Florida State Parks to Visit
By John McNamara
Homossa State Park
Located just 75 miles North of Tampa and St. Petersburg, and 90
miles West of Orlando on the West coast of Florida, the Homossa
State Park was first inhabited by the Calusa and Seminole Indians.
In 1846 a former US Senator established a plantation and sugar cane
mill, and was the areaós first known settlement made by the white
man. Today, owned and protected by the state of Florida, there is
no place like the Homossa State Park to view a wide range of Floridaós
From atop a floating observatory, visitors
can gaze upon the splendor of thousands of fresh and saltwater fish.
This is also one of the few places in the world where all year round
visitors can enjoy an up close look at the manatees that have been
rescued by the parks reserve, while park rangers provide educational
information about the physiology and preservation of the endangered
specie. The park doesn't allow for visitors to swim with the manatee,
but they do sponsor an adopt a manatee program. The park waters
are also home to a hippopotamus, alligators, crocodiles, otters
and a myriad array of waterfowl.
Along with the unspoiled nature trails open to the
public, the Homossa State Park installed 500 feet of elevated boardwalk
and viewing platforms. These platforms guide the curious bird watcher
up to the tree tops for a much more intimate look at the habits
of the birds of prey, as well as offering a birds eye view on the
unsuspecting wildlife below. From the safe distance of a viewing
platform, one could hope to catch a glimpse of a gray fox or a black
bear, or maybe even the Florida panther, that also makes its home
beneath the trees of Homossa State Park. In addition to strolling
and hiking, the park likes to emphasis environmental education.
The park is open all year round and offers a number special events
offered including a fall Arts and Crafts festival and gardening
workshops; there is also a childrenós educational center which providing
the parks smaller visitors with a hands on introduction to the wild.
Bahia Honda State Park
makes the 13 acres of Bahia Honda State Park located in the big
pine key so special, is that it is the only island in the Florida
keys that can boast extensive sandy beaches and deep waters close
enough off shore as to provide visitors with exceptional swimming,
snorkeling and diving. The channel that lies between the old and
new Bahia Honda bridges, is the deepest natural channel of the area.
The park offers three camping areas,
with a total of 80 campsites. Most sites accommodate trailers or
tents, while the marina allows overnight docking for up to two weeks.
If your interests involve tarpon fishing or ocean fishing, you may
consider staying awhile and enjoying some of the best in the keys.
Otherwise there are plenty of leisure activities including hiking
along a nature trail that follows the shore of a tidal lagoon at
the far end of Sandspur Beach. Guided tours can point out some of
the unusual and rare plant life of the park, including the largest
remaining stands of the threatened silver palms in the United State.
The park grounds also provide a safe refuge for the endangered small-flowered
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