Lake Osprey and the Scrubby Flatlands

A view of Lake Osprey with people dotted along the shore.

Lake Osprey is an artificial lake that attracts thousands of people throughout the year, and it's the only freshwater swimming lake in Sarasota County. The lake is next to the park’s nature center and one of the two picnic areas. Although human made, Lake Osprey provides habitat for many native fish species, including the largemouth bass – the official freshwater fish of Florida – and bluegill. The lake is also home to channel catfish, which the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission introduced to the lake in 1997 to increase recreational fishing.

The lake is also very close to multiple hiking trails that provide access to some of Florida's natural habitats. The park’s scrubby flatwoods are home to many native species that depend upon this environment, including the Florida scrub-jay. This beautiful blue bird is found only in the state of Florida, where it lives among the lower shrubs rather than the taller pine trees.

Oscar Scherer State Park performs prescribed fire as a natural resource that mimics Florida's lightening activity but in a more controlled environment. The fire helps clear away taller vegetation that would otherwise crowd out the shrubs normally found in scrubby flatwoods. Many of the plants and animals within Oscar Scherer, including the Florida scrub-jay and native gopher tortoises, rely on this prescribed burning.