Along the eastern shore of the Kissimmee River in extreme southwestern Osceola County and northwestern Okeechobee County, forming an area roughly 7 miles (11.2 km) north to south and 1014 miles (1622.4 km) east to west. Adjacent to the Avon Park Air Force RangeBombing Range Ridge and Kissimmee Lake and River IBAs to the west.
The State Park, acquired primarily in 1997, contains the largest contiguous expanse of high-quality dry prairie (a habitat endemic to central Florida) remaining. Cattle graze 5000 acres (2000 hectares) of non-native pastures, recreation is passive, and hunting is prohibited. Over 8.5 miles (13.6 km) of the soon-to-be-restored Kissimmee River form the western boundary of the State Park.
Kissimmee Prairie Preserve State Park probably supports the largest remaining population of Florida Grasshopper Sparrows, and contains other species of dry prairies, such as Mottled Ducks, Sandhill Cranes (both subspecies), White-tailed Kites, Crested Caracaras, Burrowing Owls, and Bachman's Sparrows. Several groups of Florida Scrub-Jays occur in patches of prairie scrub, and Whooping Cranes have been observed. The Park also contains two wading bird rookeries that total over 500 pairs, mostly of Great Egrets and Black-crowned Night-Herons. The Park may have great conservation value to wintering sparrows.
Crested Caracara, 1997-2001 - "several" pairs (R)
Diversity, 2001 list - 115 natives, 2 exotics - New species are being added regularly with monitoring
*altered hydrology, *feral hogs, human disturbance, exotic plants, cattle grazing
The overall quality of habitat within the state park is excellent. Previous landowners used frequent prescribed fires to increase forage for cattle that were grazed in low densities across native range. Higher densities of cattle grazed pastures. Just under 7000 acres (2800 hectares) previously owned and managed by the National Audubon Society (Ordway-Whittell Kissimmee Prairie Sanctuary) were sold to the state in November 2001; profits will fund future management and research activities. ? Restoration activities have targeted restoring the hydrology within the 54,000 public acres (21,853 hectares) and on adjacent private lands. Within the past year, over 73 miles (116 km) of ditches and canals at the State Park have been back-filled, and restoration efforts continue. ? Cattle grazing still occurs on pastures, including some areas occupied by ?Florida? Grasshopper Sparrows; the impacts of grazing on these Endangered sparrows deserves study. ? Prescribed fire is used to replace natural fires. A short (2 to 3 years) growing-season fire interval is being used to keep dry prairie habitat suitable for ?Florida? Grasshopper Sparrows. Since 1997, over 90% of the park has been burned. A portion of more recently acquired land still needs prescribed fire to restore prairie conditions. ? Future plans for recreation in the park include campgrounds and guided wildlife observation tours. The State Park provides views uninterrupted by manmade features across miles of dry prairie landscape. Views up to 6 miles (9.6 km) are common. The State Park is a premier site for nature photography. ? The park has experienced great success in the removal of feral hogs, and removal efforts will continue. ? Part of this IBA has been designated by +Cox et al. (1994) as a Strategic Habitat Conservation Area.
*dry prairie (>21,885 acres; >8856 hectares), *freshwater marsh (12,887 acres; 5215 hectares), *wet prairie (8481 acres; 3432 hectares), temperate hammock (1071 acres; 433 hectares), xeric oak scrub (721 acres; 291 hectares), non-native pasture (5479 acres; 2217 hectares), swale (2137 acres; 864 hectares), riverine
*conservation, recreation, grazing