Arbuckle Creek... Remote and Beautiful Paddling at a Bombing Range (really)
Arbuckle Creek flows for 25 miles from Lake Arbuckle to Lake Istokpoga (the 5th largest in Florida). The diverse habitat includes cypress swamp, grass prairie, ranchlands, and oak hammock. The upper creek runs along the border of Avon Park Bombing Range but not to worry, the range is far from the creek. This proximity helps keep the creek natural. The lower creek is less natural including a manmade channel. The water is drawn down on Lake Istokpoga in the spring, causing low water levels on the creek, August to March are the best times for paddling. (Detailed map and photos below.)
The 3 miles from Arbuckle Road to Lake Arbuckle are the most scenic, we paddled this stretch. The water was high with a swift current so we tended to paddle close to the banks and cypress knees. Large cypress trees and forest line the entire way. This is a remote paddle, with just one house at the launch for the entire 3 mile trip to Lake Arbuckle. Not many, but possibility of motorboats (we encountered one airboat on this trip).
Arriving at Lake Arbuckle on the right is a ramp that from the water appeared to be a public launch but in fact is part of the military base and not open to the public. On the left is Camp Arbuckle, a private facility with camping, fishing and a fee launch. On the northern shore of the lake is a Polk County campground with boat ramp, picnic, restrooms - contact Polk County Parks and Recreation for information and fees.
A portion of the bombing range is open for public recreation depending on military operations in progress. More about the Avon Park Bombing Range Outdoor Recreation Program.
Wildlife along the creek include deer, wild turkeys, wild hogs, black bear, alligators, bald eagle, and wading birds. Wear orange during the winter hunting season as the wildlife management area is popular with hunters. Fishing is abundant on the creek and lakes.
More information on paddling at Arbuckle Creek (opens in a new window):
Paddling in Florida - Kayak, Canoe
Sebring Kayak Tours