By location, landscape and culture, Glades County represents the Heartland of Florida. Here, agriculture remains a primary industry for its residents and its natural resources remain their playground.
With more than 30 miles of Lake Okeechobee shoreline, 60 miles of Caloosahatchee River frontage and 52 miles of paddling trails on pristine Fisheating Creek, Glades County offers nature-based tourism assets that are unparalleled in Florida, be you a birder, biker, boater, hunter, fisherman or paddler.
Spotlight on Our Communities
The City of Moore Haven was founded on the banks of the Caloosahatchee River by James A. Moore in 1915. The founding was followed by a tremendous volume of construction and an early population and building surge which established the town as the major commercial center of the entire Lake Okeechobee region. During this boom, the town’s historic commercial architecture was built, and those few buildings still remaining were constructed from 1916 to 1926.
The city survived a devastating fire in 1921, which seriously damaged many of the buildings in the commercial core. Undaunted and led by pioneering landowner and the city’s first Mayor, Marian Horwitz O’Brien—notably the first female mayor south of the Mason-Dixon line and one of the first female mayors in the United States—the city rebuilt, only to be struck in the midst of recovery by a devastating hurricane in 1926 which killed 150-200 residents and destroyed more than half the city’s buildings.
The county seat of Moore Haven was long the single commercial center for the area, although by the mid 70s, sugar cane production became the dominant player in the area’s economy. Located on US 27, one of the major north-south connectors in the state, Moore Haven was designed to front on the Caloosahatchee River—the western half of the Okeechobee waterway which crosses Lake Okeechobee and connects the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts. Moore Haven is almost equidistant from West Palm Beach and Fort Myers and within two hours of Miami and Orlando.
The city of 1900 residents offers visiting boaters dockage, restroom and shower facilities, barbecue and picnic facilities, and shopping and dining within walking distance of the waterfront.
Buckhead Ridge, located in Glades County just eight miles southwest of the City of Okeechobee, was developed by Leland and Clifford Pearce with the fishing enthusiast in mind. It’s home to nearly 2,500 year-round residents with an influx of 1,500 winter visitors who stay in the three RV parks and one motel located in the community. Most of the lots have direct access to Lake Okeechobee with close proximity to the Kissimmee River.
Buckhead Ridge has always been a popular choice for bass tournament participants, duck hunters and vacationers. The community has an active homeowners group, fire department and Citizen Observer Patrol program, plus a beautiful county park within its boundaries. Several businesses, including a waterfront restaurant, gas station, motels and campgrounds are also found in this growing community.
Buckhead Ridge is home to the annual Catfish Festival, which is celebrated the last Saturday in January. As we always advertise, “Everything for the Fisherman!”
Founded in 1913, Lakeport was originally known as the Lakeport Colony and is located in northern Glades County along the northwestern shore of Lake Okeechobee. A dock was constructed on the lake where freight and mail was received, while produce, fish, fur, and skins were shipped out. Lakeport became the “fish capital” of Florida when the railroad reached the city of Okeechobee, allowing shipping to northern states.
The fish in the lake in the early days consisted of catfish, gar, shad, blue gills and crappie—or Speckled Perch as they are known here—and bass. Due to large-scale seine netting in the early years, bass is the predominant species left, making Lake Okeechobee the bass capital of the world. Celebrated by duck hunters and fishermen, every year Lakeport hosts the annual Sour Orange Festival, which is known for its famous Sour Orange Pie, a longtime favorite. Residents and visitors alike are encouraged to enter the dessert contest, using the wild sour oranges which give the festival its name.
Muse, located in southwestern Glades County, was largely homesteaded in the early 20th century. Once a prosperous community with its own school and post office, during the Depression it lost most of its population, along with the post office. The years did not spoil the natural beauty of this part of Glades County, however; Muse became known for its cattle ranches and vegetable farms, and the past few years has seen a rapid growth in the number of citrus groves, making it the leading citrus producing area of Glades County.
Muse is home of the annual Honey Festival, slated for January 24, 2015 at the Muse Volunteer Fire Department.
Ortona is a small, vibrant rural community nestled along the Caloosahatchee River near the Ortona Lock. On the south side of the river is the US Army Corps of Engineers RV Park, which is accessible to Ortona via a bike path and walkway across the lock. There is excellent fishing for tarpon, snook, bass, and other fish along the banks of the river. Ortona boasts the only public library in Glades County outside Moore Haven, and offers an adjacent playground for children.
The nearby Ortona Indian Mound Park is a state historical site that marks an important village of the extinct Caloosahatchee Indian tribes. Adjacent to Indian Mound Park is the historic Ortona Cemetery where the great Seminole Indian Chief Billy Bowlegs III is buried, along with many of the pioneers to Glades County. Ortona recently completed a 2-mile long bike path/sidewalk that connects the RV Park and the entire community with the library and playground.
The community has an excellent volunteer fire department, an active community association, frequent scheduled children’s activities, and a well attended church, and was recognized by the State of Florida as a 2001 Rural Community of the Year. Ortona hosts the annual Ortona Cane Grinding Festival at the Larry Luckey Ortona Indian Mound Park on the first Saturday of February each year. This event benefits the local fire department, and commemorates the early settlers’ cultivation and processing of the delectable sugar cane syrup. The festival features Bluegrass music, clogging, arts and crafts booths, and barbecue chicken and rib dinners.
Palmdale is a small rural community located at the north end of Glades County on U.S. 27. Settled in 1901 by the Florida Fruit Farm, a railroad, along with a bridge over Fisheating Creek, was extended to the area in 1917 from Sebring. Cattle were once shipped by rail from the Palmdale railroad station.
Cattle and forestry have long been the major emphasis in the area as Palmdale is in the middle of a 360,000 acre ranch, our nation’s second largest, owned by Lykes Bros., Inc. of Tampa. Home to Fisheating Creek, and the 18,272 acre wildlife management area which surrounds it, Palmdale is known to outdoorsmen from all over Florida as well as out of the state. The Fisheating Creek Outpost offers RV and tent camping and a canoeing livery for the 52-mile long paddling trail along the creek.