Central Florida Lakes Guide – Kissimmee Chain of Lakes

Kissimmee Lake Toho

Osceola County has over 50 named lakes. The Kissimmee Chain of Lakes spans 21,000 acres in Polk and Osceola counties, about 11 miles south of St. Cloud and nine miles east of Lake Wales, including numerous lakes from Cypress Lake in the north to Lake Kissimmee in the south. The lakes are a part of the greater Kissimmee Chain of Lakes watershed, which originates in Orange County at Shingle Creek, exits at the south end of Lake Kissimmee into the Kissimmee River, flowing south through six locks and dams into Lake Okeechobee, forming the headwaters of the Florida Everglades.

The shallow lakes and marshes, wet prairies and pine flatwoods are inviting habitats for deer, turkey, wading birds, wintering waterfowl, snail kites, bald eagles, and sandhill and whooping cranes. Several sites on the Great Florida Birding Trail are found in the region as well. Anglers reliably reel in catches of largemouth bass, bluegill, shellcracker, and black crappie. Fishing, frogging, and hunting wild hog are allowed year round. With a wide variety of parks and marinas located around the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes, public access for boating and fishing is available.

Know the Flow of the Chain

Lake Kissimmee, Lake Tohopekaliga, and East Lake Tohopekaliga are the main chain lakes, while assorted lesser waterways serve as connections and pathways throughout the system.

Lake Kissimmee is located about 15 miles east of Lake Wales. The lake is almost entirely within Osceola County, except the western shore and a small part of the lake, which are in Polk County. There are at least five islands in the lake: Sturm Island, Bird Island, Rabbit Island, Ox Island, and the largest – Brahma Island. Lake Kissimmee has a national reputation for high quality bass fishing.

Lake Tohopekaliga (meaning “we will gather together here”), also referred to as Lake Toho, West Lake, or simply Toho, is the largest lake in Osceola County and the primary inflow of Shingle Creek. It covers 22,700 acres, and spans 42 miles in circumference. South Port canal is located at the southern tip of the lake, linking it to Cypress Lake. Lake Toho is bordered on the northern shore by Kissimmee, and on the eastern shore by Kissimmee Park.

East Lake Tohopekaliga (East Lake Toho, as the locals call it) is the primary inflow of Boggy Creek and neighbors St. Cloud on the south shore, and Narcoossee and Runnymede on the east shore. The lake covers an area of 11,968 acres and is almost five miles across, making it the second largest lake in Osceola County, after Lake Tohopekaliga, which is linked by the St. Cloud Canal.

Enjoying the Chain

For those seeking to explore the waterways of the Kissimmee Chain, the closest entry to Orlando is the Shingle Creek Regional Park, which is located in Kissimmee just minutes from many of the area’s major attractions. It’s also home to the Paddling Center at Shingle Creek, which rents single kayaks, tandem kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards. The Paddling Center also offers several guided tours. The two-hour, out-and-back eco-tour offers an excellent overview of the creek, highlighting its history and ecology while looking out for wildlife. The three-hour adventure challenge takes paddlers 1.5 miles through cypress forest and runs with the current the entire way. Finally, the 1.5-hour stand-up paddleboard trip will offer instruction for novices as well as a guide to Shingle Creek.

Lake Toho is known for its bass fishing and birdwatching opportunities. Located at the South end of the lake bordering Lakeshore Blvd., Lakefront Park has a scenic walking path with benches where visitors may view the area’s wide array of waterfowl, alligators, turtles and others. Lakefront park also has a miniature lighthouse, walking paths, a fishing pier, a playground, and is bordered on its west end by Big Toho Marina.

Lake Kissimmee State Park includes the shores of Lake Kissimmee, Lake Rosalie and Tiger Lake. The park is rich with wildlife, including bald eagles, white tailed deer, alligators, ospreys, bobcats, turkeys, and sandhill cranes, but the main attraction is its “cow camp” where visitors can learn about 1876-era Florida cowboys. Paddlers can put-in at the cowboy camp bridge to meander their way to the Buster Island Loop Paddling Trail. Boat rentals are available at the marina at the start of the route. For those who want to spend more time in the park, you can explore the 13 miles of nature trails featuring lots of moss-draped live oaks. Overnight camping is also available, allowing guests to take advantage of a peaceful evening under expansive night skies.

Beyond the Main Chain

Discover what lies beyond the main lakes of the Kissimmee Chain (info from our friends at Experience Kissimmee):

  • Alligator Chain of Lakes This group of small but beautiful lakes offers ample fishing opportunities for bass and crappie, with the best fishing on the largest lake of this group, Alligator Lake. Alligator Lake, which is 3,400 acres in size, and the remaining lakes, Lake Lizzie, Coon Lake, Trout Lake and Lake Gentry (792 acres, 148 acres, 273 acres and 410 acres, respectively) are connected by canals. Access to this lake system is through public boat ramps at the south end of Alligator Lake and at the north end of Alligator Lake. There is also a public boat ramp on Lake Gentry on State Road 534 for small boats and canoes.
  • Lake Hatchineha This Haines City lake is roughly 6,600 acres in size and offers plenty of lakeside family fun in addition to great bass, shellcracker and bluegill fishing.
  • Lake Cypress Come to this 4,100-acre lake for great bass fishing, especially in April and May. Also expect to find shellcracker and bluegill. Boating here makes for an excellent family adventure, and the Lake Cypress Boat Ramp in Kenansville provides access to Lake Cypress, Lake Kissimmee and Lake Hachinohe.
  • Lake Jackson Whether by kayak, canoe or motorized boat, 1,000-acre Lake Jackson is the place to be for catch-and-release largemouth bass fishing (it’s not unusual to find bass weighing more than 10 pounds here). You’ll also find plenty of crappie, sunfish and bluegill. Bird watching is another popular activity on this scenic lake.
  • Lake Marian Take your boating and fishing adventures to this glistening 5,800-acre lake in the Kenansville area. A marina and campground provide all that is necessary for a family vacation full of fishing, watersports and RVing. Lake Marian is well known for excellent crappie fishing.