Great Camping in Central Florida
The best part of Fort Cooper is its approximately 10 miles of hiking trails, which wind through shady oak hammocks and skirt wetter marsh and swamp communities as well as the drier sandhill areas. Horseback riders can't use these paths, but just outside park boundaries the Rails-to-Trails network is open to them. Lake Holathlikaha, it's said, was a welcome stopover for federal soldiers who sweated their way through the Florida outback during the Second Seminole War in the 1830s and 1840s. In 1836, some 380 soldiers, most of them wounded or sick, hastily built a fort near the 160-acre spring-fed lake. It served them for 16 days while they skirmished with the Seminoles until reinforcements arrived. Once a year, the park holds reenactments of what life was like in those days, with militiamen, Seminoles, and Army regulars acting out their duties.
Set in lush hardwood hammocks, these are primitive, out-in-the-woods campsites that are accessible by car. They're not right on Lake Holathlikaha (don't ask us to pronounce it; the ranger we talked to couldn't either), but you can drive about a mile from your site to get to a swimming beach on the lake. If you want to lose those landlubber legs, canoe and paddleboat rentals are available. You also can canoe nearby on the Withlacoochee River or Tsala Apopka Lake. Try Nobleton Boat Rental at (352) 796-4343 or (800) 783-5284.
How To Get There
From Inverness, take U.S. 41 south to the city limits and follow the signs to the park.
Campsites, facilities: About 15 tents can be accommodated at two primitive camping areas. Each site has a picnic table, grill, and fire ring. The only facilities are vault toilets and running water. The park has canoe and paddleboat rentals and hiking trails. Groceries and restaurants are located within three miles. Children are welcome. Pets are prohibited.
Reservations, fees: Reservations are required. Sites are available for a small nightly charge. Credit cards are not accepted. Stays are limited to two weeks.
Contact: Fort Cooper State Park, 3100 South Old Floral City, Inverness, FL 32650; (352) 726-0315 or fax (352) 726-5959.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication