Category Archives: Paddling North Florida

CRITTERS ARE STIRRING ON WOMACK CREEK, TATE’S HELL SF — March 12, 2019

This mud turtle was making its way from one ditch to another on Jeff Sanders Road near the Womack Creek Campground.

The walls of the restrooms at the Womack Creek campground is a good place to find moths.

And mosquitos and oak twig pruners.

And on the creek, it was warm enough for a Suwanee cooter and river cooters.

And American alligators.

And a brown water snake.

Ringed paper wasps were starting their nests.

Spotted fishing spiders were out.

And a fisherwoman, silently going down stream with her trolling motor.

She was calling it a day as we were starting it, having caught her meal for the day.

CS #1 – Sumatra Campsite, Tate’s Hell State Forest

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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.

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.

CS #7, Borrow Pit, Tate’s Hell State Forest

Reserve this site at Reserve America, Borrow Pit #7, Tate’s Hell State Forest, New River Section. When you get to the site, find the best cell coverage location. If you call 911, give them as address 2500 Forest Road 90, GPS 29.91707, -84.73446, Tate’s Hell State Forest. First responders will not be able to find you by campsite number. Reserve America does not include this information on your confirmation.

Borrow Pit campsite #7 has its own borrow pit and is on a rarely traveled road off West River Road, west of the New River. The pond has fish and, like Borrow Pit #6 site, is on a large flat area suitable for running and games for children (and adults). These two sites are perfect for petanque (like bocci but not requiring a prescribed court and more compact to carry). The road around the pond is long enough for biking for children and within eye sight of parents. Access into the pond is easy for kayaks, SUPs or canoes. The pond here is smaller than the larger pond on CS 6.

The damaged fire pit and grill and table are unshaded, except by the pines surrounding this very large site. Iff camping during warmer months, some shade cover is recommended.

It’s near the New River, so paddlers can have a driver drop them off one of the river campsites with a good launching area (separate post to be written later) and paddle down to another New River site where there is safe take-out landings, east or west of the river, to be picked up later. Gully Branch Recreation Area has a day use area suitable for lunch stop-overs (or put-in or take-outs) and vault toilets.

CS #3 – New River (west), Tate’s Hell State Forest

Reserve this site at Reserve America, campsite 3, New River, Tate’s Hell State Forest, New River section. When you arrive at this campsite, find the closest cell phone connection location. If you call 911, give this address: 3200 Billy’s Road, Tate’s Hell State Forest, GPS29.98360, -84.73929. First responders will not be able to find you if you only give a campsite number. Reserve America will not have this information on your confirmation.

This is perhaps the largest of Tate’s Hell State Forest’s individual primitive sites. It has two ways to drive in. This side is 2 miles north of Gully Branch Road west of the bridge at the Gully Branch Day Use area. It is on the west side of the New River. Although right off Billy’s Road, there is hardly any traffic on this road.

There is a landing for kayaks and canoes to the New River, but at low water levels, there is a steep drop.

Views of the river, first downriver and below that, upriver.

If this wasn’t a large enough site, there are wide pathways.

This would be an excellent 8 person group campsite which insures some privacy for each tent. Or a large family outing.

If you camp here, please comment on your experience.

CS 13 – New River, Tate’s Hell State Forest

Reserve this site at Reserve America, CS 13, New River, Tate’s Hell State Forest, Juniper Creek section. When you get to this campsite, locate closest point you can get cell coverage. If you call 911, use 2900 New River Campsite #13 Road, Tate’s Hell State Forest, GPD 29.97152, -84.72610. First responders will not be able to located you just by campsite number. Reserve America will not include this information with your confirmation.

The entry is long, ensuring you privacy.

The primary campsite is small for the New River campsites, but a flat, grassy area allows for camping away from the river.

Unless the tenter has a good air mattress, these roots may make for an uncomfortable sleep.

But there are options are this site.

Even at low water levels it seems possible to enter into and return from the river in a canoe or kayak.

The view upriver, and below that the view downriver.

Only during early spring, golden clubs blooming in the ditch along the site.

CS 16, New River (east), Tate’s Hell State Forest

Reserve your campsite at Reserve America, CS 16, New River, Tate’s Hell State Forest, Juniper Creek section. When you get to your campsite, find the closest location with cell connection. If you call 911, use 3400 New River Campsite #16 Road, Tate’s Hell State Forest, GPS 29.99379, -84.74567. First responders will not be able to locate you if you give only a campsite number. Reserve America does not include this information on your confirmation.

It’s a relatively short entry drive, but a much larger site than campsite 17. However, for tenters, there are exposed pine roots which may make for uncomfortable sleeping if you do not have a good air mattress. This is a good site for hammock campers because of the number of trees situated throughout the campsite.

There’s a fairly expansive area under the pines and between palmettos to dig your pits.

The launching area, has deteriorated since we last camped this site several years ago, after paddling the upper 9.5 miles of the New River. The banks have eroded some so bringing up kayaks to the campsite level may require surer footing than before.

Leaving your boats in this cut is not recommended. Although the tidal current is not felt as much up here, the water does rise with the incoming tide. There is no way to secure your boats in that channel. We were glad we did when we camped here — early morning the channel had enough water to float away any boat left there unsecured.

The view of the river is calming, particularly with your morning coffee and your evening tea.

This is a good site for paddlers, even with the effort required to get your boats up the bank.