We first visited Fort Cooper State Park many years ago for a short visit, intending to return. We talked of visiting again every time we passed the sign, or saw it on a map as we planned a different trip. Finally we did it. We found it even better than we remembered, and lingered a while this time. They have wonderful hiking trails, good birding, and we found the Seminole Trail.
This four kiosk trail tells the story of the Seminole tribe of Native Peoples, relocated to this area by the government in 1823 from their north Florida homes. As they adapted to the new area, with lakes and swamps unlike their upland homeland, decisions made by the government once again called for their removal. The Second Seminole War started in 1835.
A campaign in 1836 led by General Scott marched forward. At a lake now called Lake Holathlikaha he left the wounded and sick soldiers under the command of Major Cooper, who built a fort on the lake’s edge to protect his men until reinforcements arrived. The Seminole attacked the fort, now called Fort Cooper. They laid seige for 16 days, the fort holding until the relief column arrived.
The park brochure and website contain more of the history, and the Seminole Trail kiosks start with the relocation and adaptation to this area, along with descriptions of how they lived and what they ate, through the war years. I looked further and found a free book called “Florida Seminole Wars Heritage Trail” at this link: https://files.floridados.gov/media/695430/seminole_war_heritage_trail.pdf.
The trail starts with the first kiosk located near the park Rec Center. The easy to follow trail continues near the lake, and then goes to the right to the location of Fort Cooper, part of it the paved Withlacoochee trail. Spaced along the trails we found stakes with maps showing your location, a wonderful idea and easy to follow.
We found the birding very good in the area of the lake, not surprising as it is part of the Florida Great Birding Trail. Private boats are not allowed on the lake, but canoe and kayak rentals are available. We saw three more trails in addition to the Seminole Trail and the Withlacoochee Trail.