Glades County Highpoint Trip Report

"Orange Grove Flats" (80+ ft)

Date: March 29, 2004
Author: John Mitchler

References: Venus & Venus SW topographic charts - sections 1,2,3-40s-29e; DeLorme page 100

In southern Florida west of Lake Okeechobee, this is a wonderful walk in open, flat terrain on remote public land which holds some of Florida's rarest wildlife. This is an amazing place. It provides a quality birding experience. Thank you Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission for the Platt Branch Mitigation Park which provides open space, a parking lot, and even trail guides to reach this highpoint.

Virgins are always interesting. This one required two visits, some Internet research, and a phone call. The Glades County highpoint consists of two areas along the south edge of the Glades-Highland county line (liners). Before going there, I studied maps to examine approaches from the east and south.

Once in the field, facts revealed themselves. On our first drive-by, we tried the obvious approach by Quarters Road (the east-west dirt road north of the highpoint in section 25 - see topo) but we found it was blocked by large warning signs. Much to my joy, I found an unmarked road which serves the public land in sections 34 and 35. I recorded the contact information and did some research so that on our return visit we confidently walked out to the highpoint. Access to the highpoint is off US 27 (FL 25) which runs through the center of the state.

From the south, drive north on FL 29 or US 27 until these two roads converge. From that point, drive north on US 27. Note a bend in the highway at mile 2.8 and turn left (west) at mile 7.0 off US 27 on to Detjens Dairy Road (CR 17). Drive north on this paved road, noting the county line at mile 0.8 and a dirt road and buildings on the left (west) at mile 1.3. Continue on to mile 2.2 and turn left (west) into a parking lot.

From the north, drive south on US 27 from FL 70 for a bit more than 10 miles and watch for CR 731. Turn right (west) on to CR 731 and drive 1.2 miles to Detjens Dairy Road, crossing a railroad just before the turn left (south). Drive south on Detjens Dairy Road for an additional 1.3 miles to the parking lot on the right (west).

About 0.3 mile before the parking lot, note gravel Quarters Road on the right (west) which goes to sections 25 and 26. If you took that road, after 0.4 mile there is a large warning sign for Placid Farms Road that prevents even the most steely trespasser from continuing. Avoid Quarters Road altogether.

From the small parking lot along Detjens Dairy Road (CR 17), hike west along a good gravel road for a mile to an information board. Actually the "good gravel" is shells, likely quarried from ancient sea deposits found in the region. Some park information indicates that the public was once allowed to drive to this board. Apparently the gate is open weekdays but 4WD abuse has restricted public vehicular access. Pick up a trail map at the information board.

To ensure that my directions are accurate, I overlaid a combination of the topo map, the trail guide, and an aerial photo from their Internet site. I noted landmarks, boundaries, and trails to determine an exact route to the highpoint. The park's boundary has changed with the recent addition of 260 acres and that added to the challenge. After walking one mile from the parking lot, follow the trail (which can be an overgrown road) south. Watch for a large pine on the right (east) at the section line for 35 & 36. The road base becomes gravel and sand, not shells, at the center of section 35. In the south half of section 35, about 1 mile from the information board, the main trail/road turns right (west) and continues into section 34 and even section 33. Instead of following the main trail west, follow faint trails southwest or bushwhack through the pleasantly natural terrain. The goal is to walk south to the good fence that forms the Glades-Hendry county line.

Once you reach the fence, follow it west for a mile over relatively flat land. Past the center of section 34 the land drops off noticeably towards the swamp in section 33. Although this drop is only 20' it is fairly obvious, especially with the fence acting as a level guide. Looking back east, the rise of the fence is obvious.

The highest ground in Glades County is in sections 2 & 3, south of the fence along sections 34 & 35. The land south of the fence slopes uniformly away so the the highest ground is near the fence. Visitors can confirm this with their own exploration.

A visit to the eastern area along the fence is not needed as the relief there is not as much as in sections 2 & 3. The southeast corner of section 35 is the junction of the county line fence with a fence that forms the section line for 35 & 36. Walking east along the county line fence will bring you to the ranch road in section 31 and eventually to CR 17 after 2 miles.

About Platt Branch Mitigation Park - This former cattle ranch is a 1,710 acre restorative park that holds rare plant communities (xeric oak scrub, cutthroat seeps, etc.) and rare wildlife (red-cockaded woodpecker, scrub jays, giant tortoise, cranes, caracarra, and Sherman's fox squirrel). Old oak and cypress with drooping moss are at the far west edge of the park.

Questions? Call Steve Shattler, a FWC biologist who knows this park well, at (863) 465-6722. The highpoint of Glades Co. is part of the Likes Brothers Ranch which, at 300,000 acres, contributes to being the 5th largest ranch in the USA. I think they make hot dogs.

There is some conservation use on this land by the state of Florida.

What is Mitigation - When developers wipe out natural terrain for malls and housing, they can "mitigate" the affect by donating other quality land to Florida for conservation purposes. This program serves wildlife and highpointers well.

Warning: The south boundary does flood and the land surface can be underwater during the sheet-flow rains of June.

Hike statistics - 6 mile round-trip walk with 20 feet of gain on the return.