Category Archives: North Florida camping

CS 29-38 – Womack Creek Campground, Tate’s Hell State Forest

You can reserve the sites at the Womack Creek Campground at Reserve America, Tate’s Hell State Forest, Womack Creek Campground. If you have to call 911, your address is 5503 Jeff Sanders Rd. Emergency responders will need the street address. This information is not included in your Reserve America confirmation.

When you arrive at your site, check to see where you can get coverage, if you cannot get coverage at your site.

At 5503 Jeff Sanders Rd. you will find Womack Creek Campground, the largest of Tate’s Hell State Forest’s campgrounds. Although called “primitive” it has currently a large rest house with hot showers and flush toilets. Water is not potable; it can be filtered, but water in the area smells of shulper and needs to sit overnight to remove the smell. Recommend you bring your own drinking and cooking water. Because the resthouse sits on the rim of a bluff overlooking a curve in the Ochlockonee River, the sandy banks have been eroding at a very rapid rate and is currently about 1 foot away from a corner of the foundation. The restroom facilities may soon be closed because of the danger of collapse of the foundation. In such a situation, Tate’s Hell Forestry may have to install vault toilets because the primitive tent sites are too close to each other even though well separated by thick palmetto stands. Digging your own toilet as in isolated single sites in the forest is not sanitary.

Although any number of hosts and visitors have noted that the eroding banks should be shored up over the years, nothing has been done that we can see. This is a lovely campground and increasingly has attracted group camping.

It has been a favorite campground for us because it’s the landing to Womack Creek. In 2013 we organized a paddle for about 85 paddlers to camp here for a weekend and paddle Tate’s Hell SF and area paddling venues. A major front caused cancellation of the paddles on the last day. Tate’s Hell Forestry was very supportive of the group’s plans and provided free firewood and other assistance to enable the event to be a success. Talquin State Forest Region Recreation coordinators have always been willing to help with group events in the forests under their jurisdiction.

We noticed yesterday when we took these photos that there was more dog poop around the campground, which is not common here (or any campsite in Tate’s Hell SF). As tenters, we are particularly conscious of dog feces since we are sleeping directly on ground and walk the area a lot more than campers do. If you reserve a campsite here and you are tenting, you might wish to call the Tate’s Hell State Forest office and request that they remind the host to clean up the dog poop before you expect to be there. If you are trying to introduce a good tenting experience to friends or family, this is sure to discourage them from doing any more camping.

Also, be warned that the host has a dog which while very friendly jumps on you. It is not on lease as it should be. Before you let your children out of your site area, you may want to check with the host to make sure that he is aware that you have children, particularly if you have a child who may not be familiar with dogs larger than they are and may not know how to handle an overly friendly dog.

This is what you will see as you drive into the campground.

This is the parking area for cars for those in the tent only campsites which are inaccessible to cars.

This is the site of the host’s trailer, the only host at Tate’s Hell State Forest. Hosts are volunteers.  They volunteer 20 hours a week of volunteer time and are given a site and water and electricity hook-up for that work. The host at Womack Creek campground is also responsible for the campsites at Nick’s Road landing and other nearby campsites. This is very hard work, so please be patient with them. The regular work often takes more than 20 hours a week and they often buy from their own pockets paper and soap for the bathrooms. To assist these volunteers, you can keep the restrooms and your campsite clean and clear of garbage and debris and clean up your firepit of thrash — the firepit is not a thrash bin.

Campsite 33 and 35 are not reservable. For those camping here, place your fee in the envelope provided and deposit the check/cash in envelope in this iron ranger. There is a day use fee of $2. Campers from other sites often use the showers at Womack Creek Campground. They should pay the day use fee of $2 per person.

This is an enclosure to protect the burrow of a gopher tortoise, an endangered specie and keystone specie. Keystone species are essential to many other living things which depend on them or their habitats to live. In the case of gopher tortoises, about 150 different species including a number of other endangered species. Please do not use this area as a play area and if you see a gopher tortoise, stay away — they are not play animals. They are essential denizens of this ecosystem.

The rest rooms have a very long and wide veranda from which one can rock and view the Ochlockonee river flowing below you. Those rocking chairs were donated by the then Florida Canoe and Paddling Connection paddlers (now Florida Kayaking.com) who held a camp/paddle here in 2013.

The view downriver – note how close the banks are to the rest rooms.

The upriver view from the veranda. At dusk and at dawn this is an incredibly reposeful place to be.

Between the boat landing and the restrooms are the day use pavilions with 2 grills.

And below that is a grassy play area and the boat landing.

The Ochlockonee River curves just before this landing. At flood tide, there are eddies which are quite strong upstream of the landing. Looking upstream you will see the opening of Womack Creek on the left and to the right the Ochlockonee River.

CAMPSITES IN CAMPGROUND

CS #29

This is a tent only campsite as are campsites 3-33, 35, 37. Campsites 33 and 35 are not reservable, but available on a walk-in basis.

The tent sites vary in size, but are not large. There is a picnic table at each campsite and a fire pit. Remember that if you plan to use the fire pit, the tent should not be too close to it or the flying embers will burn a hole in your tent fly.

This site is large enough to hold a 4-6 person tent. It will be cramped.


Except for campsite 37 and the RV/tent sites cars are not accessible to the site. That campsite is not reservable, but is the largest tent site in the campground.

Campsite 30 should accommodate a 4 person tent or 2 two person backpacking tents.

I failed to get the sign post photo of the site below, which is campsite 31.

In the middle of the campsites is a large area for a group fire pit.

Campsite 32 is a smaller tent site which can accommodate a 4 person tent.

Campsite 33 is a non reservable site.

Campsite 34 is an RV/tent site with electricity. It costs more and is reservable. Of the 3 RV/tent sites this may have the largest tent site not on gravel.

This is campsite 35 which is walkable from the main entry road, but car parking is in the group parking area. It is not reservable.

It is one one of the more private of the campsites at this campground.

Campsite 36 is an RV/T site with gravel.

One could pitch a small tent here or at the entrance in a small triangular grassy area right off the main road.

Campsite 37 is the largest of the tent sites and one can park one’s car in the site.

Campsite 38 is an RV/tent site with electricity.

I seem to have overlooked campsite 39 and 40. Will rectify that when we visit that area again.

CS 27 Nick’s Road Campsite, Tate’s Hell State Forest

You can reserve CS 27, Nick’s Road Campsite on Reserve America, Tate’s Hell State Forest, Womack Creek section. If you need to call 911, the address you should give is 41379 SE, State Forest Nick’s Road in Liberty County. Reserve America will not include this important information in your confirmation notice.

When you arrive at the site, check your wireless phone to determine where you can get coverage if you can’t get coverage on your site.

To get to Womack Creek Campground, Nick’s Road Campsite is 3.75 miles by paddle. By driving it is longer — about 5 miles.

We paddle Womack creek up and back from the Womack Creek Campground landing at least once a month and Nick’s is where we take out for lunch. It’s a muddy take-out, or, if the water really is low we stay in our kayaks. There is a sharp drop, but only when the water is really low. Otherwise it’s getting out in muck. It’s a lovely campsite and a great place for a private lunch.

Several years ago we camped here with two mothers and four children. The water was very high in early March and the landing was grass rather than muck. Three tents housed the party and while the adults snoozed in the next morning, the four kids explored upper Womack creek in the kayaks, having a great time in the early morning. This is a great site for families because the creeks offer so much for children to discover and enjoy.

This campsite can accommodate many more than 3 tents: we had two large tents and one small 2 person backpacking tent. This is a big site.

The landing (below) is mucky, but sloped. At very low tide, there is a sharp drop.

This is the view of Womack Creek downriver from this site and below that upriver. Upriver is where the kids explored in the early morning.

There’s a hawk which nests in this area and at dusk and night one can hear a pair of barred owls. Up the creek we have seen otters. In the spring from March through May, the creek is abloom. To see what’s up on Womack Creek see https://womackcreek.wordpress.com A Paddler’s Guide To the Flowering Plants of Womack Creek.

CS 26 – Log Cabin Campground, Tate’s Hell State Forest

You can reserve this site on Reserve America, Log Cabin Campground, Tate’s Hell State Forest, Womack Creek section. If you need to call 911, give them 34471 Log Cabin Road as your address. First responders will not know how to reach you otherwise. Reserve American confirmation will not give you this information.

When you get to your campsite, check to see where you can get cell phone service, if you cannot get it on your site.

This campground of 4 RV/tent sites is situated on the eastern border of Tate’s Hell State Forest on the western banks of the Ochlockonee River which runs from Georgia through Florida to the Gulf of Mexico. The forest and plants in this campground are different from the rest of Tate’s Hell SF which is either in upland pine and palmetto or on estuary and estuary swamps.

When trees are fully leafed you will have a canopy of oaks, magnolias, bays, gums, some pines, red maple, gall berry, palmetto and high bush blueberries. Occasionally you may see the pink pinxster wild azaleas in late March and early April. Both purple and white violets are common in spring as are bluetts when the blueberries and St. John’s wort are blooming.

Like the other three sites, this site is large. This site is 2.2 miles from the beginning of Log Cabin Road. However, sites 24-26 are close enough situated so that the 3 sites would make an excellent way for groups of up to 24 adults to get together for camping.

To get to this site, take County Road 67 and turn east on Short Road in Tate’s Hell State Forest. Drive for .9 miles to Log Cabin Road and continue driving on Log Cabin Road for another .9 miles to get to the first site, campsite 23 and follow the road to campsite 26.

The forests have recently undergone a managed burn which mimics the burning of forests by lightening. You may see burned shrubs or burned areas near or around your campsite. This is currently a best practice in forest management and Tate’s Hell State Forest was acquired by the state in order to restore it as a natural watershed for both the Ochlockonee and Apalachicola Rivers, two very important north Florida waterways.

Launching a boat from this site would not be wise. There is a sharp drop at river’s edge. Use the landing at campsite 23.

Below the sand is a 2 foot drop at current river levels.

The view from the site downriver and upriver are shown below.

CS 25 – Log Cabin Campground Tate’s Hell State Forest

You can reserve CS 25 at Reserve America, Tate’s Hell State Forest, Womack Creek section. If you must call 911, give them 34460 Log Cabin Road in Tate’s Hell State Forest as your address. First responders will not know how to get you by campsite number. Reserve American will not give you this information on your confirmation.

When you get to your camp site, check to see where the closest cell signal is, if you cannot get cell coverage at your site.

This campground of 4 RV/tent sites is situated on the eastern border of Tate’s Hell State Forest on the western banks of the Ochlockonee River which runs from Georgia through Florida to the Gulf of Mexico. The forest and plants in this campground are different from the rest of Tate’s Hell which is either in upland pine and palmettos or on estuary and estuary swamps.

When the trees are fully leafed, you will have a canopy of oaks, magnolias, bays, gums, some pines, red maple, gall berry, palmetto and high bush blueberries. Occasionally you may see the pink pinxster wild azaleas in late March and early April. Both purple and white violets are common in spring when bluetts, high bush blueberries and St. John’s wort are blooming.

The site is large and can easily accommodate 8 adults. There is no toilet facilities or water at this site. Tate’s Hell State Forest practices the “pack it in, pack it out” principle. Please abide by it.

There is no safe way to enter the river with boats from this site. Use site 23 for putting in and taking out.

The view downriver and upriver are shown below.

To get to this campsite, take County Road 67 and turn east on Short Road in Tate’s Hell State Forest. Drive on Short Road for .9 miles until you see the Log Cabin Road sign. Continue on Log Cabin Road for .9 miles until you reach campsite 23. Continue down the road till you reach your camp site.

CS 24 – New River Campground

You can reserve this campsite CS 24, Log Cabin Campground at Reserve America, Tate’s Hell State Forest, Womack Creek section. If you have to call 911 use 33778 Log Cabin Road, Tate’s Hell State Forest, as your address. First responders will not know how to get you by camp site number. Reserve America does not include this information on your confirmation.

When you get to your campsite, check to see where you can get the closest cell signal, if it is not accessible from your campsite.

This campground of 4 RV/tent sites is situated on the eastern border of Tate’s Hell State Forest on the western banks of the Ochlockonee River which runs from Georgia through Florida to the Gulf of Mexico. The forest and plants in this campground are very different from the rest of Tate’s Hell SF which is either in upland pine and palmetto or estuary and estuary swamps.

When the trees are fully leafed, you will have a canopy of oaks, magnolias, bays, gums, some pines, red maple, gall berry, palmetto and high bush blueberries. Occasionally you may see the pink pinxster wild azaleas in late March and early April. Both purple and white violets are common in spring as well as bluetts.

This site is closer to the other two sites in this campground and the combination of three sites with interconnecting grassy openings would make for an excellent group camping location.

This is a primitive site which means it has no toilet facilities and no water. Tate’s Hell Forest adopts the “Pack it in, pack it out” rule. Please abide by it.

All the sites are on the east side of County Road 67. To get to Log Cabin Road take CR 67. Turn east on Short Road and drive for .9 miles till you reach Log Cabin road. Drive for another .9 miles to CS 23. Continue along the campground roads to the other 3 campsites.

The site is large and could easily accommodate 8 individual tents.

Putting out or taking out from this site may only be for the very nimble.

The Ochlockonee River drops sharply here from any shore footing and the downriver current can be very strong when the river is high. Watch for eddies where downed trees or branches are near the shoreline.

We recommend you take your boats to campsite 23 and launch from there.

The view from downriver and upriver are shown below.

The forest around the campground has recently been subject to managed burns which simulates the natural effect of lightening of forests in order to restore the land to more sustainable methods of management.

CS 23 – Log Cabin campground

You can reserve campsite 23, Log Cabin campground at Reserve America, Tate’s Hell State Forest, Womack Creek section. If you call 911 give them 33744 Log Cabin Road, Tate’s Hell State Forest, as your address. First Responders will not know how to find you by campsite.

When you get to your campsite, check to see where the closes cell signal is, if you cannot get coverage on your site.

This campground of 4 RV/ten sites is situated on the eastern border of Tate’s Hell State Forest on the western banks of the Ochlockonee River which runs from Georgia through Florida to the Gulf of Mexico. The forest and plants in this campground are different from the rest of Tate’s Hell SF which is either in upland pine and palmetto or on estuary and estuary swamps.

When the trees are fully leafed you will have a canopy of oaks, magnolias, bays, gums, some pines, red maple, gall berry, palmetto, and high bush blueberries. Occasionally you may see the pink pinxster wild azaleas in late March and early April. Both purple and white violets are common in spring as are bluetts, and St. John’s wort, when the blueberries are blooming.

This site is a favorite take-out or lunch site for paddlers who are going downriver. This would make a good overnight stop for paddlers doing multi-day trips if they choose not to camp at the Womack Creek Campground further downstream which has 12 sites and until closed for safety reasons (the banks of the river are about 1 foot away from a corner foundation), a rest house with hot showers and flush toilets. This site is primitive, which means there is no toilet facilities or water. There are however 2 tables, 2 fire pits, and 1 stand-up grill.

It is a large site, open in the winter, shaded by oak trees in the summer.

The landing is large and suitable for all types of boats and putting in and taking out is on a sandy, some gravel soil.

The view from the campsite downriver and then upriver are shown below.

While the least private of the 4 campsites in this campground because all occupants of campsites 24-26 must pass through here, this provides the best boat landing area. Since landing areas are not for the exclusive use of campsite occupants, you may find paddlers using the landing to launch or to take-out, including from the other sites in this campground. Your site and the amenities on it, however, are yours to use exclusively. Paddlers have only right of passage or temporary take-out/put-in. Any cars parked by them shoudl be parked along the entry road, not in your campsite.

The four camp sites of this campground would make for an excellent group camping, although campsite 23 is not as closely situated as the other three sites.

Log Cabin campground can be reached by turning east on CR 67 on Short Road a sandy forestry road. Drive for .9 miles and turn on Log Cabin road and drive for another .9 miles to get to campsite 23. The distance between the beginning of Log Cabin road and campsite 26, the furtherest of the campsites is 2.2 miles.

ON CAMPING IN TATE’S HELL STATE FOREST

We are thankful that we have Tate’s Hell State Forest to give us wilderness camping experiences within an easy auto drive/or auto-paddle access from our home. We understand, not everyone camps, and not everyone who camps likes primitive camping. Wilderness campers chose to be “inconvenienced” — to make do with what they bring, away from electronics, away from the conveniences of modern life.

However, even we can start complaining — it seems like an antidote to discomfort from phasing in from comforts of home to challenges at campside, particularly if one forgot some “indispensable” item which proves to be not so indispensable after all (later).

Before you start complaining after getting to a campsite, or before someone in your party starts on a long, discomforting wail of what the site does not offer, know this.

This was once a pine plantation. A very large plantation. You will see remnants of that pine operation in the channels which have been cut to drain water and the numerous roads which seem to lead nowhere.

The state acquired it under our legacy program, Florida Forever, to restore lands which are necessary to keep the ecological balance of our state in spite of, and because of, growth.

Tate’s Hell State Forest is an essential natural watershed for both the Ochlockonee and Apalachicola Rivers. The younger among you will have been schooled in the importance of watersheds to our national waterways; you may have to get used to the concept — it’s important if we want clean water.

State lands acquired for restoration and conservation are managed by various public agencies. Every 10 years the managing agency has to prepare a 10 year master plan for the property for which they are responsible. Some of the agencies are Florida State Parks, Florida Forestry Services, the various water management districts, counties and municipalities and state preservation agencies.

In the case of forestry, the principle set by the Legislature is that these lands must be self-sustaining. Like the National Forest systems, logging and sale of wood is an important part of the financial self-sufficiency of the forests.

In Tate’s Hell State Forest, until last September, the chief forester (the person in charge of managing the timberlands, of negotiating which parcels are to be harvested, and enforcing the terms of the contract) was David Morse. David was awarded State Forester of the Year in 2017. As well he should be.

Under David’s management, you saw no clear-cutting of woods, but only small sections which have been harvested. A U of Florida forestry graduate (and before that a navy veteran), David practiced sustainable forestry. But there is always a bottom line: once acquired for restoration, forest lands must still pay the cost of ongoing maintenance and restoration of lands.

For those who pass burned out forests, these are set purposely as part of the forest management. By periodically mimicking the natural burns which occur with lightening, the forest undergrowth is cleared and major devastating fires are avoided. When you see what seems to be unsightly burns, consider that this mimics lightening fires, except we set it, to again, try to restore the land. These burn crews can also include volunteers who have been trained and certified. Volunteers are essential to maintaining a predictable level of maintenance of most state agencies. Those interested in being trained to help with managed burns should contact the Lake Talquin regional office (which includes Tate’s Hell SF) of Florida Forestry Services, Department of Agriculture (850 681-5950).

We have come to prefer state and national forestry for camping to get away from multi-story cities, traffic, noise and a mechanically-fast paced world. Because we are not the primary focus of land management (e.g. to provide recreational “experiences”), forestry lands offers more wilderness than we get camping in state parks, where waking up in our 2 person tent only to face the walls of huge RV’s on either side of our site had become too common an experience.

Tate’s Hell State Forest campsites usually sit alone and are big. Your nearest camping neighbor may be miles away from you. The exceptions are Womack Creek campground with 12 sites; Cash creek with 3 sites, Log Cabin Creek with 4 sites, Rock Landing with 3 sites, Borrow Pit with 2 sites, and OHV (off highway vehicles) campground with 3 sites. There are 57 campsites in that second largest of Florida’s state forests.

While congregate sites may have vault toilets and Womack Creek Campground has hot showers and flush toilets, most of the sites are primitive: no water, no toilets. (Womack Creek’s restroom facilities may soon close because the banks along the Ochlockonee River are eroding and now about 1 foot away from the foundation of the building.)

Tate’s Hell’s roads sit just above the water table. When it rains, it puddles or worse. Since the natural drainage is being restored, concrete culverts have been removed and low lying areas are covered with gravel to allow for freer flow of water. For a passenger car, encountering what seems to be a ford, check before driving in. It is always wise to call the Tate’s Hell Office in Carrabelle before you arrive to inquire about road conditions leading to your camp site and request alternate routes to the site if the usual way is under water.

You may need to detour — if the natural drainage area seems a lot deeper than you feel comfortable, detour. There are depth markers, but one thing about markers in a system going natural — things change. At one time the markers may have been in the deepest part of that road, but over time that section changed. Don’t rely on the depth markers it, if you’re not sure. Get out of the car and test the deepest part of the drainage field. One of the great things about this forest there is hardly any traffic. You’ll have to walk several miles depending on where you are stranded to get help (cell signals may be weak or non-existent).

And isn’t this what getting into the wilderness means? You are not guaranteed convenience. You’re on your own.

Also, don’t trust all road signs. Signs have been taken or pranksters have turned signs such that some are pointing the wrong way. Again, financial resources cannot be put toward our convenience by replacing signs which would sooner than not be vandalized again.

Eventually, we’re hoping to post coordinates of the critical turn points, but it’s not on our list of priorities right not. Don’t rely on Google for directions on unpaved roads.

It gets more adventuresome doesn’t it? We heard about reports from a paddling group from Missouri we led on the New River from CS 17 to Gully Branch Road. Word was they thought getting to the put-in was more hazardous than paddling the river. Maybe it was the sand; all the roads were passable with a few puddles.

Most of you would question the craziness of anyone who would eschew convenience and shrug off discomfort as a great experience. There are so few places like this in the eastern US (the Apalachians are one, the Adirondacks). Having this forest near us is a gift. Camping here may require more challenges than in the state parks, but it also brings more rewards.

You can respond loudly to the barred owls from your tent as they call to each other at night; there is no curfew to quell your voice. And except in the campgrounds, you have no camping neighbors who can hear you. There is only nature’s night sounds. The only lights are the ones you produce. (If you’ve in a camper, you’ll miss some of this.) And the rhythm of your day becomes more attuned to the natural rhythm around you. It does, indeed, restore your soul.

If you’re not up to the wonders and inconveniences of the natural world, try the state parks.

But first, particularly if you have young children, try it. Young children are very adaptable and see in the natural setting more possibilities than adults do. Start with the campgrounds in the forests where there are vault toilets or bring along a portable toilet if in a primitive camp site (this seems to be a major deterrent to older children, fastidious spouses and maybe you). And you know, with young kids, when they start balking, get them excited again — show them the infinite possibilities of nature.

We have paddled and camped 50 states and 10 Canadian provinces. We appreciate what we have in North Florida each time we return. Yet, the number of campers, though slightly increased since 2012 have not been overwhelming.

Do people know that wilderness camping paradise is less than 2 hours away?

 

We would love to see more young families with children camping, paddling, bicycling (sandy roads), fishing in this forest. They are part of the legacy the state has a commitment to — it’s for them and their kids that this land is being restored to its natural roots. And were the politics to change in the future, the adventures you take them on in wilderness now may be the only times in their lives which this experience will ever be available to them again. If this were ever to happen, wouldn’t you say that you were able to give them a priceless gift?

Know, if you go: If you must call 911, each campsite has an address. First responders will not be able to respond to a campsite number in the forest. Reserve America does not give you this address. The addresses are posted in this blog with the campsite information. Also, cell coverage varies within this very large forest. When you reach your site, check to see if you can get coverage. If not, find the closest spot where you can transmit and receive signals. If you have a teenager with you, they already know that or ask them to locate that spot.