One of Florida's oldest parks, opening to the public in 1931, Highlands Hammock was established when local citizens came together to promote the hammock as a candidate for national park status. During the Great Depression, prior to World War II, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) developed additional park facilities and the beginnings of a botanical garden. Acquired by the state in 1935, it has grown over the years and now has 15 distinct natural communities in its more than 9,000 acres that include large tracts of pine flatwoods, hydric hammock, cypress swamp, and baygall. Several of the communities are designated as imperiled or of concern, such as the Florida scrub, scrubby flatwoods, and cutthroat seep. It is one of the highest ranking parks in Florida for endemic biodiversity. The park is known for its beautiful old-growth hammock and thousand year old oaks. Ferns and air plants are abundant. Black bear and the Florida panther tread softly through the hammock and may be glimpsed occasionally. An elevated boardwalk with an historic catwalk traverses cypress swamp, and visitors may observe alligators, birds and other wildlife. Many visitors enjoy bicycling the scenic three mile loop drive or hiking the park's nine nature trails. Picnicking, bird-watching, and ranger-guided tours of the park are other popular activities. The tram tour, which is fully accessible, allows visitors the unique opportunity to view birds, alligators, turtles, deer and other wildlife relatively close-up, in areas of the park that are restricted to public access. Catch-and-release fishing and picnicking are available at the nearby Seven Lakes management unit. Highlands Hammock provides a full-facility campground, as well as a youth / group tent campground. A recreation hall is available for rental, as are several picnic pavilions. A museum showcasing the history of the CCC is open from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Highlands Hammock is located on Hammock Road (County Road 634), four miles west of U.S. 27 in Sebring.
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