Experiences & Amenities
Paynes Creek Historic State Park is part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. The trail includes a network of 515 sites throughout Florida selected for their excellent bird-watching, wildlife viewing or educational opportunities.
The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail is a 2,000-mile, self-guided highway trail designed to conserve and enhance Florida's wildlife habitats by promoting birding and wildlife viewing activities, conservation education and economic opportunity.
The primitive youth group camping area is located near Paynes Creek and accommodates up to 30 tent campers.
- The campground includes a fire ring with benches, a portable toilet, a pavilion and picnic tables.
- No water or electric service is available.
- Reservations are required and tax-exempt status, if applicable, should be provided at the time of the reservation. Call the park for reservations at 863-375-4717.
- Hammock camping is allowed in this camping area.
Fishing is allowed in designated areas. Peace River will challenge the best angler. Fish commonly seen include largemouth bass, catfish and migrating snook. We encourage safe and responsible fishing activities. We also encourage the proper disposal of monofilament line and the use of recycle containers when available.
Visitors have access to three miles of hiking trails. These trails run along the steep banks of Paynes Creek and the Peace River, and travel through lush forest, open pine woods and, desert like, dry scrub.
- The trails will also take you to the former site of the ill-fated Kennedy and Darling Store, a trading post set up during the Seminole wars, the former site of Fort Chokonikla, and a monument placed at the gravesite of the men killed in the store.
- The park is located in the Polk Uplands, elevations vary from 50 to 100 feet above sea level. The trails follow gently sloping terrain and generally have a firm surface and are free of obstacles.
Paynes Creek Historic State Park is located near the center of the Peace River Paddling Trail, a designated Florida paddling trail. Compared to many Florida rivers, this section of the Peace River is relatively swift flowing. It has high banks and a limestone bottom, creating small shoals and rapids. Experienced and strong paddlers can paddle upstream from the canoe-kayak launch and return. However, less experienced paddlers, and those in search of a more relaxing trip, should plan on bringing two vehicles and staging one at a location downstream. A popular trip starts at the park canoe-kayak launch and ends at Crews Park, also known as Peace River Park or Wauchula Riverside Park, located on Main Street in the town of Wauchula. This is an easy paddle and takes three to four hours.
- The river is subject to flooding at times, especially during the late part of the rainy season, which lasts from June through September. Paddling is not recommended during high water events and the canoe-kayak launch may be closed. Please check the park website before beginning your trip.
- The park does not offer rental canoes or kayaks at this time.
Picnicking is a popular activity in the park. Shaded by live oaks and sweetgum, the picnic area is located near Paynes Creek and is the starting point for most of the park trails. Visitors have access to pavilions with picnic tables and stand-up grills, a playground and restroom facilities. Pavilions can be reserved by calling the park at 863-375-4717.
Visitors have access to three miles of trails for walking and running. The trails vary from flat, to gently sloping, with firm and even surfaces. They run along the steep banks of Paynes Creek and the Peace River, and travel through lush forest, open pine woods and, desert like, dry scrub.
Deer, bobcats, various snakes and lizards, alligators and beautiful butterflies can often be seen all year in the park's natural communities. Winter visitors can see numerous migratory bird species that make Paynes Creek their winter home.
On rare occasions, Florida black bear pass through and Florida panther sightings have been reported. We encourage visitors to share their wildlife sightings with park staff.
Paynes Creek Historic State Park is committed to providing a variety of amenities accessible to all of our visitors. These amenities include:
- Visitor center and museum.
- Interpretive exhibits.
- Picnic facilities with tables and grills.
Service animals are welcome in all areas of Florida State Parks.
In 1978, the sites Fort Chokonikla and the Kennedy and Darling store were added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.
During the 1840s, in the period following the Second Seminole War, the federal government set up a store at the point where Paynes Creek flows into the Peace River, to trade with the Seminoles. The store was attacked by a band of rogue Seminoles and Captain George Payne and Dempsey Whiddon were killed. Despite the assurances of the Seminoles that it would not happen again, all settlers in the area were moved into of a series of fortified settlements, including Fort Chokonikla. Several Florida cities, such as Fort Lauderdale and Fort Pierce, still bear the names of these forts.
The sites of the fort and store also show evidence of human occupation going back many thousands of years
In 1895, a monument was placed at the grave sites of Payne and Whiddon, both killed in the attack on the store. While the store and the fort are now gone, visitors can still see the monument.
The visitor center offers a self-guided tour of the park's cultural history. The exhibits provide visitors with an intimate experience of the historical events that placed the sites of Fort Chokonikla and the Kennedy and Darling Store on the National Registry of Historic Places.
We allow pets and require they remain on leash. Pet waste disposal bags are available and we encourage their use. Pets are not allowed in the visitor center. Service animals are allowed in all areas of the park.
- See our Pet Policy.
The visitor center offers a self-guided tour of the park's cultural history. The exhibits provide visitors with an intimate experience of the historical events that placed Fort Chokonikla and the Kennedy and Darling Store on the National Registry of Historic Places.
- Ranger programs are available for both natural and cultural interpretive programs with reservation.
- Call the park office at 863-375-4717 to plan a guided tour or schedule educational programs for school groups.