Blue sky. Temperatures in the 60’s. A spring breeze which wafts the scent of blooming flowers.
Insects are out, including butterflies, their wings looking like stained glass windows, the sun glistening colors through them
Pinxster azaleas blooming on both sides of the creek, the landscape punctuated by white blackberry blossoms , fringe trees and swamp dogwoods. Rusty blackhaws, high above, blooming white clusters as large as my fist; dots of orange cross vines and American wisteria above.
Natural perfume, spring palate of colors, breeze caresses — all’s well with the world.
Granted, this was the first sprig of bloom. Many of the trees just had an inkling of light green tips, but with several days of 70 degree temperatures, the Ogeche tupelos will be ready for the bees.
And hopefully, they will show.
Within a few miles of the creek are a bank of bee hives. In the last two years the blooms were sparse, but so were the bees. This year, the bees are on the blackberries and hopefully the tupelos will bloom soon so the bees can move on to these flowers. Tupelo honey is one of the area’s best agricultural products and they’re getting harder and harder to find.
Tupelo honey never sugars, but increasingly we’ve paid premium prices for tupelo honey (as gifts) only to find the recipient telling us that it sugars.
We like tupelo honey, but at the current price, our friends get it, not us.
On Womack creek, ogeche tupelo trees are the last to leaf and the last to bloom. To us its a sign that’s a sure sign of spring.
Ask a few alder shrubs on Womack Creek which are losing their leaves to adult and larval alder beetles.
These grub with impunity, so it was not difficult to get photos of the adult, larva and pupa of the insects.
They love vegetables!
Until they’re pupated.
Had it not been for a recent curator added to the inaturalist.org experts, I might never had this identified. There is very little written about this species, although it apparently is a North American native.
If it contuinues its march along creeks and streams, eating alder leaves, it will soon be noticed.
Swamp jessamine were more prolific on the creek this year than in year’s past, As were crossvines.
At the entrance, golden clubs were still blooming.
Bristly buttercup still blooming throughout the lower creek where there is more sun.
The oaks were setting out their blooms: live oak and water oaks.
Southern dewberry and Pennsylvania black berries promise fruit later in the season.
Still blooming are Walter’s viburnum and parsley haw. Walters are usually are going to seed as the Virginia sweetspire start to bloom and the heat-sensitive parsley haw blooms fading with warm temperatures.
And definitely before Rusty haws bloom or fringe trees.
Poison ivy are blooming and pinxsters will be blooming for a few weeks more.
At Nick’s Road Campsite where we stopped for lunch, candy root, round leaf bluets and primrose violets were still blooming. Cinnamon fern were starting to sprout.
Tate’s Hell State Forest is a watershed; swamps are to be expected.
You may not think of visiting the northern border, with FR 22 separating the state forest on the south from the Apalachicola National Forest to the north, as a place to look for carnivorous plants. This is not on the wild flower trail which offers stupendous blooms off SR 65. It is over 8 miles east of Sumatra on a sandy forest road.
It was a wet non-winter and early spring and a section close to the New River is blooming right now.
Yellow pitcher plants will first catch your eye.
If you stop to examine the area, you will also see, Burke’s southern pitcher plants.
The full face of the flower is shown on the opening of this post.
Some are still in bud.
Pink sundews are all over the ground — hard not to step on them.
And interspersed are Zigzag bladderworts.
Also bunches of flattened pipewort.
They look like nature’s pincushions (like phone books, not a contemporary common reference.)
Bog club mosses can be found in the Apalachicola National Forest where the ground is perennuially wet, but they were in Tate’s Hell SF, also.
Looks like a green centipede.
Among all of that, the white bog violets are still blooming. These have thinner, longer leaves. There are more on the western section of Tate’s Hell SF than the eastern sections which has the white primrose leafed white violets.
Nearby, in small clumps, but noticeable because of their golden color, are Savannah sneezeweed.
At the New River one will see mayberry and high bush blueberries beginning to fruit.
And Atlantic White Cypress (cedar) fruiting.
Flatwoods St. John’s wort are still blooming.
And with the warmth, dragon flies appear — this one a blue corporal.
Reserve this site on Reserve America, CS 47, Oxbow, at Tate’s Hell State Forest, Pickett’s Bay section. When you get to your site, find the closest location for cell phone coverage. A 911 address for this site has not yet been cleared with the First Responders in Franklin county, but call the Tate’s Hell office and request a 911 address. This camp site is off Warren Bluff Road close to Carrabelle and the campsite sign is east of Warren Bluff Campsite.
It over a mile drive from the sign to the campsite.
On the Crooked River, one can see the river-front homes on the Crooked River beyond the marsh grasses. For those who prefer the reassurance of civilization nearby, yet camped far enough to enjoy privacy and the wilderness, this is an ideal site.
It is a large, flat, sandy site. There is extra room under the oak tree to pitch a tent.
There is enough beach at the bottom of the sandy slope to put-in or take-out parallel to the shoreline.
The view downriver is shown below, and below that photo two photos of the views upriver.
For those who prefer isolation, similar sandy sites on the Crooked River on either side of this site may be preferred: Site #46 Sunday Rollaway and site #48 Warren Bluff campsites.
Reserve this site at Reserve America, Sumatra Campsite 1, Tate’s Hell State Forest. When you get to the site, check for the best cell phone connection location. If you call 911, give 40169 SE Campsite Road, Liberty County (not Franklin), Tate’s Hell State Forest, GPS 30.03174, -84.82746. First responders will not be able to find you with just a campsite number. Reserve America will not include this information on your confirmation.
To get to this campsite, take CR 67 to Sumatra. At the Family Coastal Restaurant, drive east on e Forestry Road 22 (paved, then sandy) for 5.8 miles,. Turn right on Cut-thru Road and travel for .7 miles to Nero Road (no signage). Turn left on Nero Road, you will pass SF 121A after .9 miles, SF 125 after 1.3 miles and Nero road after 1.7 miles. Nero Road will end at the intersection of Sumatra Campsite road (noted on brown wooden sign with yellow lettering). Turn left on Sumatra Campsite road and drive for 1.1 miles. The road ends at Sumatra Campsite 1 which is on the New River.
The river was very high after a major rainfall. It is normally not this high.
There is a very good landing here, except when the water is very low, there is a sharp and deep drop. The chances are if the river is that low, there is no through navigability downstream to Campsite 17 on the New.
This is a good campsite for those who may want to use it to explore the upper reaches of the New River as far as one can paddle and the lower reaches as far as one can paddle. In high water, the current may be swift and returning from a down river excursion may take some effort.
It is large enough to accommodate at least 3 two person tents and possibly more.
The view downstream is shown below and below that, the view upstream. Note that the deciduous trees are all leafing out. When deciduous trees leaf on this river, the amount of water they take from the river is enormous. If it doesn’t rain, the water level will fall precipitously in the next week. Generally the best time to assure through navigability on the river in these upper reaches (to campsite 17) is no later than mid-March.
It is possible, if one is not adverse to going upriver, to do a half circle from the Ochlockonee River to Crooked River to Carrabelle River and end up on one of the campsites on the New River (or the reverse), camping along the way. This will take you through the deciduous lowlands, estuary/swamps and upper pineland areas of the second largest Florida state forest. Except at Womack Creek campground, there are no showers available. At Rock Landing Day Use Area on the Crooked River and Gully Branch Day Use Area vault toilets are available. However, consider this primitive camping all the way and bring your own water. You may be able to filter water at Womack Creek Campground and Gully Branch Campground where water is available, but not potable. We recommend you bring your own water for drinking and cooking.
The best time to be paddling and camping in Tate’s Hell is from mid-October through mid-May. After May some areas will have yellow flies, which, unlike mosquitoes and other flying insects, will follow you on the water and even enter your cockpit. Yellow flies are particularly bad in the summer at Gully Branch Recreation Area and Log Cabin Campground.
Here is a list of the paddling venues in Tate’s Hell State Forest and the campsites which may be accessible to paddlers. For specific camp site information, search by Campsite number of name on this site.
Log cabin Campground *: Campsite #23 has the easiest access and is used by paddlers on the Ochlockonee as an overnight or a rest/lunch stop. Campsite 24 has access to the river, but better when the river is high or the tide is incoming. Campsite 25 and 26 have no easy access to the Ochlockonee, use campsite 23 access.
Womack Creek Campground/Day Use Area, CS #29-CS #40 *: There is gravel landing used by motorized boats and paddlers. There are tent and 3 RV/tent campsites here with 3 sites with electricity. Womack Creek Campground is the only campground in Tate’s Hell with showers. Campers from other sites, can use the showers by paying $2 day use fee. Water not potable, sulphurous.
Crooked River is affected by tides from Ochlockonee Bay to the east and the Gulf of Mexico via Carrabelle to the west. It goes under the CR 67 bridge and, at high water periods, may require portage across CR 67. There are a few short branches of this river which can be explored.
CS 28, Loop road, easy access
Rock Landing Campground/Day Use Area, campsite 41-43*:
Rock Landing has a concrete boat ramp, vault toilet, covered picnic tables. You will have to carry your boats to the landing. There is a grassy area on either side of the concrete ramp.
Crooked River #44, has a gravel landing used also by motorized boats. There is a grassy parking area for trailer parking. CS#45 is accessible to the Crooked River, but there is a drop when the water is low (or the tide is outgoing).
Sunday Rollaway, #46, good sandy landing.
Oxbow #47 a sloping, sandy hill, but there is sufficient flat sandy area near the water to be able to take-out horizontal to the land.
Warren Bluff #48, good sandy landing.
New River: the upper stretch from CS #1 to CS #17 can be a challenging paddle due to treefalls, strainers, smilax and may not be entirely navigable from April through the early winter. Where access is available on the New River campsites, care should be taken when the river is low, there are deep drops and one could loose one’s initial footing with the downriver current and get in over one’s leg stretch.
Sumatra, CS 1, generally easy unless the river is low, sharp drop into river
New River West, CS 3, accessible, but steep drop when water is low
Gully Branch tent only, CS 4, use Gully Branch Day Use area (will have to carry your boat there), concrete-sectioned landing used by motorized boats also. Vault toilet.
Dew Drop, CS 5, no easy access to river.
Parker Place CS 8, good access, watch sharp drop when water is low or tide is out.
Pope Place CS 9, good access
New River East, CS 13, yes with caution when water is low
New River East, CS 14, yes with caution when water is low
New River East, CS 15, yes with caution when water is low
New River East, CS 16, yes, use creek to access north of campsite and carry-up boats to camp level (incoming tide will fill up creek; if boat left in creek, should be tied loosely to accommodate rise in water level.)
New River East, CS 17, yes. one of the best camping sites for 8 tents if paddling the upper New River since the shuttle from FR 22 will take longer than most shuttles and you may not be able to get into the river till about 2.5 hours after meet-up.
Borrow Pits: CS 6 is on one borrow pit and close to another, CS 7 is on a different borrow pit, both ponds are small and suitable for children and beginners, easy access. There are fish in the borrow pits.
Borrow Pit CS 6, very large site, grassy, great for families because of the flat space available for children (and adults) to play games like bocce, croquet, football, soccer, petanque, etc. Road around the borrow pit enables short walks. Good visibility for easier surveillance of children. However, it is off West River Road and may have some traffic on that road.
Borrow Pit CS 7, is more isolated and less trafficked, but has similar characteristics as Barrow Pit CS 6.
Cash Creek on the west side of Tate’s Hell SF is off SR 65 and has access to the estuaries which will take one to other creeks and the Apalachicola River. Cash Creek upriver has about 12 miles of paddling options.
Cash Creek Campground/Day Use Area: concrete landing with sandy section for kayaks and canoes. Vault toilet, covered picnic table. CS 55, 56, 57 (walk in), are small, open sites suitable for 1 RV/trailer or tent. This is a popular motorized boat landing to launch boats down into the estuaries and the Apalachicola river.
Pidcock Road, CS 49, very nice high campsite over Cash Creek, but may be difficult to access boats into water, with possibility when the tide is in. Can accommodate 8 small tents.
Whiskey George Creek is part of the estuarine creeks which empty eventually into the Apalachicola River or East Bay of the Apalachicola River.
Dry Bridge, CS 51, has an accessible, grass on mud landing which is slippery when wet.
Doyle Creek is part of the estuarine/swamp creeks which empty eventually into the Apalachicola River or East Bay of the Apalachicola River.
Doyle Creek, CS 52, difficult access to water, muddy.
Deep Creek joins Graham Creek downriver which joins East River (to river right) to the Apalachicola River. It is navigable to Graham only when the water is high. When the water is very high, the campsite dry area is severely diminished.
Deep Creek CS 53, very secluded, cozy campsite, which when the water is high may have a section of the site under water. Good access to water, upstream and downstream to Graham Creek.
Womack Creek is a 3.75 mile creek (with additional shorter branches) which connects Womack Creek Campground landing to Nick’s Road campsite. For us, it’s a gem of a creek with flowering shrubs and understory plants. We have a separate blog site just on this creek http://www.womackcreek.wordpress.com, A Paddler’s Guide to the Flowering Plants of Womack Creek.
Nick’s Road CS 27, is a secluded, large campsite with easy paddle access on Womack Creek. Upcreek there are branches to explore (a family of otters live there) and downcreek there are additional branches to explore. There is hardly any upriver current, but tides influence the level of the creek waters. It is 3.75 miles downriver to Womack Creek Campground.
Womack Creek Campground/Day Use Area, CS #29-CS#40. This Day Use Area has a covered pavilion with 2 grills for day use users. $2 per person day user fee. Flush toilets, hot showers. No potable water. This is a good place to put-in for a round-trip on Womack Creek of not quite 8 miles. See http://www.womackcreek.wordpress.com , Paddler’s Guide to the Blooming Plants of Womack Creek for information on living things on Womack creek.
*The maximum number of adults allowable per site is 8, but many of the sites are suitable for group camping/paddling. These are indicated with an asterisk. If you are organizing a group camp/paddle, consult with Bin Wan, Recreation Coordinator Talquin District, Florida Forestry. He may be able able to help with planning and site selection. When using sites with strictly primitive camping, you may wish to consider rental of a portable toilet or bring several portable toilets with disposable, biodegradable toilet sacks.