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.

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.

CS 17 – New River, Tate’s Hell State Forest



Reserve this site at Reserve America, campsite 17, Tates Hell State Forest, Juniper Creek section. When you arrive here, find the closest area you can get cell coverage. If you call 911 give 3650 New River Campsite #17 Road, GPS 30.00983, -84.75582, as your address. First responders will not know how to reach you with just a campsite number. Reserve America does not include this information in your confirmation.

This is our favorite site in Tate’s Hell — we love paddling the upper New River, doing it up and back without shuttle. Except for the late winter, early spring months, the river is not fully navigable, but going up and back means we don’t have to drag the kayaks over shallow areas with insufficient water which might happen if we paddle downriver only. It can be a challenging 9.5 mile paddle: tree falls across the river, strainers and fast currents can make for surprises which can tax even experienced paddlers. It’s aggravating to find oneself being pricked or entangled by green briers which seem to be the most persistent vine on this part of the river. There is no close road access for about 9 miles of this section of the river.

Once a year, we organize a paddle when the full river should be navigable, starting at FR 22 east of Sumatra. If we do the whole river to Pope Place, we camp here with the group, which we did in 2018. Photo from that trip is posted in a previous post. This year we plan to end the trip at this campsite, making it a shorter 1 day trip.

This site easily holds 8 single person small tents with enough room to spare for a canopy. For tent campers there are fewer exposed tree roots on this site than other sites on the New River.

There is a fire pit which is to the left of the picnic table.

The launching area is one of the best of the Tate’s Hell SF campsites. One has a choice of a grassy/sandy flume (unlike the Dry Bridge Creek flume which is muddy) or a wider access to a lower section of the campsite which allows for several boats to be launched at the same time.

The river was low when we were there, usually the water will come up part to where the first set of cypress knees (on left) , making for easy access.

This is how the site looks from the river when the water is low.

Clearly, the flume cannot be used when the water is this low.

Note, that although the tidal current is not too noticeable this far up the river, the incoming tide will raise the water levels. Boats should be always secure if not brought up to the campsite.

This site flooded when a group of paddlers were camping here years ago. The river rises and falls much more rapidly than one would expect and the lowest tenter was the first to raise the alarm after everyone had fallen asleep. All tents had to be moved to the entry road.

This and many of the sites along the New River are leased during hunting season.

The upper river view is shown first, then the lower river view.

When we organize a group paddle for camping here, we rent a portable toilet. It is too difficult for individual holes to be dug here because of the tree roots. When camping with a family, a single large pit dug ahead of time with dirt troweled lightly after each use, is possible.