Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest

Location | Natural Features | Recreation | Contacts

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest consists of four separate tracts that contain outstanding examples of naturally functioning ecosystems. Since 1984, portions of the forest have been purchased with Florida's Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) program funds. The forest is managed for multiple uses, including outdoor recreation, protection of endangered and threatened species, and maintenance of natural communities. Lake Wales Ridge State Forest is a unique, beautiful place where many of Florida's rare and endangered plants and animals flourish.

Location

The Walk-in-the-Water Tract is located 2 miles east of the town of Frostproof on County Road 630. Access to the Walk-in-the-Water Tract is obtainable on foot only. Parking is available at most of the trailheads, which can be found at various points around the perimeter of the tract.

Access to the Arbuckle tract is through the main entrance on Rucks Dairy Road off of Lake Arbuckle Road.  Once on Rucks Dairy Road, continue onto School Bus Road to access the entire tract. Public access on Arbuckle may also be made from Old Avon Park Rd and State Road 64.

The Hesperides Tract (Babson) is located 12 miles north-east of the town of Frostproof on Walk In Water Road.  Access to the Hesperides Tract (Babson) is obtainable on foot only and primitive camping is available by Special Use Permit only by Dinner Lake.

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Natural Features

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest derives its name from the narrow ridge that runs north and south through the Florida Peninsula. Many years ago ancient ocean levels rose and covered nearly all of the present-day peninsula. The ridge became an island on which the plants and animals continued to evolve in isolation.

Today the scrub ecosystem that thrives on the ridge may have the highest concentration of rare and endangered plants in the continental United States. Lake Wales Ridge State Forest provides a habitat for 33 plants and 36 animals currently having federal or state status as threatened or endangered. This list includes the scrub jay, a bird found only in Florida's rare scrub areas, and the sand skink, which is found on high-elevation ridges and swims through the sand leaving an S-shaped trail. Rare and endangered plants include the pygmy fringe tree, scrub plum, Carter's mustard, scrub-blazing star and bear grass.

Many lakes are accessible from Lake Wales Ridge State Forest. Lake Godwin is located in the forest on Arbuckle, and Lake Weohyakapka (Walk-in-the-Water) adjoin the forest, and Lake Reedy is located nearby. 

Recreation

The forest offers many recreational opportunities for the rugged outdoor enthusiast as well as the occasional visitor. Hiking trails cross a variety of terrains from forest wetlands to ancient, dry scrub communities. The state forest contains four hiking trails that are included in the Florida Forest Service's Trailwalker Hiking Program. Hikers can take advantage of the numerous hiking trails, which include a 20 mile Florida Trail System Loop Trail.

Primitive Camping is allowed at designated sites along hiking trails through a camping reservation made through the Campground Reservation System. There are primitive campsites along hiking trails on Arbuckle and on Walk-In-Water. There is no drinking water available on Lake Wales Ridge State Forest, so be sure to bring plenty of water with you. Polk County operates a public, full-facility campground on Lake Arbuckle at the end of Lake Arbuckle Road.  

The Reedy Creek I Campground, located on the Arbuckle Tract, and the Walk-in-the-Water Campground, located on the Walk-in-the-Water Tract, are open to the public year-round. Walk In Water Campground has 10 campsites (9 reservable, 1 Walk Up) and Reedy Creek I Campground has 8 campsites (7 reservable, 1 Walk Up).  A Campground Reservation System is now used camping reservations to existing camping facilities on LWRSF.  Reedy Creek I Campground, Walk In Water Campground, 2 Primitive campsites off hiking trails on Walk In Water, 5 primitive campsites off hiking trails on Arbuckle tract, and Reedy Creek II Hunt Camp pavilion all may have reservations made through the Campground Reservation System for public use.

In keeping with its mission to protect and manage Florida's forest resources, the Florida Forest Service has developed rules that apply to all state forest visitors. Find out more about state forest fees and rules.

Wildlife Management Areas (WMA) are open to regulated hunting under the direction of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and permitted only during designated periods. We encourage non-hunting recreationists to check the Wildlife Management Area regulations and season dates before visiting Lake Wales Ridge State Forest.

FWC's Hunting Regulations 
Hunting dates July 1, 2017 - June 30, 2018
Hunting Season LWRSF

Season

Arbuckle Tract

Walk in Water Tract

Archery

Oct. 14 - Nov. 3

Sept. 30 - Oct. 15

Muzzleloading Gun

Dec. 9 - Dec. 17

Dec. 2 - Dec. 10

Wild Hog – Still Season

n/a

Jan. 13 - Jan. 21

Small Game

Jan. 6-7 and Jan. 27-28

Feb. 3-11 and Feb. 24-March 4

Spring Turkey

March 20-22 and April 3-5

March 27 - March 29