IMPORTANT: Preview the map that the Army Corps of Engineers keeps updated regarding closures around the lake prior to hiking this section of the Florida Trail.
On a reconaissance drive around the lake during the Big O Hike, Sandra and John confirmed that all construction zones that were in place last year remain in place this year. No new ones and no changes. The Army Corps of Engineers contractors are actively removing sections of the dike and replacing them with a steel and concrete core. From signage at some of the work sites, this may take up to five more years. The project started a decade ago but only started kicking hikers off the dike in 2010. Fences block access to work areas, and there is no way around them – we looked carefully – except to roadwalk, since there are physical obstacles like deep canals or missing pieces of dike blocking any way around on the dike itself.
This ongoing construction project has, since 2010, now obliterated three designated campsites (with picnic shelters) on the east side of Lake Okeechobee: Bean City, Port Mayaca, and Nubbin Slough. On the west side, only the C-5A campsite has been rendered inaccessible. Although it’s not an official campsite, it is possible to camp beyond it at the boat ramp just beyond Fisheating Creek – there is a large dry grassy area – but be aware boaters come in and out of that park at all hours.
The city of Clewiston insisted on, and received, a special routing of the FNST around the construction area at Levee Park. Signage there is very confusing and unclear, but the walkway below, between the fences, is where you follow the trail heading northbound from Levee Park towards Liberty Point.
The west side of Okeechobee remains your best option, although roadwalks are still necessary from Lake Harbor to Clewiston and Uncle Joe’s Fish Camp to Fisheating Creek. If you have the Florida Trail Guide or FT app, these alternate roadwalks are detailed there.
Here is a visual overview of the closures and changes around Lake Okeechobee in late November 2017.
Trail angel Doug McCoy, based in Okeechobee, has changed his contact information. Cell number is now eight/six/three – six/one/zero – two/nine/two/five.