Discover the Beauty of Circle B Bar Reserve

Photo by Ken Berquist
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Discover the Beauty of Circle B Bar Reserve

If you’re a nature enthusiast looking for a pristine natural retreat, Circle B Bar Reserve is the place to be. Located on the northwest shore of Lake Hancock, this former cattle ranch has transformed into a stunning 1,267-acre nature reserve, boasting diverse ecosystems and abundant wildlife. Circle B Bar Reserve, jointly acquired by Polk County and the Southwest Florida Water Management District in December 2000, serves as a sanctuary for valuable water and wildlife resources while also supporting the restoration of the Banana Creek marsh system.

Temporary Trail Closures

Before planning your visit, be aware that certain trails may be temporarily closed for environmental management and safety purposes. To stay updated on trail closures, you can contact the Polk County Parks and Natural Resources Division at 863-668-4673 or check the location map and additional information on

Embrace Nature’s Rules

As a nature reserve, Circle B Bar Reserve values the well-being of its resident wildlife. To help protect the flora and fauna, visitors are kindly requested to follow some basic rules while exploring the reserve:

  • No pets allowed
  • No balloons
  • No music

Let’s respect the tranquility of nature and allow everyone to enjoy the beauty it offers on its own.

Activities for Nature Enthusiasts

Whether you’re a hiker, photographer, or simply someone seeking a peaceful escape into nature, Circle B Bar Reserve has something special for you.


The reserve offers a series of maintained, marked trails of varying lengths. Take a leisurely half-mile hike to Lake Hancock, where you’re almost guaranteed to spot alligators and other fascinating wildlife. Don’t rush and take your time to absorb the natural wonders around you.


Calling all photography and painting enthusiasts! Circle B Bar Reserve provides countless opportunities to capture the stunning beauty of nature. With an abundance of birds and insects, it’s a favorite location for nature artists. Remember to practice proper etiquette when photographing wildlife and plants, ensuring the safety of both you and your subjects.

Photos courtesy of Around Winter Haven Neighbors Member: Ken Berquist

Facilities at Circle B Bar Reserve

The reserve offers convenient facilities to enhance your visit:

  • Picnic Shelters: Enjoy a peaceful outdoor meal at one of the five covered picnic areas with grills, available on a first-come, first-served basis. Two shelters are conveniently located near the entrance, while three others are situated around the Discovery Center.
  • Restrooms: Restrooms are available inside the Discovery Center during operating hours. Additionally, a portable restroom is accessible southwest of the parking lots at all times.
  • Parking: Circle B Bar Reserve offers paved parking with handicapped-accessible areas, as well as grassy spaces for visitors.

Explore the Trails and Natural Communities

Circle B Bar Reserve presents an array of trails that will lead you through different natural communities. Here are some of the trails you can explore:

  • Shady Oak Trail (1.3 miles, Easy, Shaded): This trail takes you through an oak hammock, providing a chance to observe various wildlife species amid beautiful oak trees, Spanish moss, and ferns.
  • Lost Bridge Trail (0.5 miles, Easy, Mostly Shaded): Enjoy a walk through an oak canopy and across a long boardwalk that offers a unique experience of “walking on water” through the swamp. The trail also passes by old cattle pens, a reminder of the reserve’s past.
  • Alligator Alley (1 mile, Easy, Mostly Shaded): Similar to the Lost Bridge Trail, this path leads you through an oak canopy and a boardwalk. Keep an eye out for alligators and other fascinating creatures.
  • Marsh Rabbit Run (0.7 miles, Easy, Partially Shaded): This trail takes you past a shallow marsh where you can spot various wading birds and other wildlife. Keep an eye out for otters and turtles basking in the sun.
  • Heron Hideout (0.5 miles, Easy, Little Shade): Cross the marsh on this trail, and you’ll have the option to return to the Discovery Center or proceed to the marsh for more bird-watching opportunities.
  • Eagle Roost (0.7 miles, Moderate, No Shade): This trail leads you through an uphill habitat undergoing restoration. Keep an eye out for reptiles and birds like bobwhite quails and American kestrels. Remember to bring water on hot summer days.
  • Wading Bird Way (0.7 miles, Moderate, No Shade): Running along the marsh system’s deepest waters, this trail offers fantastic wildlife observations, especially of great blue herons, great egrets, and migratory wading birds.
  • Windmill Whisper (0.4 miles, Moderate, Some Shade): This trail takes you through an oak hammock and connects to Wading Bird Way and Shady Oak Trail.
  • Otter Trail (0.2 miles, Easy, Shaded): This short trail connects the Otter parking lot to the main parking lot at the Discovery Center.

Wildlife and Natural Communities

Circle B Bar Reserve is home to a rich variety of wildlife and diverse natural communities, including:

  • Oak Hammock: This habitat features large oaks adorned with Spanish moss and resurrection ferns, providing shade and shelter for a plethora of wildlife.
  • Freshwater Wetlands: Scattered seasonal marshes teem with insects and reptiles, attracting wading birds and alligators.
  • Banana Creek Marsh: The restored marsh area now offers nesting and foraging sites for various bird species.
  • Wildlife: Keep your eyes peeled for alligators, eagles, osprey, hawks, owls, wood storks, herons, ibis, sandhill cranes, moorhens, grebes, stilts, woodpeckers, quails, meadowlarks, sparrows, kestrels, sandpipers, spoonbills, ducks, waterfowl, otters, bobcats, grey foxes, armadillos, squirrels, frogs, turtles, snakes, and numerous migratory birds during winter months.

How to Get There

To reach Circle B Bar Reserve, follow these driving directions:

  • From the Polk Parkway: Take exit No. 10, then head south on U.S. 98 (Bartow Road). Turn east on Winter Lake Road (State Road 540) and travel approximately 2 miles to the reserve’s entrance on the south side of the road.
  • From Bartow: Travel north on U.S. 98 (Bartow Road) and turn right on Winter Lake Road (State Road 540).
  • From Winter Haven: Take State Road 540 (Winter Lake Road) west toward Lakeland. The entrance is about 5 miles west of Spirit Lake Road.

Immerse yourself in the wonders of nature at Circle B Bar Reserve. Whether you’re a hiker, wildlife enthusiast, or photography lover, this beautiful sanctuary has something extraordinary to offer you. Visit today and experience the serenity and beauty of Florida’s diverse ecosystems and fascinating wildlife.

Are you eager to witness stunning photography captured at Circle B Bar Reserve? If so, we invite you to join the Circle B Bar Reserve Photography Group on Facebook at . Explore and share the breathtaking beauty of this remarkable natural haven through the lens of fellow nature enthusiasts.

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