats. The Avon Park Air Force Range remains active today, located just over the Kissimmee River on the west side of the Preserve. There are also several old targets that have been reclaimed by the prairie.
The Peavine Railroad, the Colonization Land Company, the Latt Maxcy Corporation, Avon Park Army Air Field, and its subsequent iterations have combined to make the Kissimmee Prairie one of the most remarkable pieces of history in the state of Florida. This area of land has seen multiple development cycles and continues to be an integral part of the region. If you have any questions about the Kissimmee Prairie, you can reach out to the Statewide Information Line at (850) 245-2157, or send an email to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, who will be more than happy to assist you.
The Kissimmee Prairie is home to many diverse wildlife species. This includes the endangered Florida Grasshopper Sparrow, the Eastern Indigo Snake, and the Sandhill Crane, among others. The prairie also provides critical habitat for migratory birds such as warblers, scaup, and peregrine falcons. Visitors can enjoy birdwatching, exploring the many nature trails, or even catch a glimpse of an American Bald Eagle as it catches its prey.
The Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park is dedicated to preserving and protecting the unique ecosystems found here. Visitors can experience recreational activities such as camping, fishing, horseback riding, hiking, biking and canoeing along the many tributaries of the Kissimmee River. In addition, the park offers educational programs, interpretive exhibits, and guided tours.
The Kissimmee Prairie is an important source of water for the region and provides numerous recreational opportunities for public use. The surrounding areas, ranging from Kenansville to Ft. Meade, are dotted with small towns and communities that give visitors a sense of the area’s roots. Nearby cities include Sebring, Avon Park, and Lake Wales, where visitors can find museums and other attractions.
The Kissimmee Prairie is an important habitat for many species of plants and animals. The area is home to several endangered and threatened species, including the Florida scrub jay, gopher tortoise, little blue heron, and southern bald eagle. This vast stretch of land provides an essential habitat for these species and is a haven for many others.
The grasslands of the Kissimmee Prairie provide much-needed habitat for various species of flora and fauna. Endangered species such as Florida prickly pear and silky gallinule are making a comeback thanks in part to the restoration efforts of the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. Additionally, nearly 15,000 acres of pine flatwoods serve as a buffer between the preserve and the nearby Lake Okeechobee.
The Kissimmee Prairie includes a variety of habitats, from dry prairies to cypress swamps and dense hammocks. This diversity of habitats allows for an immense range of wildlife, both resident and migratory, to flourish. The Kissimmee Prairie also provides rich foraging grounds for numerous species of insects, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals.
The Kissimmee Prairie is host to several events throughout the year. Celebrate the annual Black Bear Festival at the Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park, where visitors can see live bears up close, or take a tour of the prairie in a hot air balloon. In addition, visitors can explore the nearby citrus groves, hiking trails, and bird-watching opportunities.
The Kissimmee Prairie is also host to an assortment of festivals and events throughout the year. Nature lovers can enjoy the annual Kissimmee Prairie Birding Festival, while music and craft enthusiasts can take in the sights and sounds at the Kissimmee Prairie Country Music Festival.
The Kissimmee Prairie is an amazing place to explore and experience the history and beauty of Central Florida. Whether you’re a nature lover, history buff, or just looking for a fun weekend getaway, the Kissimmee Prairie is sure to provide something for everyone. With its expansive grasslands, unique wildlife, and fascinating cultural events, the Kissimmee Prairie is the perfect destination for all types of visitors.
The Kissimmee Prairie is an area that is steeped in history and filled with unique ecosystems. Through ongoing protection and management of the area, the Kissimmee Prairie will continue to provide diverse recreational opportunities as well as an important refuge for wildlife for years to come.