As a place to experience old Florida, the Lake Walk in the Water Ranch is a 2,235 acre site with over 7,000 feet along the south shore of Lake Weohyakapka. “Walk in the water” is the translation of the Indian word “Weohyakapka.” The sand bottom lake is 7,500 acres in size and is widely known for great fishing.
A cultural resource assessment completed by the current owners a few years ago documents that the ranch was actively used for turpentine production. Herty cups were clay pots designed to be attached to pine trees in order to collect the turpentine. Several fragments were found on the site. Shards of several other types of pottery were discovered during the site inspection that indicated the site was also used extensively in the distant past for collecting fish, shellfish, and other wildlife.
In addition to the various artifacts that were discovered near the lake, an artesian well that most likely was used during the turpentine days was found. I have seen some of the pieces of old Herty cups by that well.
A more “colorful” part of the history of this tract is evidenced by the very long, grass airstrip that still exists. Back in the ‘70s, the property was owned by a group that decided to maximize their investment by getting into the importing business. Although the profit potential was pretty high, the federal government didn’t think this was an “appropriate use” and confiscated the property giving the owners an “all-expense-paid long-term vacation.”
After the Feds didn’t need the property any longer, they sold it to a local family. That family used it for many years as a part of a wild game hunting business and cattle production. The property is currently being offered for sale by the present owners.
Today the property has been fenced and cross-fenced and is primarily used for cattle production. About 1,400 acres of the tract have been planted with improved grasses. Various ponds and a small creek provide water for the cattle. About 35 acres have been developed with a good quality citrus grove that adds to the overall tract income.
The 400 or so acres of native woods, pine and palmetto flatwoods provide a great habitat for the numerous turkey, deer, quail and all types of wildlife that call this property home. In addition, a large area in the northwest corner of the tract looks like a quail plantation in south Georgia and has been set up as a perfect place to hunt quail.
Our State has done a great job preserving the lands that characterize native Florida. Whether to preserve natural resources, or protect habitat for Florida wildlife species, that effort has largely been led by Florida cattlemen. Just as important though, the owners of today’s ranches are not only actively using their land to support their families, they are preserving a valuable part of our Florida history. I have heard it said that farmers and ranchers are the first environmentalists. I believe that to be true.
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About the author, Richard Dempsey:
Richard is a Realtor® with Coldwell Banker Commercial Saunders Real Estate and is currently the President of the Lakeland Association of Realtors® (LAR). He specializes in large acreage tracts, citrus groves, and development properties.