Gordon Grade at Lower Hillsborough Preserve

gordon grade1

Gordon Grade

Exploring in the Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve near Cow House Creek I followed what appears to be an old railroad grade or logging tram. It is listed on a map from 1934 as “Gordon Grade” and it crossed over Cow House Creek. I could see part of the grade still elevated by one of the trails there in the woods so I followed it as far as I could to the creek where some of the pilings still remain from a bridge that once crossed there. I am not sure what the grade was used for, perhaps for logging at one time. It does seem to connect all the way up to the Morris Bridge area where the Hillsborough River is and there was an old road that was used during the 1800’s in that section. I did find some aerial photos from the 1930’s that show it there and back then the area was mostly ranches and orange groves.

Exploring the tram was really nice because nature has reclaimed much of the area today and leads you along some really beautiful cypress swamps. I have visited the area a couple of times now and just enjoy being down there by the creek, you can get a real sense of the history there. It is a wild and beautiful place that still remains in an area that is constantly under threat of development. I could see remains from some of the old ranches in the area as I made my way towards the grade. Down by the creek I observed several wood pilings from a bridge that once crossed there, though the bridge is long gone it is still neat to see these remains. Along the way I could see some railroad ties embedded into the ground near the grade as well. Eventually I would like to explore the wilderness on the other side of the grade across the creek.

Below I posted some photos, a video and old maps of the area. I will post more on these areas as I explore more of the wilderness here in time.

MY VIDEO

Old Gordon Grade at Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve

RESOURCES

Lower Hillsborough Wilderness Preserve

Rocky Creek Railroad History at Upper Tampa Bay Trail

Train

1910 Locomotive

This paved trail in Hillsborough County known as the Upper Tampa Bay Trail was once a railroad line. Today it is used for recreational purposes and is a rails-to-trail. In fact it is one of my favorite places to go for runs from time to time. Many use this trail daily and it extends for many miles throughout the county, but I often wonder how many know the history behind the trail. One of the great things is near this section of the trail is an interpretive sign that describes some of the history.

W.P. Lutz, a railroad engineer and Odessa sawmill owner, engineered the Tampa Gulf Coast Railway which connected Odessa to the Tampa Northern Railroad in 1909. Sawmills began laying narrow-gauge tracks throughout the region in 1910 to have access to virgin timber. In 1913, a spur was built to Tarpon Junction, located at present day Wilsky Boulevard and Linebaugh Avenue where the Rocky Creek portion of the trail is today.

There was a railroad trestle that crossed over Rocky Creek at this location and since has been modified for the recreational trail. So the remains of it are still there but a boardwalk crosses over it now but if you look down by the creek under the bridge you can see the original supports still there that were used for the trestle.

My Video

Rocky Creek Railroad History at Upper Tampa Bay Trail

Resources

Upper Tampa Bay Trail – (Wilsky Boulevard Trailhead)

Old Railroad Grade at Lake Wales Ridge State Forest

One of the places I enjoy exploring is Lake Wales Ridge State Forest in Polk County. Some of my early days as Florida Trailblazer were spent there so it is a place I like to return to when I can. I initially learned about how the area was a chain of islands millions of years ago when the rest of Florida was covered by ocean. It is known as the Central Florida Ridge today, the ridge runs for about 150 miles through central Florida, Lake Wales Ridge standing 295 feet above sea level, is the oldest part of it. As you walk along through areas where the scrub habitat are you are literally walking on an ancient beach.. The forest has a many areas of diverse habitat though with many miles of trails and places to explore.

Besides the enjoying the amazing wilderness here I have been learning a lot about the history as well. Some of it can still be seen today if you know where to look. One of the areas I found was an abandoned railroad grade, in fact some of the trails cross over it but today it just appears as another forest road so you may not know that it was a railroad line at one time. Once I found it I hiked along the grade for a few miles until I reached a creek where a bridge once was. The bridge is mostly gone except for the wood pilings that supported it. It was neat to see this reminder of history out here though. I learned that the railroad was built around 1944 to connect Avon Park Air Force Range with the existing railline in Frostproof. This line was discontinued in not to long after in 1948 and was dismantled. I would like to explore more in the area to see what else may be there that could be associated with the railroad.

My Video

Old Railroad Grade at Lake Wales Ridge State Forest

Resources

Lake Wales Ridge State Forest

Out in The Boonies – Arbuckle Tract

Railroad Bridge

Railroad Grade