Lake Arbuckle, Florida, USA

Lake Locations:

USA - South - Florida - West Central -

A rarity among West-Central Florida lakes, Lake Arbuckle is a natural lake without shoreline development. The lake is not dammed, with the only outflow into Arbuckle Creek which empties into big Lake Istokpoga 17 miles downstream. A water control structure maintains lake levels on the larger lake, so water levels are minimally controlled by this remote dam. Inflow comes from Reedy Creek at the northwest corner and from Blue Jordan Swamp on the northeast side. There are no residences along its 12-miles of shoreline; much of the shore is bordered by wetlands, bogs, swamps and other water-based environments. Cypress draped in moss frames the shore.

Lake Arbuckle is one of the drainage lakes of the Istokpoga Basin which drains Florida’s sandy ‘spine’-the Lake Wales Ridge. The unusual topography of the Ridge shows the succession of the Florida Peninsula from a group of isolated mid-ocean dune islands to the eventual emergence of the rest of the well-known peninsula. Because this ridge was separated from other land forms for thousands of years, plant and animal life evolved in unique ways. As science attempts to preserve these ancient variations, much of the area is under protection and development is strictly limited. The western side of the nearly 3,800-acre, shallow lake is within the Lake Wales State Forest Arbuckle Tract. The eastern and southern sides of the lake are a part of the McDill AFB Auxiliary Field and the Avon Park Air Force Range. Only on the northern side does a small strip of lake allow the Polk County Parks Department to provide camping and a boat ramp.

Reedy Creek is only occasionally navigable by canoe, so few water lovers enter from nearby Reedy Lake. Lake Arbuckle itself is perfect for small boats, air-boats, canoes and kayaks, although the boat ramps can handle larger bass boats. The Lake Arbuckle County Park has a small swimming area, bathhouse, restrooms and small store for camping supplies. The campsites are well-placed but have no electricity or water hook-ups. This family campground is ideal for those who want to experience South Florida nature at its finest. Several trails lead into the larger Lake Wales Ridge State Forest to the west. Although the lake is large enough to be choppy in windy weather, the margins are enjoyable for kayaks and canoes as there are profuse lilypad beds sheltering a variety of birds and wildlife. Lake Arbuckle has been the destination for many of South Florida’s relocated alligators, so these ancient reptiles are increasingly seen here.

Lake Arbuckle is a productive bass fishing area. Fishermen are usually the most numerous boaters on the water. There is limited space for shore fishing, so a boat is necessary to search out the biggest bass which tend to lurk around the emergent water plants for shade and spawning. Trophy bass up to 15 pounds have been caught at Lake Arbuckle in recent years, making this the most commonly sought game fish locally. Black crappie are often overlooked, and the lake is an excellent place for catching a creel limit. All Florida fishing regulations are in effect, and proper license must be secured before fishing.

Formed to preserve some of the fast-disappearing dunes and pine/oak scrub, the Arbuckle Tract of the Lake Wales Ridge State Forest is a haven for all sorts of unusual and seldom-seen plants, birds and wildlife. Easily accessed from Lake Arbuckle Road, five miles south of the Town of Frostproof, numerous trails and primitive camping areas can be reached on foot from the parking areas. The Paula Dockery Trail and 18-mile backpackers loop of the Reedy Trail are favorites. Outdoors enthusiasts can often see scrub jays and gopher tortoises within the area. Several trailheads begin from School Bus Road and meander through areas that are home to bald eagles, short-tailed hawks, limpkins and migratory waterfowl. Although horses and bicycles are not allowed on the trails, the firebreaks are available for horseback and mountain bike riders. Trail maps and regulations are available in the area.

Arbuckle Wildlife Management Area (WMA) covers over 13,500 acres and contains a portion of the Great Florida Birding Trail. A short, under-a-mile nature trail allows for an easy experience; longer trails are numerous in the area. The Florida National Scenic Trail passes through the area, with Reedy Creek segment traveling a 27-mile road hike through more of an urban landscape along much of the route. The Arbuckle WMA is open for hunting during certain seasons, and regulations must be scrupulously followed. From the south end of Lake Arbuckle, one can enter the Lake Arbuckle Trail, a 15-mile backpacking loop that skirts the Avon Park Air Force Range. Three primitive campgrounds and many miles of trails on the Range can be utilized with appropriate permission from the Outdoor Recreation Office. This is an active artillery range, and access is only allowed during inactive periods. Not far north of Lake Arbuckle, the Lake Wales Ridge State Forest Walk-in-The-Water Tract is located two miles east of Frostproof and allows walk-in visitors only.

For those who think Central-South Florida is over-developed and only the site of amusement parks and tourist traps, visiting the Lake Arbuckle area is a complete change of pace. Visitors wishing more common attractions will find them within a two-hour drive. Orlando and the world’s largest amusement parks are less than 75 miles to the north, and the Tampa Bay area just a bit further to the west. Many of the newer housing developments are less than an hour from Lake Arbuckle, and the entire area abounds with campgrounds, small motels, resort parks, hotels, resort hotels, bed & breakfasts and private short-stay rentals. Plenty of shops, restaurants and entertainment venues are located within driving distance.

Those who think they have seen everything Florida has to offer are in for a completely different kind of a treat, one geared to nature observation, solitude and plenty of exciting bass fishing. So, if you’re looking for a different kind of Florida vacation, come and enjoy the unique sights at Lake Arbuckle and vicinity. Take a truly natural vacation here, and return home relaxed and refreshed as only a foray into the unspoiled wetlands can provide.

Things to do at Lake Arbuckle

  • Vacation Rentals
  • Fishing
  • Boating
  • Swimming
  • Canoeing
  • Kayaking
  • Camping
  • Campground
  • Hiking
  • Biking
  • Horseback Riding
  • Hunting
  • Wildlife Viewing
  • Birding
  • State Forest
  • Amusement Park

Fish species found at Lake Arbuckle

  • Bass
  • Black Crappie
  • Crappie

Lake Arbuckle Photo Gallery

Lake Arbuckle Statistics & Helpful Links

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Lake Type: Natural Freshwater Lake, Not Dammed

Surface Area: 3,828 acres

Shoreline Length: 12 miles

Normal Elevation (Full Pond): 53 feet

Minimum Elevation (Min Pond): 51 feet

Maximum Elevation (Max Pond): 56 feet

Average Depth: 5 feet

Maximum Depth: 11 feet

Drainage Area: 170 sq. miles

Trophic State: Eutrophic

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Trophic State | LakeLubbers

Trophic State measures the level of algae and nutrients in a lake.

An oligotrophic lake is very clear (blue in color) and does not support much plant or fish life. A hyper-oligotrophic lake is the clearest of all lakes, and is nearly devoid of plants and fish.

A mesotrophic lake is slightly green and supports a moderate degree of plant and fish life. A lake's most desired trophic state is generally this mid-point - the mesotrophic state.

A eutrophic lake is somewhat murky and supports a large amount of plant and fish life. A hypereutrophic lake is clouded with algae, plant life, and fish life. A eutrophic or hyper-eutrophic lake can be difficult to navigate by boat - and is often an unpleasant place to swim.

The use of phosphorus-rich and nitrogen-rich fertilizer on lawns and golf courses surrounding a lake can cause it to become eutrophic or hypereutrophic.


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Catchment or Drainage Area | LakeLubbers

This is the surrounding area that drains into a lake, including land, rivers and their tributaries. This is also known as the lake's "catchment basin".

Small lakes at the highest peaks of mountains have small drainage areas. The world's oceans have the largest drainage areas.


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Lake-Area Population | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated number of people who live in a house with a view of a lake, plus those who self-describe the lake as their home, for example: "I live at Smith Mountain Lake."


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Water Residence Time | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated time that it takes for an amount of water equal to the entire volume of a lake to flow out of - or evaporate from - the lake.

Residence Time can be as short as a few days for fast-flowing small lakes, and can exceed 100 years for slow-flowing large lakes.


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Completion Year | LakeLubbers

This is the year that a reservoir was first filled to the reservoir's normal elevation - or the year that a natural lake was first dammed. A large reservoir can take more than a year to fill after its dam is first closed.

The Grand Anicut in southern India is generally considered the world's oldest dam that still operates. Grand Anicut was constructed in the second century BC. It now impounds an irrigation network that includes roughly one million acres.

You can find many of the the world's newest reservoirs on LakeLubbers. Many of the world's oldest reservoirs appear on the last page of that list.


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Water Volume | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated volume of water that a lake contains -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. By this measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal.

You can find many of the the world's largest lakes (by water volume) on LakeLubbers.

Water Volume can be measured in acre-feet, in cubic miles, or in cubic kilometers. One acre-foot is the amount of water needed to cover one acre (43,560 square feet) to a depth of one foot. One cubic mile equals 3,379,200 acre-feet. One cubic kilometer equals 810,713 acre-feet.

1 acre-foot is equal to 325,851 US gallons. Siberia's Lake Baikal contains about 6,276,367,740,000,000 gallons of freshwater - nearly 1 million gallons for every living person on earth.

The other - and more widely used - measure of a lake's size is the lake's surface acreage. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is North America's Lake Superior.


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Maximum Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated greatest depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. The world's deepest lake is Siberia's Lake Baikal; that lake's maximum depth is estimated at 5,314 feet.

You can find many of the the world's deepest lakes on LakeLubbers. If you select the last page of that list, you will find the (maximum depth of) the shallowest lakes in our database.


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Average Depth | LakeLubbers

This is the estimated average depth of the water in a lake -- measured at the lake's normal elevation. If the water volume and surface area of a lake are known, an estimate of the lake's average depth can be calculated:

Water volume ÷ Surface Area = Average Depth

Example: 1,000,000 acre-feet ÷ 20,000 acres = 50 feet average depth


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Maximum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's highest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can occur during flooding. A lake's highest possible maximum elevation is usually the top of the lake's dam or spillway.

At lakes that include residential development, government regulations usually forbid the construction of homes below a lake's maximum elevation.


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Minimum Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's lowest water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level, that can be reasonably expected to occur. Low lake levels can occur due to deliberate seasonal draw downs for irrigation or impending snow melt, reduced water inflows, drought and evaporation, residential or commercial water demands, and hydropower generation.

Some lakes' minimum and maximum elevations are virtually the same. Lakes that generate hydropower may vary by several feet - according to power demand. Lakes whose primary purpose is to prevent flooding can seasonally vary by 100 feet or more.

When some lakes reach their minimum elevation, their boat ramps may not be long enough to permit boat access - and boats docked on shallow parts of the lake may end up on dry ground. In those cases, kayakers and shore-based anglers may be among the few happy recreational users of the lake.


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Normal Elevation | LakeLubbers

This is a lake's normal water level, measured by the lake's surface distance above sea level. For a reservoir, this water level is also known as "full pond" or "full pool".

You can find many of the world's highest-elevated lakes on LakeLubbers. Lakes with the lowest elevations (known by LakeLubbers) are shown on the final page of that list.


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Shoreline Length | LakeLubbers

This is the length of the exterior shoreline around a lake - measured at the lake's normal elevation. The shoreline length can be considerably shorter or longer when lake water levels are lower or higher than normal.

A lake with many coves has a much longer shoreline than a lake of similar surface area that is nearly circular in shape.

When known, the shoreline miles that we report in our statistics include only the lake's exterior shoreline, and exclude the shorelines of islands located within a lake's boundaries. In lakes with many islands, those islands' combined shorelines may exceed a lake's exterior shoreline.

You can find many of the world's longest-shoreline lakes on Lakelubbers.


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Surface Area | LakeLubbers

This is the area (acreage, square kilometers, etc.) of the top surface area of a lake - measured at a lake's normal elevation. The surface area can be considerably smaller or larger when lake levels are lower or higher than normal. North America's Lake Superior is the world's largest freshwater lake by this measure.

The other measure of a lake's size is the lake's water volume. By that measure, the world's largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal in Siberia.

You can find many of the world's largest lakes (acres) on Lakelubbers. There is no widely-accepted minimum surface area that defines a lake. What Lakelubbers describes as a lake, you might call a pond. The smallest lake that Lakelubbers currently includes is Hawaii's 2-acre Lake Waiau.


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Water Level Control | LakeLubbers

This is the organization that controls water releases or outflows from the lake or reservoir. In the USA, this is often the US Army Corps of Engineers, a power company, a municipal water system, an irrigation district, or a paper manufacturing company. In the case of private or gated lakes, a homeowners' association may be the lake's controlling authority.

Many lakes cross borders, including North America's Great Lakes. The control of such lakes and their coveted freshwater may be amicably shared - or hotly disputed.

"Water wars" continue at many lakes as growing populations and crop irrigation needs compete for the freshwater that lakes contain.


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Lake Type | LakeLubbers

There are 3 basic types of lakes that are currently included on LakeLubbers. 2 types may be dammed or not dammed, producing 5 classifications.

- A Reservoir is a man-made freshwater lake that is usually created by damming rivers.

- A Natural Freshwater Lake occurs naturally - often by glacial activity - and has a salinity of less than 30 parts per thousand. It may be dammed to produce electricity or for other reasons.

- A Natural Saltwater Lake occurs naturally and has a salinity of more than 30 parts per thousand (ppt). It may be dammed.

"Brackish" water may be categorized as freshwater or saltwater, depending on its salt content (salinity). Oligohaline water has less than 15 ppt of salt. Mesohaline water has 15-29 ppt. Polyhaline has 30-335 ppt.


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