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Shingle Creek Regional Park

Shingle Creek Steffee Homestead
Shingle Creek Steffee Homestead

Many people who travel along the busy US 192 Irlo Bronson Highway in Kissimmee to and from the theme parks do not realise that they are just a stones throw away from the real Central Florida. Osceola County and the City of Kissimmee opened up the Shingle Creek Regional Park in 2009.

It stretches several miles along the Shingle Creek and eventually will encompass over 1,000 acres. It provides an oasis of beauty and calm amongst the hustle and bustle of the surrounding restaurants, discount outlets and strip malls.

It is open year round, typically from 8:00 am but closing times vary by season.

There is ongoing building work in an effort to connect the various parts of the park into one contiguous unit so some parts may not be accessible on your visit but it is possible to drive to different sections of the park and then explore from there. With the exception of the Osceola County Historical Society Pioneer Village, everything is free.

Shingle Creek Regional Park provides a tranquil diversion from all the hustle and bustle of the theme parks in Central Florida

Shingle Creek Regional Park starts at the bottom (southern) end of S Bass Road and continue north towards Babb Landing.

Gopher Preserve

At the end of S Bass Road you will find some of the natural Florida habitat including native palm trees and the Spanish moss that hangs from the large Live Oak trees. There is a walking/running track, exercise machines, a large children’s adventure playground, picnic benches, BBQs and a Gopher Tortoise preserve where you might catch a glimpse of the endangered Gopher Tortoise.

Heading north, back up Bass Road, you will come to the former location of the Osceola County Historical Society Pioneer Village on your left. These buildings were moved to Babb Landing in the fall of 2014.

Mary Kendall Steffee Nature Preserve

On the opposite side to the road is another entrance to the Shingle Creek Regional Park, the Mary Kendall Steffee Nature Preserve. There is a 0.7 mile walking trail which takes you to the dark waters of the Shingle Creek river and the Steffee Homestead (no interior access), next to US 192 (can also be reached directly from 192).

Allow around 1 hour for the round trip and be prepared for mosquitoes.

If you are lucky you might spot Bald eagles, wild turkey, great blue herons, yellow-bellied slider turtles, white-tailed deer and river otters as well as many other birds and animals. The vegetation is varied with Live Oaks, Maples, Palmetto Palms and Cypress Swamps. Do not attempt to walk it if the boardwalks are under water.

At the Steffee Homestead it is now possible to hire kayaks, canoes, paddle boards or take a tour in a Duffy 18ft electric boat. From the boat ramp (no motor boats) you can paddle your own kayak or canoe upstream for around a mile towards Babb Park, or downstream. There is also an elevated cycling trail and fishing dock.

You can also hire bikes and camping gear.

Eventually it is hoped you will be able to walk under US 192 and continue on to Babb Landing at Babb Park over 1 mile away.

Babb Landing

Further on up Bass Road is a Walmart next to US 192. If you continue straight across US 192 onto Old Vineland Road you will see further signs for the Shingle Creek Regional Park which leads you to Babb Park and a group of citrus farm buildings, former home of the Babb family and their orange groves.

The old “Cracker” style buildings dating from around 1880 to 1900 of the Osceola County Historical Society Pioneer Village were moved here in the fall of 2014 to join a group of Seminole and Miccosukee Indian structures.

You can go inside buildings like the General Store, the Lanier Homestead, School House, Smoke House and Blacksmith Shop to get a real feel of what life was like for people living in Central Florida over 100 years ago.

You can take a guided tour or self-guided tour for $5 for adults and $2 for children. Pick up a map as it shows you the locations and trails for the rest of the park.

Osceola County Welcome Center and History Museum

Just east of the 192 and Bass Road junction on US 192, near Mile Marker 15 and the Shingle Creek Bus Stop, is the unassuming facade of the Osceola County Welcome Center and History Museum. Admission is free and there are loads of exhibits and dioramas with a lot of historical information about the local area.

Did you realise the water from Shingle Creek flows all the way down into the Everglades in South Florida? It is a major tributary of Lake Toho (Tohopekaliga) in Kissimmee which is the northernmost headwater of the Everglades. Through a chain of lakes it eventually reaches the enormous Lake Okeechobee, the largest freshwater lake in Florida.

The name Shingle Creek comes from the roof shingles made from the Cypress trees that line the creek.