Open to the Public
Visitors might spot a bald eagle, swallow-tailed kite or red-tailed hawk flying overhead. View All
Explore Tiger Creek's hiking trails. View All
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.
Visitors who get up close and watch very carefully will see one of the highest concentrations of threatened and endangered plants and animals in the country. Some exist nowhere else on Earth! Will you help us protect them?
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.
View a Natural Events calendar to see when you may catch a glimpse of some of these rare species; enjoy seasonal wildflowers and blooming grasses; or anticipate the return of the swallow-tailed kite.
Central Florida, just south of Lake Wales - 674 Pfundstein Road, Babson Park, FL
The preserve is open to the public during daylight hours.
For more information about visiting or volunteering, contact the preserve office at (863) 635-7506.
Why the Conservancy Selected this Site
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 itself is a high-quality, seepage blackwater stream. 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.
What the Conservancy Has Done to Preserve the Site
The Conservancy has protected almost the entire course of Tiger Creek. We carefully maintain and improve habitat for the preserve’s many rare species, especially with prescribed burns and invasive species removal.
Through species and hydrological monitoring, the Conservancy provides critical feedback to land managers all along the Ridge. Visitors can learn to live safely in Florida’s flammable landscape at Tiger Creek Center, which provides a demonstration of “Firewise” construction and landscaping practices.
Learn more about these Innovative Projects:
- Jay Watch, led by the Conservancy from 2002-2010, is a volunteer citizen-science program that monitors the threatened Florida scrub-jay. Florida’s only endemic bird species, this charismatic bird is considered an “indicator species” of scrub habitat integrity—what is appropriate for the scrub-jay also supports many other native species. Scrub-jay population and habitat information, collected from more than 61 sites in 16 counties, allows land managers to implement successful management techniques that ultimately contribute to the long-term survival of Florida scrub-jays – AND healthy scrub habitat.
- Central Florida Ecosystem Restoration Team: This highly successful program has been a model of effective fire management, in Florida and around the world. Read a report: A decade of dedicated fire: Lake Wales Ridge prescribed fire team. From a base at Tiger Creek Preserve, Conservancy fire professionals lead a prescribed fire team that performs controlled burns and provides critical resources, information and manpower along the Ridge. This maintains Nature’s balance by returning the historic fire pattern to dangerously overgrown habitats that may fuel lightning-lit wildfires.
- Control of invasive, non-native species: Like much of central Florida, the preserve faces serious threats from the invasion of species such as Old World climbing fern (Lygodium microphyllum). These plants can choke native habitats and alter the behavior of both prescribed and wild fires. The Conservancy spearheads Cooperative Invasive Species Management Areas (CISMAs) in most counties throughout Central Florida, bringing together private and public partners to help prevent, control and remove invasive species.
- Leading productive partnerships: From Tiger Creek Preserve, the Conservancy engages in successful partnerships with federal, state and county agencies, water management districts, universities and other non-profit organizations. The Lake Wales Ridge Ecosystem Working Group, considered one of the most successful land management consortia in the country, provides a framework for the Conservancy to collaborate with partners on a variety of mutual concerns along the Ridge.
- Conservation Planning: In a proactive approach, the Conservancy is developing tools that can help local planners reduce incompatible land use practices adjacent to conservation areas and protect connectivity and water resources. With partners at the University of Florida and Archbold Biological Station, the Conservancy works to connect and buffer conservation areas, creating functional landscapes rather than a collection of fragmented sites. Learn more about how we are letting bears lead the way.
Many of Florida’s native plants and animals depend on fire
What to See: Plants
An array of extremely rare plants includes the scrub plum, pygmy fringe tree, Lewton’s polygala, scrub ziziphus and Carter’s mustard. Tiger Creek shelters ten plants that are federally-listed as threatened or endangered; four are found only on the Lake Wales Ridge.
What to See: Animals
Visitors might spot a bald eagle, swallow-tailed kite or red-tailed hawk flying overhead. The preserve is also home to the sand skink, gopher tortoise, Florida mouse, indigo snake and gopher frog.
Two hiking trails are open to the public (see trail guide with maps):
- The George Cooley Trail is an easy 0.6-mile loop that goes through a variety of natural habitats: scrubby flatwoods, hardwood swamp, pine flatwoods and cutthroat seeps. Allow 30 minutes to 1 hour.
- The Pfundstein Trail is the gateway to all the loop trails. This 3.8 mile round-trip hike in itself provides a nice introduction to the preserve for beginners.
- From the Pfundstein Trail, you can access the Heron Pond Loop for a 4.2 mile round trip from the parking area. Allow two hours. You can also connect to the Highlands Trail for a 7.2 mile, sandy loop that takes visitors through a beautiful, open pine woods area called the “central highlands.” Allow four hours. Note: The Patrick Creek bridge and Loop are closed due to high water.
- The new Wakeford Trail, at the Wakeford Road entrance off of Walk-in-Water Road on the East side of the preserve, is a short one-mile round trip to a bridge across the blackwater of Tiger Creek. Continuing on, you can connect with the Creek Bluffs Trail, a 1.6 mile loop that follows along Tiger Creek with high bluff overlooks, traversing longleaf pine and turkey oak sandhill habitat. Seven of the 10 federally listed species are found near the trail. And, there are steep (for Central Florida) elevation changes atop some of the highest peaks on the preserve. Visitors will view shallow ponds more than 30 feet below, where wildlife congregates in the mornings and evenings.
Only foot travel is permitted, and guests are asked to stay on the marked trails. To protect the preserve’s rare plants and animals, the following are not allowed: pets, smoking, littering, camping, collecting, firearms, fires, hunting and radios. Visitors should bring drinking water. Please – leave dogs at home.
Pfundstein Trail entrance, closest to the office and the entrance to the George Cooley Trail: 674 Pfundstein Road, Babson Park, FL
Entrance closest to Creek Bluffs Loop Trail: 8373 Wakeford Road, Lake Wales, FL 33898
From the North on State Highway 27:
Go approximately four miles south of the intersection with Highway 60 in Lake Wales. Turn left onto County Road 640 (at the stoplight, look for a sign for Babson Park and Webber College; Fatboy's BBQ is on the corner.) Go 2 miles to SR 17 (Scenic Highway) and turn right. Go through Babson Park. At the top of the hill, turn left at N. Lake Moody Road. At the stop sign, turn left onto Murray Road. Go 2 miles and take a left onto Pfundstein Road. The George Cooley Trail is 100 yards on the left. To visit the Highlands Trail, continue on Pfundstein Road and turn left at The Nature Conservancy sign. There is a Hiker Parking area just ahead on the right. If you wish to visit the office, take the gravel drive past the “Hiker Parking” sign. Go through the open gate to a “Visitor Parking” sign. Keep left for parking.
From the South on State Highway 27:
Travel four miles north of Avon Park to State Road 17 (Scenic Highway). Turn right at the stoplight and take S.R. 17 through the little town of Frostproof, around Lake Moody and up the hill. At the top of the hill, turn right at Murray Road. Go 2 miles and take a left onto Pfundstein Road. The George Cooley Trail is 100 yards on the left. To visit the Highlands Trail, continue on Pfundstein Road and turn left at The Nature Conservancy sign. There is a Hiker Parking area just ahead on the right. If you wish to visit the office, take the gravel drive past the “Hiker Parking” sign. Go through the open gate to a “Visitor Parking” sign. Keep left for parking.
From the Pfundstein Road main entrance:
Head southwest on Pfundstein Road 0.3 miles. Turn right onto Murray Road for 2.2 miles. Turn left onto State Road 17 South for 4.5 miles. At the stoplight, turn left onto Highway 630 East for 4.8 miles. Turn left onto Walk in Water Road at the stop sign and follow for 5.3 miles. At the hiker sign, turn left onto Wakeford Road and follow 0.6 miles to the gate on the left just before the road dead ends to enter the “Hiker Parking” area. This is approximately a 30 minute drive.
From the North on State Road 60:
Turn south onto Walk-in-Water Road (opposite Boy Scout Camp Road) and follow 3.6 miles. Turn right onto Wakeford Road and follow 0.6 miles to the gate on the left just before the road dead ends to enter the “Hiker Parking” area.