Cracker Trail

This wood-burning locomotive, made in 1914 by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in Pennsylvania, is one reason to visit the Cracker Trail Museum & Village. / Photos by J.D. Vivian unless otherwise noted

Few traces of Old Florida remain, so it’s refreshing to know that some still exist. Take the Cracker Trail Museum & Village, in Pioneer Park in Zolfo Springs.

The Cracker Trail today includes parts of State Road 66, S.R. 64 and U.S. 98. Its 120-mile length runs from Fort Pierce on the east coast almost to Bradenton on the west coast. In the early 1800s, horse-riding Florida “Crackers” — so-called because of the noise their whips made — drove cattle along this trail.

Five reasons to visit Cracker Trail Museum & Village

1) Items related to pioneer-era history


The museum features a wide variety of Florida memorabilia, including an oral-history program and photography collections. In fact, more than 4,000 items are on display inside.

The museum is built on a site of one of the last battles the United States fought with the Seminole Nation during the Third Seminole War (1855-58). The battle ended on June 16, 1856, when soldiers from Fort Meade defeated the Native Americans.

cracker trail

Built in 1879, the Hart Cabin is one section of the original house that served as home to William and Mary Hart and their seven children.

2) Pioneer Village

These historic buildings are all in an area small enough to walk around in easily.

The main ones are the Cracker Trail Post Office, the C.A. Bryant blacksmith shop and the Hart Cabin; there is also a sugar-cane grinding station.

3) Fossils

Many fossils, some discovered by local Boy Scout troops searching an area along the Peace River known as “Bone Valley,” are on display.

4) A river runs through it

The Peace River meanders through Pioneer Park, which is owned by Hardee County. The level of the river depends on the amount of recent rainfall.

The riverbank is a great place to enjoy a picnic or just to relax and savor the serene surroundings. Plenty of shaded tables are available if you don’t feel like slip-sliding down the hill to the river.

peace river cracker museum

The Peace River provides a great place for a picnic or to relax.

5) It’s inside a county park

Pioneer Park also has a boat ramp, a campground and a wildlife refuge. The wildlife refuge, closed Monday and Wednesday, costs $2 to enter and has a boardwalk.

Visit the park’s website, www.hardeecounty.net/crackertrailmuseum/involved.html, for information about special events, such as the annual Pioneer Park Days.

During Pioneer Park Days, you’ll see live demonstrations of blacksmithing, black-powder shooting, quilting and spinning; tour the Hart Cabin and hear stories by Wendell Smith, great-grandson of William Hart; and tour a historical encampment, hosted by the Florida Frontiersmen.

IF YOU GO
Cracker Trail Museum & Village
2822 Museum Drive
Zolfo Springs, Fla.

Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday (except holidays)

$2 admission; under 5, free

863-735‑0119; www.hardeecounty.net/ crackertrailmuseum