LAKE JUNE IN WINTER SCRUB STATE PARK
This park protects one of the state's most endangered natural communities-sand scrub-which is sometimes called "Florida's desert." Some of Florida's rarest plants and animals, including the Florida scrub-jay, Florida scrub lizard, Florida mouse, deer, gopher tortoise, and bobcat are found in the scrub. Ospreys and bald eagles are frequently sighted along the three miles of lakefront. This relatively new park is still in development and best suited to those seeking a remote wilderness experience and nature study. Visitors can hike along the white sand firelanes, walk a half-mile nature trail, fish from the lakeshore, or launch a canoe or kayak onto the lake. A picnic area has tables and a shelter, but no grills. Located about 12 miles south of Sebring off U.S. 27. Travel U.S. 27 to County Road 621 and go west for four miles to Daffodil Road. Travel two miles south on Daffodil Road to the park entrance.
Lake June in Winter Scrub State Park is named for the lake on it's eastern boundary. It may have been called Lake Stearns Scrub SP if an intriguing chain of events had not occurred many years ago.
It all started with Dr. Melvil Dewey. Dewey was an educator, librarian, developer and visionary. Most remember him as the inventor of the "Dewey Decimal System" for cataloging books in libraries. In 1895, Dewey had built a summer resort for his wealthy friends at a place known as Lake Placid, N.Y. About 35 years later, he discovered a place he thought well suited for a winter resort for these same wealthy friends. In 1927, he convinced Florida state legislature to change the name of this town from Lake Stearns to Lake Placid, after his northern summer resort. He built a sprawling lodge on Lake Childs and had the lake's name changed to Lake Placid to remind his friends of their northern homes. He then had the name of Lake Stearns changed to Lake-June-in-Winter, so that they might think of this as their winter home, reminiscent of their summer homes on Lake June in New York State. Soon after this, he convinced the railroad to build a new depot, he added another hotel in town, and built a water tower. For more information on Dewey, visit the Atlantic Coastline Railroad Depot during your next visit to the Lake Placid area. It is on the National Registry of Historic Places, and is also the location of the Lake Placid Historical Society.
Lake June in Winter Scrub State Park opened to the public in 1999. Compared to many new acquisitions, the park has a relatively unaltered flora and fauna, being in pristine condition. Prior to being purchased by the state of Florida, the property was owned by Consolidated Tomoka, and some areas have historically been used for both cattle grazing and the turpentine industry. If you hike the firelanes from the park entrance to the south boundary, you will see evidence of "cat faces" on some of the larger pines. These scars are all that remains of the booming turpentine industry of the past. Long before any of these more recent uses, this land was actually ancient seashore. As a small part of the Lake Wales Ridge, which is an ancient sand dune that stretches down the center portion of the Florida peninsula, this property is part of a string of islands that once broke the ancient sea's surface. As the ocean levels rose and fell, this string of islands isolated these unusual plants and animals on ancient sand dunes. As these plants and animals evolved, periodic fire would result from lightning strikes fueled by the clashing of seabreezes over the state's interior. Fires would burn the vegetation to the ground, beginning a long, slow cycle of regrowth. Commonly referred to as "scrub", due to the stunted appearance of most of the understory trees, this community is a lesson in adaptation. Despite the abundant annual rainfall, here is a dry habitat. Rainfall quickly percolates through the coarse sands, beyond the reach of the plant root. Many plants have shallow, expansive roots, thick leaf coatings, or even a covering of tiny hairs-all to conserve precious water. Observe the leaves on many of the stunted trees. Most are tiny, furled, and waxy to the touch. Under these sands is another mystery to unfold, as many of the wildlife species in this habitat actually live underground in burrows. The Gopher tortoise is one species you will find here that excavates long burrows that are "shared" with many other species. Here survival is a cooperative effort.