Here’s what to do in and around the towns encircling Lake Okeechobee. Often referred to as Florida’s inland sea, Lake Okeechobee is central to a region historically recognized for its agriculture. In recent times, it’s also renowned for superior fishing, boating, and trails due to efforts from organizations like the Wildlife Conservation Commission.
The second-largest freshwater lake entirely within U.S. boundaries, it’s contained by the Herbert Hoover Dike, built in 1928. Surrounding the dike, the fertile earth supports a lucrative sugarcane industry. Roads through the flatland outskirts, especially near Moore Haven, lead you amongst fluttering fronds of the sweet crops and the towns that thrive from them. Waterways on either side flow into the “Big O,” making it a part of the 152-mile Okeechobee Waterway, overseen by Fish and Wildlife Conservation.
Clewiston, on the 750 square-mile lake’s southern shore, offers the most to vacationers. Those keen on experiencing the lake’s legendary largemouth bass and speckled perch can seek guidance from the Florida Fish and Wildlife officials. The town also promotes its rich history through the annual Sugar Festival in April and offers a deep dive into its past at the Clewiston Museum. For nature enthusiasts, the Lake Okeechobee Scenic Trail provides breathtaking views of diverse birdlife. But the most adventurous souls might ponder a critical question: Can you swim in Lake Okeechobee amidst the 30,000 alligators, some several feet long? Wildlife officials advise against it due to the risks of alligator attacks.
Port Mayaca stands as another must-visit location, offering unique insights into the region’s natural beauty and historical significance. The Seminole Indians, who once depended on the lake for sustenance, named it “Big Water.” Today, visitors can explore their heritage at the Big Cypress Seminole Reservation. For those keen on understanding alligator dynamics, the million alligators in Florida, with a significant population in Lake Okeechobee, draw attention from researchers and thrill-seekers alike.
When planning a trip to Lake Okeechobee, remember it’s not just about the vast expanse of water. It’s about celebrating Florida’s rich farming heritage, understanding the crucial role of conservation, and immersing oneself in the wonders of nature.