Category Archives: Ochlocknee River

For paddlers: Tate’s Hell State Forest, camp guide

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.

Ochlockonee River

  • 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.

A Rainy Paddle on the Ochlockonee 2-25-2018

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Ten paddlers from the Apalachee Canoe and Kayak Club left the Woodlake landing on the east side of the Ochlockonee River (Apalachicola National Forest) to have lunch at Log Cabin Campground in Tate’s Hell at Tate’s Hell State Forest, paddle through the Sanborn cut and back up to the Woodlake Landing — a paddle of 12 miles, 4 miles upriver.

It rained soon after lunch and rained and rained and rained.  At the landing, the pumps and bailers were in use, justifying that extra tool in the boats.  But all paddlers were soaked, even quick-dry wicking clothes don’t dry when still raining.

Only one paddler had a skirt:  the others were either weather-deniers, or paddle-come-what-may optimists, but all considered this a worthy challenge to their skills and stamina.

The temperature, fortunately, had warmed up considerably from the previous weeks’ lows.  Wet, but not hypothermic.

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In the rain, a field of golden clubs blooming in Tate’s Hell State Forest.

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The paddle was led by David Morse, chief forester, Tate’s Hell State Forest.

Paddling to Loop Camp landing, Crooked River, Tate’s Hell – 3-18-2015

The afternoon Florida freshwater turtles presentation at the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve was not until 2pm, so we knew we had time for a short paddle from Womack Creek Campground landing on the Ocklockonee River  to Loop Campsite landing on the Crooked River.  We had camped overnight at the Womack Creek Campground and paddled Womack Creek the day before.

At 8;35 AM, we have never paddled the Ocklocknee River when it was so calm.  For three miles on this beautiful blue-sky day, a tinge of coolness, but no wind.  Quiet.  Along the eastern bank of the Ocklockonee, the residents were not outside or were at work. We had the whole river to ourselves.

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We passed the rest house at the Womack Creek campground where Mack recently repainted the sign, so passing boaters could see that this was a public campground.

Wild olive or Devilwood were blooming along the way, along with pinxter azaleas and blackberry.

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At a bend in the Ocklockonee are pilings, remnants of a railway which carried turpentine across the river.  On river right of the Ocklockonee is McIntyre Landing.   The Crooked River is at this junction and continues west (crookedly) until it joins with the New River into the Carrabelle River.   This river has tidal flow from both ends.

At the mouth of the Crooked River is a little island.  This houseboat has been mired on its banks for at least 4 years.

The photo above shows how calm upriver Ocklockonee was from this junction.

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This photo shows the Crooked River at the junction.  The tide was going out, but without wind and with still a crispness in the air, it was an easy paddle to Loop camp site.

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We’ve heard more cardinals in Tate’s Hell recently.

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A mile from the Ocklockonee, Loop camp site appears.   It is one of our favorite places to camp.   Last year while one of us was preparing dinner, the other, sipping tea, saw a big otter pop its head from the exposed roots in the water of a pine tree and quickly swim away.  When the Ocklockonee floods, this campsite can be covered with water.

P1130444Lots of room for tents, an RV or a trailer and lots of room for kids to play.

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And a nice launching area.   When camping here, remember that paddlers who want to use the landing do have a right to do so and also to park their cars along the road.  There is more than enough space in this and other single primitive campsite in Tate’s Hell for several tents.  The rule applies to all Tate’s Hell Campsites:  on the New, on Crooked River, on Ocklockonee River.

On the way out, we received a beautiful farewell.

P1130447Titi are blooming everywhere in Tate’s Hell and beekeepers and bees are busy.

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Map of Tate’s Hell State Forest

For rivers, creeks, campsites, roads and other references in the articles in Tate’s Hell State Forest see:  http://www.freshfromflorida.com/content/download/27522/521772/TatesHellSF.pdf

This is a forestry brochure for Tate’s Hell. The map is on screen 3.  Hit “view” on your toolbar then “rotate” to rotate map.  Adjust  % (magnification) on PDF top bar to enlarge or minimize.  (For computer literate:  we are placing these directions for people like us, who grew up on typewriters. Humor us.)

This map does not include a handful of newer campsites, including Pidcock Road camp, which is to the east of Cash Creek Day Use (CC) on the river.

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Remember: Tate’s Hell is Florida’s second largest forest with 202,000 acres.  Blackwater River State Forest is the larges, with 220,000 acres.  This is why we wish to save these forests for the enjoyment and solace which wilderness can provide for future Floridians.

Tom Hahn Creek, Crooked River, Tate’s Hell State Forest

March 26, 2014

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River view of Rock Landing with 3 campsite: large, medium and small, the smallest being the most private. Day use pavilion. Unisex vault toilet. No water, no sanitizer.

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Site 1, the largest campsite (see stand-up grill, fire pit and table in back of lot), but close to public usage area.

 

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Camp site 3, no stand-up grill, and smallest, but most private of 3 campsites.

 

 

 

 

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Looking east on Crooked River where it meets the Ochlockonee about 4 miles. This is a favorite putting in place for motor boats.

 

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Better putting-in place for paddlers west of concrete ramp.

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First blue flag iris at Rock Landing, March 26, 2014.

Start at Rock Landing (3.5 miles west of loop campsite) on the Crooked River and paddle west.

Rock Landing is about  4 miles from the Ocklockonee River.  Crooked River has neither up-river nor down-river, tides come in through Ochlockonee River to the east  and from Carrabelle  River (New River) on the west.  It is an alternate trail  of the North Florida Circumnavigational trail.  Some paddlers go up two miles on the Ochlockonee  to Womack Creek Campground for a hot shower.

Tom Hahn Creek is 1 mile west of Rock Landing.   But before that,  .4 mile west of Rock Landing,  is a smaller .4 mile creek where we saw a yellow headed night heron.   There is more variety in plants and shrubs on Tom Hahn Creek, except there may be more open blooming iris and golden club patches on the first short branch.

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Golden club, branch .4 miles west of Rock Landing.

About .4 of a mile upriver on  Tom Hahn Creek the creek forks.  The fork to the right is about 1/2 mile long before thickets and low water may deter you.  The one on the left is about 1.1 miles log before you encounter real obstacles (there are overhangs and snags in the river toward the end).

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Spider lily near fork Tom Hahn Creek, Crooked River, March 26, 2014.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Right now on the right branch and the shorter other creek,  golden clubs are blooming.   There are more blooming native pinxter azaleas on the branch to the left, swamp jessamine, lots of blooming titi shrubs and blackberry blossoms, but we saw no honey bees.   Fetterbush were blooming in one large bush on the longer branch.

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Titi all in bloom in both forks of Tom Hahn Creek.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Native pinxter azaleas in peak of bloom on left fork of Tom Hahn Creek, 3/26/14,

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Fetterbush, March 26, 2014, Tom Hahn Creek.

Expect in a few weeks blue flag iris and spider lilies.

 

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Parrotfeather or Brazilian watermilfoil on left branch of Tom Hahn Creek (in 3 places — this is the largest patch).  Non-native invasive plant.  Myriophyllum aquaticum.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The longer branch is wide at the entrance and narrows about 3/4 miles.  We saw more alligators here than any other creek in the last 2 days — 5 alligators.

On the Crooked River,  you may have tides against you or the wind or both.  Keep to the shoreline and you may escape the full brunt of any wind.

Once leaving Rock Landing there is no easy place for a pit stop.   On the Crooked River, the land to the north is Tate’s Hell State Forest, opposite lands are in private ownership.

Tupelo, cypress, pines, Florida maples are some of the trees you will see on the crooked river.  On the way back to Loop campsite east of Rock Landing, we stopped for 15 minutes to try to photograph a beautifully golden-capped prothotonary warbler in a shrub.   We were unsuccessful.  It seemed undeterred by us, but kept itself under tight cover.

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Back on the Crooked River, headed east to Rock Landing.

Tate’s Hell paddle trails

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Photo by Branson Carlton

We prefer spending more time on water than shuttling from put-in to take-out in our car.   Tate’s Hell lets one camp in one site and paddle any number of rivers  suitable for a variety of skill levels with or without shuttles.  Shuttle distances are not long.  (http://www.freshfromflorida.com/content/download/27522/521772/TatesHellSF.pdf )

Womack Creek, forinstance, provides either a downstream paddle from Nick’s Road campsite (a short about 5 miles by car or bike) to Womack Creek campground — about 4 miles — or a usually easy upstream and back paddle for 8.  Crooked river at Loop camp site is about 2 miles from Womack Creek landing, depending on which road one takes.

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Photo by Branson Carlton.

We have paddled almost all of Tate’s Hell rivers and creeks and will be writing reports on each as we revisit them.   Other paddling reports for those planning to paddle the Panhandle and are looking for paddling places is The Green Wave Forum.  For the past year and a half the number of reports have slowed down on that site , but the historic reports will still give you put-in and take-out locations (but not current  paddle conditions).

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Womack Creek in February, 2014.

We have written reports about the New  River from FH 22 east of Sumatra to Tate’s Hell New River campsite 7.  From Camp Site 7 downstream, the river is usually open all year round and generally clear of debris because it is also use by jon boats.   Jon boat fishermen are usually very considerate of paddlers.  These are usually local folks who are out to anchor at their favorite fishing spots and will not be traversing the rivers at great speed.   We have gotten good information on good paddling spots from these fishermen.

The New River from camp site 7 downstream is subject to tides and is much wider than the upstream. There are a few on river campsites on both river right and left.    Beyond Gully Branch  (with several sites, vault toilets, and a constant water source which is not potable), Pope’s Place is a good take-out place on the east side of the river.  Downstream of  Gully Branch the river widens and will be more influenced by adverse winds.  Surrounding land is upland mainly pine forests, but there are stands of Atlantic White Cedar and deciduous trees along the river.    During hunting season, this area is hunted.

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New River upriver from camp site 7 in late February, 2014.

Whiskey George and Deep Creek have also been reported on.  These are on the west side of Tate’s Hell, closer to Hway 65 and Eastpoint.   We have not yet camped in any of the west-side sites.  We had reserved Pidcock Road campsite in January, but didn’t show because of predicted temperatures in the high teens.   Deep Creek has a campsite right on river, but access to that campsite by river may be difficult when Deep Creek is low.  Like all Tate’s Hell campsites on water, all are reachable by car.  These sites have no water, toilet facilities but have a fire pit and picnic table and possibly a stand-up grill.

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Cash Creek is another paddling spot on the west side and just a short drive off hway 65 with a covered picnic area and vault toilets. It is estuarine for about 1 mile upstream  and we do not recommend it during the summer unless you are a heat-lover.  Upstream beyond that the creek narrows and has a mix of hardwood and swamp brush and will provide shade.  There are large alligators on that creek if you want to get a photo of them — they are skittish of humans, as they should be, and will splash into the water first chance they know you are there.  Unless you want to photograph them, we suggest you occasionally tap your boat with your paddle before you go around a turn to warn the sunning alligators around the corner that you are there — a surprised alligator, particularly a large one, can create a big splash and can startle you.  This is good advice to give to fledgling paddlers in your group.

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For those who want to do a multi-day paddle, one can paddle from Log Cabin campsite on the northeast corner of Tate’s Hell on the Ocklockonee River to Womack Creek campground for lunch (or rest stop, flush toilets)  to the Crooked River on river right (about 2 miles downstream of Womack Creek landing) to Loop campsite or Rock Landing (about 3.5 miles from Loop Campsite with 3 campsites and vault toilet).  The next overnight might be Campsite 2 or 1 on the opposite side of the Crooked River and the final day go under the Hway 67 bridge (which may require a portage across hway 67 if the river is running very high) to Pope’s Place (upriver New River) or to Trout Creek (landing not too far from confluence with New)  which is about a mile below Pope’s Place.  You can camp at Pope’s Place also.   You can also paddle upstream to Gully Branch (with vault toilet and campsites) to any of the campsites on the New River.  Or, you can take any segment for a shorter overnight paddle.    Unless indicated, all campsites are primitive (no water, no toilet facilities, usually a standing grill, fire pit and picnic table.)

On the east and middle campsites there is quiet from motorized noises, except the occasional boat motor.   This is not a military maneuvering area and commercial airplanes are too high to let their sounds intrude on your nature moments.  There may be a civilian small plane or two, but rarely.   We heard more jet sounds at Voyageur’s National Park in Minnesota than we do in Tate’s Hell.    On the west side of Tate’s Hell, around 10:30am and 2:30pm military jets do maneuvers in the Apalachicola National Forest and the sounds carry over.

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There are any number of creeks one can explore from the following campsites:  Womack Creek campground (Womack Creek 8 miles up and back); between Loop campsite and Rock Landing (Brandy Creek, about 1-1.5 miles down and back); west of Rock Landing (two branches, one less than half a mile west — a short, small creek with shrubs and brushes under canopies of larger mixed swamp trees —  and further west about a mile west of Rock Landing, Tom Hahn Creek with 2 branches — the one on the left larger and twice as long –1.1 to .5 miles one way), off hway 67 west (Pine-log creek, depending on tide  1/2 to 1 mile one way, small creek, lots of wildlife and birds and for such a small creek lots of flowering plants.)

Hiking 

Tate’s Hell has only one hiking trail off hway 98 (coastal road), the Coastal trail which runs just east of Eastpoint and west of Carrabelle with two parking areas.    It has beautiful stands of lush native lavender lupine which usually bloom in April.  Watch out for pygmy rattlesnakes on the path  — they like to sun there.  Birds seem to like that trail, also.

Bicycling

There are any number of sand packed roads for bicycling in Tate’s Hell, particularly between Hway 65 and 67.  In this section, some of the roads have been filled with gravel at the low spots to allow for natural water flow and after several days of rain may have as much as a foot or more of water coursing from one side to the other.   Tate’s Hell is being restored to its historic role as watershed of the Apalachicola River, that is, unless other uses which impact the land adversely are allowed.

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Campsite 1, Rock Landing Campground. Largest of 3, but close to general public usage. Standup grill, fire pit, picnic table (see at back of lot). Vault toilet within short walking distance.

A week’s family or friends’  nature-based outing?  You betcha!