Yep believe it or not there is a prairie in Florida called Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park. It is located about 25 miles north of Okeechobee, off US 441. It is part of the Everglades headwaters and protects the largest remaining tract of Florida dry prairie. It is over 50,000 acres.
We arrived after dark and had no idea what to expect. The only road is a five mile long washboard road so its a good idea to make sure you have plenty of gas in your tank. The first sign we saw was instructions to have all vehicle head beams on low. There are no street lights as it is light pollution free. The outside lights of the office, and showers/restroom building have red lights that give just enough of a glow for campers to see their way. Even the buggies that the park volunteers ride on have their head lamps covered with red tape so they don’t give off a bright glow.
The very first thing I noticed was how dark the skies were and how bright the stars appeared and so many! Living In Niagara Falls, Canada we get too much light pollution from the Falls which makes it difficult to see all the stars. Here at the Preserve I was able to see the Milky Way! Astronomers have their huge telescopes set up in a field so they can study the beauty of the starry skies light pollution free.
The first night we camped we were fortunate enough to get a spot in the family section right across from the washrooms but then the next day we had to move to another spot that was quite a long walk from the washrooms. It was either walk or use the nearby chemical toilet. The only hook up we had was electrical. There is primitive camping for those adventurous campers. This means you hike two miles out to your spot with your tent, food and anything else you may need for the evening. (Not my cup of tea).
Our friend who is a volunteer camp hostess took us on a buggy ride to see the alligators in their natural habitat. I was quite apprehensive about getting out but we met up with a camper who camps at the Preserve quite a bit and he assured me that these alligators were well fed and were all laying on the bank digesting their food. Being assured that I would not be breakfast for these guys I ventured out with my husband and our friend to see these guys indeed sunning themselves on the bank. The only thing between us and them was a stream of water. I guess they are so used to people staring that they paid no attention to us. Did you know when alligators are sunning themselves and have their mouths open that they are digesting their food? Just some trivia info for you.
There are things to do there such as horseback riding, hiking, buggy ride (cost applies), a fun activity for kids to do that will enable them to become junior park rangers complete with badge. Campfires at night but only with the firewood purchased within the Preserve. The pictures below were taken across the road from our campsite. Beautiful.
For me personally I enjoyed the 2 nights that we spent here but I don’t think I could stay any longer than that. Call me chicken, but I am a person that likes a bit more light at night; especially when I’m camping in nature’s backyard. It is a beautiful, quiet and peaceful place though. I would definitely say a must see to experience.
Jenny Schwartz (Dec. 2018)