Places We Protect

Tiger Creek Preserve


A patch of submerged orange vegetation in Tiger Creek with lush green plants along the banks.
Tiger Creek The blackwater stream that gives the preserve its name is part of the northern Everglades, winding through a hiker’s paradise. © Ralph Pace
CCI Center for Conservation Initiatives © TNC

Tiger Creek Preserve is one of four campus preserves under TNC Florida’s Center for Conservation Initiatives, advancing conservation through education and training, outreach and volunteerism, science and research, and land stewardship. Learn more.



Tiger Creek Preserve is a place of mystery and contrasts. It sits on the eastern edge of the Lake Wales Ridge, one of Florida’s ancient islands. Separated from the mainland long ago by a shallow sea, the Ridge is peninsular Florida’s oldest and highest landmass.

Fast forward to the present day, this ancient separation is the reason why the preserve has one of the highest concentrations of threatened and endangered plants and animals in the country. Some exist nowhere else on Earth.

Over 10 miles of hiking trails are open year-round, offering visitors an ever-changing array of wildflower blooms, wildlife viewing possibilities and opportunities to enjoy the solace of nature. Named after the pristine blackwater stream that forms its spine, the preserve contains hardwood swamps, hammocks, scrubby flatwoods, pine flatwoods, sandhill and longleaf pine/wiregrass habitat. It’s a land that must be burned in order to survive, and one where some animals literally swim through ancient white sands.




Hiking trails open year-round during daylight hours.


Visitors might spot a bald eagle, swallow-tailed kite, a red-shouldered hawk or a red kestrel flying overhead. On the ground, keep an eye out for the gopher tortoise and its burrows.


4,980 acres

Explore our work in Florida

Journey to the Ancient Island (5:49) The preserve is home to one of the highest concentrations of threatened and endangered plants and animals in the country. Enjoy the preserve's biodiversity on this virtual tour through hardwood swamps, hammocks, flatwoods, sandhill and longleaf pine/wiregrass habitat.

Photos from Tiger Creek Preserve

Tag your preserve visits on Instagram with #TigerCreekPreserve to have your photos featured here!

Two hikers standing among vegetation and trees at Tiger Creek Preserve.
Bald eagle feeding young on Tiger Creek Preserve.
Swallow-tailed kite soars through the sky above Tiger Creek Preserve.
Feay's Palaflox growing wild on Tiger Creek Preserve.
Vegetation grows on the banks of Tiger Creek  at Tiger Creek Preserve.
Vivid red coral bean growing on Tiger Creek Preserve.
Gopher tortoise on the ground at Tiger Creek Preserve.
Longleaf pine trees stretch to the sky at Tiger Creek Preserve.
Barred owlet in a tree cavity on Tiger Creek Preserve.
Purple wildflowers in bloom at Tiger Creek Preserve.

Visit Tiger Creek Preserve

  • Tiger Creek is a high-quality blackwater seepage stream, so called because it drains wetlands. The vegetation that falls into the creek colors the water and appears like tiger stripes, giving the preserve its name.

    The preserve protects various Florida habitats: hardwood swamps and hammocks, scrub and pine flatwoods, and sandhills. The preserve is home to rare animals and plants including swallow-tailed kites, bald eagles, gopher tortoises, Lewton’s polygala and Carter’s mustard.

    Please download the iNaturalist and eBird apps to record your findings at the preserve. By recording and sharing your observations, you’ll create research quality data for scientists working to better understand and protect nature.

  • The preserve is open sunrise to sunset. The trails are directly accessible at three entrances: the Pfundstein and Cooley Trails are accessible from Pfundstein Road, and the Wakeford Trail is accessible from Wakeford Road. See the trail map for details.

    NOTE: All trails go through soft sand and are narrow in places, so therefore are not accessible by visitors with strollers or wheelchairs.

  • Paper brochures with trail maps are available at trailhead kiosks. You can also download a georeferenced map to your smart phone that shows you exactly where you are on the trail. Please be mindful of these hiking tips:

    • All trails are marked in both directions with colored blazes on trees and signs.
    • Two blazes on a tree means pay attention! The trail is changing direction.
    • Stay on blazed trails: they cross service roads that are NOT marked or intended for hiking, so keep track of where you are. If you don’t see any blazes, backtrack to where you last saw them to get back on the hiking trail.
    • Watch your footing: trails have uneven ground, exposed roots, and stumps.
    • Consider your physical condition when planning your hike. Two miles per hour is a common hiking pace.

    If you get lost, follow these important steps:

    • Retrace your steps until you come to a blaze and then observe closely for the correct route.
    • Beware of unmarked service roads which rarely take you where you expect them to! Please stick to the trails.
    • Call TNC staff for help. The phone number is listed on the trail map.
    • Three hiking trails available totaling 10.6 miles of foot trails.
    • Information kiosks available with paper trail maps and bird list.
    • Benches provided for rest and relaxation along the hiking trails.
    • Bridge across Tiger Creek with elevated wooden boardwalks over wetland areas.
    • No restrooms or trash cans available at the trailheads so plan ahead: pack it in, pack it out.
    • Enjoy views of Tiger Creek at the oxbow overlooks on the Creek Bluffs Loop Trail.
    • Observation platform on the edge of Heron Pond.

    Go green! Download our trail reference guides here:

  • To minimize disturbance to state protected and endangered species that call the preserve home, please follow these important guidelines:

    • Pets are not allowed.
    • Swimming, fishing, hunting, biking, motor vehicles, drones, and collecting are not allowed.
    • Trails are open to foot traffic only.
    • Visitors should stay on marked trails.
    • Please carry out all garbage; do not litter.
    • Take only pictures, leave only footprints, kill only time.
    • NOTE: Please be especially careful when using the trail during bald eagle nesting season from October 1 to May 15. Eagles and their young can become restless or distracted by people stopping, standing, or sitting near the nest. At times it may be necessary to close the trail to protect the nest and nestlings.

August 2023 Update

Tiger Creek Preserve has joined The Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail, a network of more than 500 premier wildlife viewing sites across the state that encourage conservation of Florida’s native habitats and species. The preserve is just one of 14 new sites selected statewide for inclusion in the Trail, and is the only location in Polk County. To be listed among the official Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail destinations is a recognition of the outstanding wildlife viewing, educational and public access opportunities available at a site.

The Trail is a program of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, supported in part by the Florida Department of Transportation and the Fish and Wildlife Foundation of Florida, and offers beautiful habitats, native birds, butterflies, and iconic Florida wildlife.

Two people look through binoculars.
Get Involved Explore opportunities to volunteer and attend events at the preserve. © Roberto Gonzalez

Get Involved

Learn more about volunteer opportunities at Tiger Creek Preserve and educational programs and community outreach.

To have the latest information on volunteering, educational opportunities, programs and activities sent to your email inbox, we invite you to subscribe to our Center for Conservation Initiatives (CCI) e-newsletter.

Historic black-and-white portrait of Edward W. Bok, founder of Bok Tower Gardens.
Edward W. Bok Founder of Bok Tower Gardens, originally dreamed of protecting Tiger Creek Preserve. © Bok Tower Gardens


In the 1920s, Edward Bok, the founder of Bok Tower Gardens, first set his eyes on protecting Tiger Creek. Plans were made but didn’t come to fruition. Years later, then President of Bok Tower Gardens, Ken Morrison, learned of Edward Bok’s dream while going through historical documents. He worked with George Cooley and they inspired community members to follow through on that long-deferred dream.

In 1971, TNC joined with the local community to protect Tiger Creek and its surrounding uplands. Today, TNC owns and manages the 4,980-acre preserve.

Tiger Creek Preserve is a critical link in a network of preserves designed to protect what is left of the Lakes Wales Ridge ecosystem. The oldest physical feature of peninsular Florida, the Ridge is a national hotspot of biological diversity and Tiger Creek Preserve is home to fascinating species. The preserve’s sandy soil also serves a critical role in water recharge.

Tiger Creek is home to two high-quality, seepage blackwater streams including Patrick Creek. A seepage stream gets its water from the surrounding uplands; the blackwater comes from the leaching of tannins from falling vegetation. Only two or three such streams with an intact hardwood floodplain exist in Florida.

Explore Other CCI Campus Preserves in Florida

Need more nature? Visit TNC’s other Center for Conservation Initiatives’ campus preserves in Florida.

Find More Places We Protect

TNC owns nearly 1,500 preserves covering more than 2.5 million acres across all 50 states. These lands protect wildlife and natural systems, serve as living laboratories for innovative science and connect people to the natural world.

See the Complete Map

Support Places Like Tiger Creek Preserve

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