Crooked Lake Sandhill
You'll be sure to enjoy the self-guided trail through a magnificent savanna and an open, airy, pine forest that makes up the endangered sandhill ecosystem. At one point you're 215 feet above sea level with a spectacular view of Crooked Lake, and at another you've dropped off steeply into the depression of an old sinkhole. You can almost always find wildflowers in bloom, with fall being the most colorful time of year.
Owned and managed by Polk County through their Environmental Lands Program, this site was acquired in January 1999 as one of several natural areas purchased to protect important habitat within Polk County. Crooked Lake Sandhill is one of the best remaining examples of the sandhill ecosystem in Polk County. At only 25 acres, this site shelters an impressive number of rare species. The property appears to have escaped logging and is considered "old growth," with some trees thought to be 200 years old.
The 0.8-mile self-guided trail contains numbered stations to help you learn more about Crooked Lake Sandhill. Many old-growth longleaf pines contribute to the beauty and historic value of the site. The understory contains abundant native grasses and is home to many endangered and threatened plant species. Elevation of the trail ranges from 165 to 215 feet above sea level, providing a treat from the typical flat Florida landscape.
From the parking lot, an easy walk down the Turkey Oak Sink Trail brings you to a picnic area.
Turkey Oak Sink Trail — (0.8 miles, Moderate, Some Shade)
An easy walk from the parking lot brings you to a picnic area. The trail travels beneath turkey oaks through the loose sand footing of the sandhill savanna where the trail loops down into the depression of an old sinkhole and back up to a spectacular vantage point overlooking Crooked Lake. Portions of this trail have steep elevation changes.
An open landscape dominated by grasses and wildflowers, the Lake Wales Ridge sandhill features a scattered overstory of longleaf pine and turkey oak. The yellow-sand soils and high elevation contain many endangered plant species.
Four rare animals thrive here: gopher tortoises, eastern indigo snakes, sand skinks and scrub lizards. Look toward the trees to spot woodpeckers, an occasional osprey and the resident screech owls. You may even see a more common skink trying to blend in with the oak trees bark.
Sandhill ecosystems are one of the systems found along the central Florida ridge, Ocala, Lake Wales and Lakeland ridges. Like all pine communities, fire is needed to maintain the system. This habitat occupies the highest points along the ridges and is characterized by having cream to clay colored (yellow) sand. Once the most abundant ecosystem on Florida central ridges, the sandhill community has largely been converted to different uses. Characteristic sandhill trees include longleaf pine, Pinus palustris, broad leaf trees like turkey oak, Quercus laevis, bluejack or upland willow oak, Q. incana. Herbaceous plants include dog banana, Asimina reticulata, florida paintbrush, Carphephorus corymbosum and sky blue lupine, Lupinus diffuses.
Crooked Lake Sandhill is located just south of Babson Park.
From US 27:
Turn east on CR 640. Continue south on SR 17 through Babson Park. Turn right onto Hollister Road. The entrance is located at the intersection of Wes Mann Road and Hollister Road.
1001-1399 Hollister Rd.
Babson Park, FL 33827
Hours of Operation
6 a.m. — 6:30 p.m. (Standard Time)
5:30 a.m. — 8 p.m. (Daylight Savings Time)