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

 

aerial photo of Kissimmee Chain of Lakes
South Florida Water Management District
Aerial photo of Kissimmee Chain of Lakes

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 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. Consult the regulations summary and map PDF for more detailed information and regulations unique to particular units.  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.

For more information: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, (352) 732-1225, MyFWC.com/recreation; South Florida Water Management District, Orlando Service Center, (407) 858-6100, or FL 1-800-250-4250, SFWMD.gov/recreation.

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.

  • Visit the South Florida Water Management District web site for Kissimmee Chain of Lakes.

  • For more information on fishing opportunities, go to MyFWC.com and follow links to Freshwater Fishing. A freshwater fishing license is required for Fish Management Area lakes. Also, special bag limits and methods apply on these lakes. For the restrictions on each particular water body, consult the Freshwater Fishing Regulations or call the nearest FWC Regional office.



FWC Facts:
Florida is #1 in the country for total days of wildlife viewing by nonresident visitors. (8.5 million)

Learn More at AskFWC