Monday — Sunday: 6:00 A.M. - 6:30 P.M.
5:30 A.M. - 8:00 P.M. — Daylight Savings Time
Polk's Nature Discovery Center Hours
Tuesday — Saturday: 9 A.M. - 4 P.M.
Sunday: 12 P.M. - 4 P.M.
I'm part of a large following of Photographers on Instagram, and recently I've been seeing everyone posting images from Circle B Bar Reserve and knew that I had to make this location a priority on my list of places to go. So yet again, we packed up the car and headed out for a hike. I was a little worried that we were getting a late start, after all I am traveling with my 2 favorite teenagers and getting them up early for a hike is not an easy task. Now...I have to be honest, I have been on I4 (a major highway that connects Orlando to Tampa) several times but had no idea what was in between Tampa and Orlando. Typically, as most people do, we jump on I4 and head right to the west coast not even thinking about the small towns in between. Well, I have to tell you, Circle B Bar Reserve is in between, and yes, it is a wonderful reserve worth the stop. From door to door we made it there in 1 hour. As always, I jump out of the car, strap on my camera, clean my telephoto lens, grab hubby and my 2 teens and we head out
So exactly what is Circle B Bar Reserve? Well, it was named after the cattle ranch that once existed on the property. In 2005 and 2006, the Polk County Environmental Lands Program along with the District, began the long process of restoring the land. The focus of the project was to protect the floodplain of Lake Hancock and restore the Banana Creek marsh system. As a result of this effort Circle B is now home to several species of animals, both native, and non native animals who use the reserve as their second home during the winter months. Circle B encompasses over 1267 acres of land. While the focus is nature and conservation, they have tons of activities for everyone to enjoy including picnic pavilions, trails, biking, hiking, bird watching, fishing and a brand new educational center that sits right at the entrance to the reserve.
Kids are going to love the Polk County Nature Discovery Center. Built in 2008 the discovery center provides a place where kids are free to touch, crawl, climb, and explore all while learning about the animals who call this place home, and the importance of conservation. The discovery center also provides a nice place to sit and relax in the AC as well as, clean restrooms, a theater, a visitors desk, and a library. It was such a nice place to play, my 13 year old could not resist climbing on the massive oak tree, and taking a ride on a full size replica of an alligator. The best thing about Circle B Bar Reserve is that it's FREE, that's right...FREE, you can spend an entire day right here, and not spend a dime.
Tips for hiking...
Florida's unpredictable weather and natural environment can sometimes make for dangerous and harsh hiking conditions. Here are a few tips to keep in mind.
- Always bring water, any time of the year
- Waterproof trail sneakers, or hiking boots are the best
- Polarized sunglass will help to protect eyes from UV rays
- Insect repellant must be worn regardless of time of year
- Bring a hat, some trails offer little to NO shade
- Always hike with a friend
- Keep track of the time, you don't want to hike in the dark
- Grab a trail map from the visitors center
- Pack something light to eat, you will be burning calories
- Bring a poncho for hiking in the summer
- Bring a pair of binoculars
- Hike quietly as to not scare the wildlife
- Stay on the marked trails do not wander off of the trails. Keep in mind that alligators often make nests in the tall grasses just off of the banks. You definitely do not want to stumble on that! YEIKS.
Wildlife Photography Tips...
Here are some tips for you to think about when trying to shoot wildlife photography. The key to this type of photography is practice makes perfect and patience is very important.
- Bring a telephoto lens with you. I use a 50-210mm
- Arrive early to get the most amount of wildlife
- It is better to use a higher speed than normal
- Take advantage of "burst" mode, so you can shoot multiple images at a time
- Be silent, and be still. Bring a tripod or monopod
- Patience will get you the shot you want
- Bring a waterproof camera bag, just in case of rain
- Use a friend as a second set of eyes
- Look to the sky, many interesting birds are actually flying above or are perched high in the trees
- Try to compose your shot in an interesting way. Shoot from above, below or through something like a bush, branches or a tree.
- The environment is just as important as the animal
- Try to get some action, this will require you to sit and wait for action to happen. I promise it is worth the wait
Animals Who Call Circle B Home...
Didn't take long for this Great Blue Heron to catch his meal