Autumn is most welcome this year as we officially mark the end of "hurricane season." Park visitors and returning campers will note changes in the park landscape in the wake of Hurricane Irma and are reminded that Cypress Swamp Trail remains closed due to the large amount of damage from the storm. Visitors may also note that prescribed burning has resumed with the end of the summer rainy season and the beginning of the dry season. With the more optimal weather conditions, an important resource management goal following Hurricane Irma is the removal of organic debris and the increased fuel load resulting from the many downed trees and limbs on the ground in heaviliy forested areas within the park and our adjacent management units. Prescribed burns are being conducted by Highlands Hammock burn crews with the assistance of Western firefighters who are being trained by Florida Park Service staff to burn in Florida. Visitors are advised that they may see residual smoke in "blackened" areas where burns have taken place.
Visitors should also be aware that the Loop Road and all of the other nature trails are open with the exception of Cypress Swamp. Fall is the perfect time to take a hike and enjoy the cooler temperatures, blazing asters, flowering grasses and migratory birds. The campgrounds are becoming busy, particularly on the weekends, so it is advisable for campers to secure reservations in advance from now through early spring. The park's ever popular tram tours are now operated by the Hammock Inn Concessionaire which is open daily from 9:00 am to 5:00 pm. Firewood, ice, bike rentals and gift items may be purchased at the Hammock Inn in addition to the tram tickets. For more information, call the Hammock Inn at (863) 402-0061. For information about upcoming events such as the Music in the Park concerts, nature walks, 5K runs, and other special events, click on Events on the sidebar of the Highlands Hammock webpage. For general information, please call the Ranger Station at (863) 386-6094.