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Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Area

Kissimmee Chain of Lakes

Managed in cooperation with South Florida Water Management District (SFWMD).

The Kissimmee Chain of Lakes Area (KCOLA) spans 21,000 acres in Polk and Osceola counties, about 11 miles south of St. Cloud and nine miles east of Lake Wales. KCOLA includes numerous lakes, from Cypress Lake in the north to Lake Kissimmee in the south. The lakes are a part of the greater Kissimmee Chain of Lakes watershed, which originates in Orange County and forms the headwaters of the Kissimmee-Okeechobee-Everglades system. The watershed encompasses more than two dozen lakes, their tributary streams and the Kissimmee River.  Five units comprise KCOLA: North, Northwest Shore, Drasdo, East Shore Marshes and West Shore. The shallow lakes and associated marshes, wet prairies and pine flatwoods are important to deer, turkey, wading birds, wintering waterfowl, snail kites, bald eagles and sandhill and whooping cranes. Look for Florida scrub-jays on the Drasdo Unit. Numerous Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail sites are found within the KCOLA and throughout the watershed.

Historically, the region's waters were connected by broad waterways, streams, or sloughs and water levels fluctuated with the seasons. The construction of canals and other water control structures for flood control in the 1960s disrupted the natural water fluctuation and harmed the lakes and associated marshes. Development around the lakes and an increase in the nutrients flowing into them further disrupted the wetlands. The South Florida Water Management District is the lead agency coordinating a multi-partner effort to improve the health and sustainability of the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) administers hunting-related activities and works with local counties to create community fishing opportunities on several lakes designated as Fish Management Areas. Anglers reliably reel in catches of largemouth bass, bluegill, shellcracker and black crappie.

The units are open year round and have numerous access points. The only pedestrian access point is via a parking lot next to Thomas Landing. Access to the rest of the area is by boat only. The only canal owned by the South Florida Water Management District on KCOLA is the C-36 (the canal connecting Cypress Lake and Lake Hatchineha). All other canals area privately owned and posted as such. The September through April hunting seasons include opportunities for archery, crossbow, muzzleloading gun, general gun, small game, trapping and spring turkey. Hunting deer is prohibited in the Drasdo, East Shore Marshes and West Shore Units. Hunting with centerfire rifles is prohibited in the Northwest Shore, East Shore Marshes, West Shore and Drasdo Units. Quota permits are not required. A South Florida Water Management District Permit is required to access the Rough Island portion of the North Unit. Fishing, frogging and hunting wild hog are allowed year round. Public boat ramps are located throughout the area. Primitive camping is allowed on a first-come, first-served basis only at campsites designated by the SFWMD. See north area and south area camping maps for general locations of campsites. For specifics, contact the SFWMD Land Manager at 407-846-5226, ext 3574.

Rules Regarding Dogs

  • For purposes other than hunting, dogs are allowed by South Florida Water Management District Rules, but must be kept under physical restraint at all times.
  • Hunting deer and furbearers with dogs is prohibited. Wild hog may be hunted with dogs year round. Dogs on leashes may be used for trailing wounded game.

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