A strong southwest wind is perfect for exploring the southern part of our county by bicycle—or a ride farther into Charlotte County. And after the trek in, you’ll sail home with the wind pushing from behind. We chose the communities of Hull and Fort Ogden as our destination for a recent Sunday morning ride.
Originally Camp Ogden, a fortification built in 1841 during the Second Seminole War in preparation for the U.S. Army to invade the Big Cypress and the Everglades, Fort Ogden’s post office, established in 1876, is the oldest in DeSoto County to be in continuous service. Away from the buzz of highway traffic, it’ll feel like you are riding into the past.
If you are new to riding the bike lanes on U.S. Highway 17, know that on weekends there is less commercial traffic, an ideal time to break into lane riding. Sidewalks extend from town to just south of Nocatee, and you may cycle on the sidewalk; travel at a slower pace and yield to pedestrians and other cyclists, giving an audible signal as you pass. Sidewalk riders must also obey pedestrian crosswalk signals, if present. The area just south of town has a lot of pedestrian, bicycle and motor traffic, so use caution at every intersection, or use Hillsborough Avenue to skirt this area.
We rode the sidewalk on the northbound side of the road and then crossed over at Fletcher and rode the southbound bike lane. Cyclists on roadways must travel in the direction of traffic. When riding on sidewalks, you may ride either direction, but studies of accidents involving sidewalk riders indicate traveling in the same direction is safer; it is where a motorist expects to encounter other traffic. Local riders seemed to be following an unwritten code; those traveling with traffic rode in the streets, while those riding against traffic rode on the sidewalk.
You’ll notice bike-lane markings are either double white lines, or a single white line, and at intersections become a dashed white line. The buffered lane with the extra stripe is a full six or seven feet wide, enough to provide the three-foot minimum for passing, which is typically found in more congested areas. Single-line lanes may be narrower, and motor vehicles should not cross into either unless they have yielded to cyclists. Stencilled pavement outlines of a cyclist identify bike lanes. The dashed markings warn both cyclists and motorists to be aware of each other at these points because both may need to use the space. A rearview mirror is essential for riding the lanes, and remember you can always adjust your speed to allow potentially conflicting vehicles to move out of your path. When crossing the path of a vehicle where you have the right of way, always try to make eye contact with the driver, and signal your intent to proceed through the intersection.
About three miles south of Nocatee, turn left on Hull Avenue at the signs for Mt Olive CME Church and St Mary Missionary Baptist Church. The road will keep heading south and west through several turns. There’s even a rare Florida hill—and the road department has put up two signs warning you of it. A recent culvert replacement leaves a rough patch at the bottom, so brake before hitting it, and watch for oncoming traffic where the road curves after the hill.
You will pass an area surrounded by a high chain-link fence on your right. The Nocatee-Hull Creosote site was a creosote treatment plant, operating from 1913 until 1952. Site operations included treatment of railroad ties using high-temperature liquid creosote that contaminated soil, groundwater and sediment. About two decades ago area wells were found to be contaminated, and actions to ensure the safety of local residents and protect the environment from further contamination were undertaken; monitoring of the site continues. A public water line now connects most residences in the immediate vicinity of site contamination.
Turn left on River Street, and you will come upon the picturesque Fort Ogden United Methodist Church, 6923 SW River St. Visible from U.S. 17, the church is reminiscent of a New England town, and faces what was once the town green, now the Ziba King Memorial Recreation Park, 3895 SW Georgia St. The cattle baron Ziba King and some of his family are buried in a small family plot within the park. The five-acre DeSoto County park has a large pavilion, bathrooms and a playground, perfect for families or a company picnic.
Ziba King moved to the Fort Ogden area after the Civil War, homesteaded 160 acres and also opened a general store. He was president of the First National Bank of Arcadia, held prominent positions in several other banks, owned the local newspaper, was elected to the Florida Senate and was also on the school board. One time he bankrolled the entire school system with his own money. He was active in politics until his final days. When he died in 1901, he reportedly owned 50,000 cattle, representing 10 percent of all Florida beef at that time. His life story is similar to the fictional family created by the late Patrick Smith in his Florida classic A Land Remembered.
Head back out to U.S. 17. You can ride a loop to the south the west off 761 in the Liverpool area, or head back north and ride a loop in the South Fort area on the east side of 17. We headed north on 17, then east on 760, cut over to Reynolds Street via Provau Avenue. Then a left on Hog Bay Extension (currently undergoing repaving project) and merging on to State Road 31 for a short distance, bringing us to 760, where we turned right, then left on Hansel Avenue, left on Brown Street and right on Townsend to put us back on State Road 70, where we crossed over to the bike/ped path. Our roundtrip from the Winn Dixie parking lot was about 35 miles.
If you are interested in joining our 8 a.m. Sunday morning rides, email by Saturday to confirm, as over the summer we may be starting from other locations. Helmets are required for all riders. Reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information about the park, contact DeSoto County Parks and Recreation, 491-7507.
Historical information provided by the DeSoto County Historical Society.