Fort Fraser Trail is 12-foot-wide, 7.75-mile long and runs parallel to U.S. Highway 98 from State Highway 60 (Van Fleet Drive) in Bartow to County Road 540 (Winter Lake Road) just beyond the PCC/USF campus in Lakeland. Hundreds of walkers, joggers, in-line skaters, bicyclists and others enjoy the trail each day. The trail is off-limits to motorized vehicles.
The trail is named after Fort Fraser, which was constructed in early November of 1837 by U.S. Army troops under the command of Lt. Col. William S. Foster. It was erected for the purpose of protecting a new military road used by the army during the Second Seminole War. The road was constructed concurrently with the fort and ran roughly west to east from Ft. Brooke (Tampa) and ended at the Kissimmee River. The construction of the road was the responsibility of the 1st US Infantry under the command of then Col. Zachary Taylor, who later became our nation’s 12th president. The fort itself was named for Captain Upton S. Fraser who was killed in the first battle of the war nearly two years earlier.
The Highland City Trailhead is located midway along the trail and has restroom facilities. The rest stop is one of three current trailheads where parking is available along the former CSX railroad line. The others, without restrooms, are located in Bartow adjacent to Office Depot, and at the PCC/USF campus behind the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Substation. In total there are five picnic shelters, six rest shelters, and three trestle bridges (Banana Creek, South, and Bear Creek) that many are using as turn-around landmarks to shorten exercise routes to one or two-mile walks.
Although the Fort Fraser Trail is open along its entire length, it remains a work in progress. Planting of trees and laying of sod in places along the trail is ongoing. Signs are in place with historical, geographical, cultural, and natural information about the region. Smaller round signs have proverbs, quotes and humor from various sources. Road crossing signs look like railroad crossing signs. Mile markers tell how far it is from the trail hub in Highland City. The trail does continue for a short distance south of SR 60 in Bartow, after a detour to cross the six lanes of SR 60 at a traffic light at Van Fleet Drive.
For a printable brochure of the Fort Fraser Trail, visit www.friendsoftheparks.net or click here. The Fort Fraser Trail is part of Polk Leisure Services' Trek Ten Trails. You can sign up at the Friends of the Parks site for "geocaching" at the trail.
Panther Point Trail’s First Phase Opens and is connected to Fort Fraser Trail
Polk County’s new Panther Point Trail northern phase is now open and ready for hikers, mountain bikers and nature enthusiasts.
This 5-mile section of the nature trail is the first phase of the project that is open to the public. Once completed, the entire trail will ultimately run 8.75 miles from the Marshall Hampton Reserve trailhead at 3115 Thornhill Road, Winter Haven to the Fort Fraser Trail on U.S. 98 South.
The first phase of the trail consists of 5 miles of a combination of natural and stabilized soils. The trail is suitable for hiking, jogging, wildlife viewing, nature photography, off road biking and horseback riding. Horseback riders must obtain a Special Use Permit by calling (863) 534-7377. Dogs are allowed on the trail, but must be on a leash.
At this time, Panther Point Trail has only one entrance; so it would be a maximum of 5 miles in and five miles back. The trail winds through oak hammocks, pastures, wetlands and manmade lakes, along the eastern side of Lake Hancock.
This is a remote trail with no facilities. All persons planning to hike the trail should be prepared with good walking shoes, water, insect spray and a cell phone. Wildlife in the area is abundant and there is a good potential for alligators to be present on the trail. All wildlife is protected and must not be disturbed.
The development of Panther Point Trail is a cooperative effort between the Southwest Florida Water Management District, the Florida Department of Transportation and Polk County Board of County Commissioners. For more information, please contact Polk County Parks & Natural Resources Division at 863-534-7377.