Published letter to the editor, Tallahassee Democrat

Thanks for Ms Portman’s story on Tate’s Hell State Forest.

For those parents who may have procrastinated and have found all state parks full, you might consider Tate’s Hell State Forest, 1 1/4 hours from Tallahassee, or Blackwater River State Forest near Crestview.

Tate’s Hell has many primitive camp sites along the New River, Crooked River and Ochlocknee Rivers.   We would recommend for families with little camping experience to start at Womack Creek, which, though classified “primitive” has hot showers and flush toilets.   There are 12 camp sites at Womack Creek, 3 of these may be used by RV’s and trailers, the remaining 9 are tent-only.

For other camping location, we recommend you bring a portable toilet (for the squeamish), available from any camping store, although this is not a requirement.   The fee is $10 per site thoughout Tate’s Hell.  Forestry practices “pack it in, pack it out”, so prepare to handle all your garbage.   Blackwater River State Forest has a few electrical sites which will cost $20, reduced for those over 65 and the disabled.

Except for Womack Creek campground, all the campsites are reservable by calling the Carrabelle Office of Tate’s Hell State Forest.   Try out Womack Creek for a night.   If all goes well, continue on with the next.   March 16 is full moon.   There will be a group of about 50 paddlers spending the night of March 19 paddling their way to the coast, but they usually camp in open areas near the rest house and pavilion.  Provisions and supplies such as propane can be purchased at the stores in Carrabelle, 13 miles on the coast, where golden beaches also welcome those to whom spring break is lying on white sand with an occasional plunge in the Gulf.   Tate’s Hell Forestry occasionally gives 4-5 hour tours of the restoration of the forest.   Ask about it at the Carrabelle office.   If is an excellent tour with knowledgeable forestry guides.

Purchase tents with mesh netting fine enough to keep out no-see-ums.  There is a covered pavilion at Womack Creek campground and Gully Branch in case of rain, so a capacious tent is not needed.   Gully Branch also has vault toilets.

The taxpayers of Franklin County agreed to the state purchase of private timberland to form Tate’s Hell in 1994.  This is 52% of their taxable base.   The lease the users of these forests can do to show our appreciation for the preservation of wild places is to frequent their establishments.

For camping there and paddling, feel free to e-mail us — we could love to see more Florida families enjoy wilderness camping and paddling opportunities which the Florida forests offer.

Ed and Marylyn Feaver

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