Monthly Archives: November 2013

Listed species – Blackwater River State Forest


Gopher Tortoise

Blackwater River State Forest is home to many species on the federally endangered and threatened list.

  • 1 Fish
  • 5  Amphibians
  • 8 Reptiles
  • 5 Birds
  • 3 Mammals
  • 54 Invertebrates
  • 19 Plants and Lichens

The Nature Conservancy says of Blackwater River State Park:

“Considered by many as Florida’s premier state forest, Blackwater River State Forest — 209,571 acres and counting — is the bedrock of a conservation complex that hosts an amazing 300 species of birds and 2,500 species of plants.  One of the most biologically rich areas in the US, the forest is part of a vital nature corridor that gently rolls from Conecuh National Forest along the Florida-Alabama line to the Gulf of Mexico.”

“The state forest is a significant piece of the largest, continuous longleaf pine/wiregrass forest complex in the world. Once blanketing the entire southeastern United States, only 3 percent of that vast forest survives today.

For more:  see

Blackwater Fisheries Research and Development Center….

This is taken from the Florida Wildlife and Conservation Commission web site:  For the continuing article, see the link.

Blackwater Fisheries Research and Development Center is located in scenic Blackwater River State Forest near Holt, Florida.  Constructed in 1938 and operated by the Commission since 1940, the Center has stocked millions of bass, bream and catfish into Florida waters.  In recent years, production of fish has emphasized striped bass and striped bass hybrids (sunshine bass) and advanced fingerling largemouth bass.   Also produced are black crappie, white bass, and shoal bass.  From the years 2000 to 2011 this faciity has produced over 6.3 million striped bass and striped bass hybrids and over two million largemouth bass, bream and channel catfish for stocking in public waters.  As a result several notable fisheries have developed.

Hatchery produced largemouth bass were stocked into Lake Talquin near Tallahassee for five years beginning in 1999.  These bass averaged three inches in length when stocked in the spring.  By fall hatchery produced largemouth bass were significantly larger than naturally spawned fish in the lake.  October fish samples showed hatchery fish averaging almost nine inches in length compared to just over five inches for naturally produced fish.  In addition, angler surveys showed that hatchery largemouth bass contributed from 26 to 39 percent of the fish caught in largemouth bass tournaments on the lake from 2004 to 2006.

Hybrid striped bass, something called sunshine bass, produced at this facility have been stocked in many rivers and lakes in Florida to supplement existing fresh water sport fisheries.  As a result of these stockings significant seasonal hybrid fisheries have developed in the Escambia, Choctawhatchee, and Apalachicola rivers and Bear Lake in Santa Rose County.

Reestablishment of a reproducing population of native striped bass in the Blackwater and Yellow rivers is a joint effort by the FWC and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  Earlier this century striped bass virtually disapppeared from both rivers, probably due to pollution of the Pensacola Bay estuary.   Releases of young striped bass each year in the Blackwater River since 1987 and in the Yellow River since 1990 have this trophy fish on the road to recovery, with catches of stripers in the 30 pound class reported by anglers.  In 1995 the Institute collected the first mature female striped bass weighing 20 pounds from the Blackwater River.  Since then over 200 mature striped bass have been collected from the Blackwater and Yellow rivers.  Some of these brood fish were brought to this facility and spawned.  To date brood fish from these two systems have produced over 7.5 million fry.  These fish have been used to enhance or reestablish striped bass populations not only in these systems but in the Apalachicola, Ochlocknee, and Choctawhachee rivers and Lake Seminole and Lake Talquin in Florida as well as other river systems in Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

For more information see above web site.

Tate’s Hell Restoration – NWFl Water Management District

This was abstracted from the Executive Summary of the 2 volume hydrologic restoration plan of the Northwest Florida Water Management District for Tate’s Hell State Forest.  “Both volumes were developed through a cooperative effort with the Division of Forestry.  The plan fulfills the Division of Forestry objectives outlined in the Ten-Year Management Plan for Tate’s Hell State Forest (DOF 2007, pp. 5 and 14).  (

“Areas within Tate’s Hell State Forest were prioritized for restoration based on potential water quality benefits to Apalachicola Bay and surrounding waters, the feasibility of restoration, and the distribution of habits of species of conservation concern.  Approximately 25 listed plant and animal species occur within Tate’s Hell State Forest including the Red-cockaded Woodpecker and Eastern indigo snake.  The highest priority areas for restoration are generally located west of the New Rive and most discharge surface water to the Apalachicola Bay system.”

Whiskey George – paddling from estuary to wildernerness

“Whiskey George is a beautiful tannic creek originating in Tate’s Hell State Forest.  It meanders through pine flatwoods and salt marshes to East Bay.   Good birding route.  ( FWC,  “Appalachicola River: Wildlife and Environmental Area Paddling Trail System”.)


These photos were taken on a paddling trip on November 19, 2013.


This is the main putting-in place, with lots of parking spaces, for Whiskey George Creek, off Hway 65. See Whiskey George Landing sign to west.


An alternate put-in, right off shoulder of Hway 65, will save you 7.0 miles, about 3.5 miles from Whiskey George Put-in above. Off shoulder parking only.


Turkey buzzard, looking for carrion.


Stepping down to a lower branch, for a better look.


Maybe, if I act like an anhinga, they’ll paddle away and leave me alone.


The creek narrows


And ends here. Only to reappear further upstream. We don’t hike with our kayaks, so we’ll wait when there is more water to the upper stretches.


Swamp lilies still blooming in mid-November!


The clouds were spectacular.


A fly fisherman enjoying his day off, down river.


Homeward bound to the Whiskey George Launch Ramp — 13. 7 miles of paddling (including every oxbow along the way). If you put-in right at Hway 65 just south of this launch area, you’ll cut your paddling miles by 7 milesw

We saw a fisherman catch a 20-22 inch redfish and return it back into the water, ospreys, flocks of crows, kingfishers, a huge alligator which we surprised, a protothonary warbler, several other unidentified birds.   There is a primitive camp site on this creek in Tate’s Hell, accessible by a mucky bank. There is another called Whiskey George campsite, at Forestry roads 10 and 25.   This creek is tidally influenced — we paddled upstream against the tide and returned, also, against the tide.   It was not a difficult paddle.

It seems from the GRASI maps, that there are military crossings planned in two places on the upper sections of this creek by vehicles weighing up to 2.5 tons,  near the Whiskey George campsite.  Whiskey George empties into East Bay and then into Apalachicola Bay.  East Bay’s estuary is a very important nursery for Apalachicola Bay.

Tate’s Hell State Forest, Hydrologic Restoration

The following is available (with additional links) from, North Florida Water Management District.


Tates Hell State Forest encompasses nearly 208,000 acres in Franklin and Liberty counties, Florida.  This area was once a swampy mosaic of wet prairies, cypress sloughs, Atlantic White Cedar forests and other wetland and pine flatwoods communities.   Near the coast, habitats also include fresh and saltwater marshes and sand pine scrub.   Large-scale silvicultural operations during 1960s through l980s converted extensive areas of native habitats to slash pine plantation.   More than 800 miles of roads were constructed to support logging operations and ditches were excavated along most roads to provide road-fill material and drain adjacent wetlands.  These activities have adversely impacted the hydrology and ecology of historic vegetation communities and affected the magnitude, timing, and quality of surface water runoff discharged to the Apalachicola Bay system.

In 1994, the State of Florida began purchasing the property from timber companies with the goals of improving the quality of surface water runoff discharged from the site to the Apalachicola Bay system, re-establishing historic surface water drainage patterns, and restoring wetlands ecosystems.   The Northwest Florida Water Management initiated the land acquisition process with the $3.5 million purchase of the Glawson tract in 1994.   Tates Hell State Forest is now managed as a multi-use site by the Florida Forest Service with cooperation from the Florida Fish and wildlife Conservation Commission.

The management goals for the Tates Hell Forest are to restore, protect, and manage Tates Hell ecosystems, while integrating public use.   The Florida Forest Service continues to manage a large portion of the property for timber production.   Pine management activities provide an economic benefit and are aimed at improving forest health.  The forest is also a designated Wildlife Management Area, with opportunities for hunting, camping, fishing, kayaking, and off-highway vehicle use.


The Northwest Florida Water Management District shares the Florida Forest Service’s goals of restoring and protecting ecosystems at Tates Hell State Forest, with a particular emphasis on hydrologic restoration.   The goals of hydrologic restoration are to:

  • Improve the water quality of surface water flows and runoff discharged to East Bay, Apalachicola Bay, and surrounding water.
  • Restore historic surface water drainage patterns and hydrologic connectivity
  • Enhance wetland hydrology and function
  • Restore a mix of natural ecological communities

Due to the large size of Tate’s Hell State Forest and the extensive degree of hydrologic impacts, restoration is anticipated to be a gradual process with cumulative benefits accruing as hydrologic restoration and ecosystem managemetn activities are implemented during the next several decades.


During the past ten years, a number of hydrologic restoration activities have been implemented by the Northwest Florida Water Management District, the Florida Forest Service, and other entities.   Existing projects are widely distributed across the site and target a variety of wetland types.   The Hydrologic Restoration Plan provides conceptual designs and recommendations for future hydrologic restoration activities through 2020.  Restoration activities include:

  • Installation of low water crossings where roads bisect streams and wetlands
  • Removal of selected logging roads and adjacent ditches
  • Installation of ditch blocks and flashboard risers to decrease flow in drainage ditches
  • Shrub reduction and tree thinning to restore habitat conditions
  • Control of exotic and invasive species
  • Revegetation with longleaf pines, wiregrass and cypress
  • Prescribed burning to restore more natural fire frequencies


In spring 2009, the Northwest Florida Water Managment District initiated the Whiskey George Basic Hydrologic Restoration Project.  This hydrologic restoration project will improve the water quality of the stormwater runoff discharged from the Whiskey George Creek basin into East Bay.  East Bay is an important estuarine system that serves as the primary nursery area for fish and other marine organisms in the Apalachicola By system.  This restoration project will also enhance wetland function, restore historic wet savannas, and improve fish and wildlife habitat across 2,900 acres in Tates Hell State Forest.

Construction activities being implemented to restore historical drainage patterns include the removal and recontouring of nearly six miles of dirt logging roads and adjacent ditches and the installation of six low water crossings, a ditch plug and several new culverts.

New River, Tate’s Hell State Forest, Great Paddling and Camping by Ed Feaver


March 11-12, 2012 — a group of paddlers put-in at FH 22 east of Sumatra to do a 2 day paddle on the New. One portage, swift water flowing between tightly growing cypress, but generally an easy paddle. Paddling the New River in this stretch to camp site 7, is always different.

The New River starts in the Mud Swamp Federal Wilderness northeast of Sumatra and travels approximately 21 miles southwest through the entire length of Tate’s Hell to join the Crooked River and there forms the Carrabelle River, north of US 98.  It begins as a narrow stream, some of which disappears underground when the area has not had sufficient rainfall, but usually has sufficient water in the Spring to paddle from the Sumatra put in to its mouth.  Even in semi-drought conditions (which we experienced in 2009-2011) the river has sufficient water and unobstructed paddling conditions from Camp Site 7 to the Carrabelle River, a trip of approximately 12 miles.


Limbos are to be expected on this stretch of the river. So, this one? No big deal.

There are 14 primitive camp sites along the river, all but four of which are within spitting distance of the river.  A few may be underwater during periods of excessive rainfall.   Each of these sites has a fire pit and a picnic table and most of them can accommodate 2-to-4 tents, with a couple of sites that can handle 10-15 small tents.  There is no potable water at any of the sites and, with the exception of Gully Branch, there are no bathroom facilities at the sites.  The protocol for campers and day users is “pack it in, pack it out”.  The Gully Branch site, which is the location of the only bridge across the river, has a vault toilet and a large pavilion for groups.  The Tate’s Hell Forest Service does a superb job of maintaining the sites, and, for the most part, campers show respect for the natural world and rarely leave a mess.   Sites must be reserved through Tate’s Hell Forestry’s office in Carrabelle for $10 per site per night.  With the exception of hunting season, it is usually possible to reserve a site with short notice.


Aside from the single portage, this was the most exerting activity of the day.

This river, only one of several in Tate’s Hell, is a paddler’s paradise — challenging and beautiful, but it is equally terrific for fishing, camping, hunting, and most important, for experiencing our natural world.   The camp sites are great places for families (no non-natural noise, no distorting lights) and especially good for introducing children to the wonders of nature and discovering how all of life is connected.


Under the Gully Branch Road bridge and more than halfway to the take-out.


Pope’s Place — take-out early enough to have a big meal at the Fisherman’s Wife in Carrabelle.

May Showers bring May Flowers, Tates Hell State Forest

P1010594Muscadine grape flowers in May, muscadines in late September.  The bounty of the wilderness, without invasive species or exotics.







Swamp Titi — a magnet for honey bees and other pollinators.

P1010730If you look close enough on the forest floor, you will find these demure blossoms, Coastal Rose gentian