This uniquely named forest and wildlife preserve is located in Marion County, Florida east of Dunnellon on S.R. 484. Named after the Native American Seminole leader Hálpata Tastanaki who along with Chief Osceola and over 1,000 of their best warriors, took part in the Second Seminole Indian War of 1836 in which Hálpata Tastanaki died and Osceola was captured. During the First Seminole War, this single band of proud people won the only war ever lost by the American Army on American soil.
While no battles were fought in this preserve, the amount of historical remains are staggering. Truly a hidden gem of historical significance among the west coast of Florida, Hálpata Tastanaki Preserve is rich with our ancestor’s heritage.
Thanks in part to a generous donation of land from the Pruitt family who once owned the ranch, it has now become public. Purchased by SWFTMD (Southwest Florida Water Management District, also affectionately known as swift mud) as flood plain enhancements for the Withlacoochee River, the Hálpata Tastanaki Preserve is a wetland system of extensive aquifer recharge lowlands and swamps, speckled with high and dry sections of oaks and pines ecosystems, flourishing with rare and exotic species known only to this side of Florida.
With so much natural beauty and splendor, it’s easy to miss all of the other fantastic recreational opportunities Hálpata Tastanaki Preserve has to offer. While many of the archeological and historical remains are protected or off limits, many of the areas are free to explore. The ghost town of Stockton is on the property as well as the remains of Fort Izzard, a civil war era antique.
While the remains of early settlers and their communities still exist and are quite impressive, the much older and more impressive remains of early Native American settlements take the cake. Midden mounds or shell heaps are found throughout the preserve and offer a glimpse into the culture, lifestyle and diet of these early peoples.
With over 17 miles of hiking trails, the Hálpata Tastanaki Preserve offers many available hiking opportunities on the loop trails, allowing you to take a short hike to the river, or go all day long through the preserve. Don’t feel like hiking? You can also ride your bike!
But don’t let hiking and biking be your only adventure in the Hálpata Tastanaki Preserve. Equestrian activities abound with plenty of good trails, water and access. A newly developed part of the trailhead includes a horse corral, watering stations and tie-offs for your fine filly friends.