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Latest update: Feb. 2017

Arbuckle Creek... Remote and Beautiful Kayaking by a Bombing Range (really)

Arbuckle Creek flows for 25 miles from Lake Arbuckle to Lake Istokpoga (the 5th largest in Florida). The diverse habitat includes cypress swamp, grass prairie, ranchlands, and oak hammock. The upper creek runs along the border of Avon Park Air Force Range (a bomb training range) but not to worry, the targets are far from the creek. This proximity helps keep the creek natural. The lower creek is less natural including a manmade channel. The water is drawn down on Lake Istokpoga in the spring, causing low water levels on the creek, August to March are the best times for paddling. (Detailed map and photos below.)

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Arbuckle Creek Kayak Map
(upper creek highlighted)


View Larger Map

Distance: 3 miles (Lake Arbuckle to Arbuckle Road; 12 miles (Arbuckle Road to Arbuckle Creek Road); 11 miles (Arbuckle Creek Road to Lake Istokpoga)
Location: Highlands County (Avon Park/Sebring)
Difficulty: Moderate
Tidal: No
Launch points: On the river: Arbuckle Road (US27 to CR64); Arbuckle Creek Road (US27 to SR17); US98 bridge. On Lake Arbuckle: Fee launch at Camp Arbuckle (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Lake Wales Ridge State Forest, Highlands Hammock State Park

Rentals/Outfitters/Tours:

Sebring Kayak Tours  (rentals, tours)

Camp Arbuckle

Support and Advocacy:

Friends of Istokpoga Lake Association

Arbuckle Creek... Comments and Photos

A portion of the bombing range is open for public recreation depending on military operations in progress. Contact the Avon Park Air Force Range for information about their Outdoor Recreation Program and obtaining permits (link below).


Arbuckle Creek

The 3 miles from Arbuckle Road to Lake Arbuckle are among the most scenic; we paddled this stretch. The water was high with a swift current so we tended to paddle close to the banks and cypress knees. Large cypress trees and forest line the entire way. This is a remote paddle, with just one house at the launch for the entire 3 mile trip to Lake Arbuckle. Not many, but possibility of motorboats (we encountered one airboat on this trip).


Lake Arbuckle

Arriving at Lake Arbuckle on the right is a ramp that from the water appeared to be a public launch but in fact is part of the military base and not open to the public. On the left is Camp Arbuckle, a private facility with camping, fishing and a fee launch. Numerous lilypads dot the lake shoreline here, and we spotted a large alligator relaxing. Across the lake on the north shore is a Polk County campground with boat ramp, picnic, restrooms - contact Polk County Parks and Recreation for information.


Lake Istokpoga

There's a launch onto the creek at the US 98 bridge, or use the 98 Boat Ramp directly onto the lake on the north shore. Lake Istokpoga is is one of the best fishing lakes and the fifth largest lake in the state of Florida. The lake is very shallow, with an average depth of 4 feet. We visited Lake Istokpoga Park on the north shore - there are 2 public parks, 5 boat ramps and several campgrounds around the lake.

Activities on Arbuckle Creek

Wildlife along the creek include deer, wild turkeys, wild hogs, black bear, alligators, bald eagle, and wading birds. Wear orange during the winter hunting season as the wildlife management area is popular with hunters. Fishing is abundant on the creek and lakes.

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