Category Archives: Tate’s Hell State Forest camping

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. When you get to your campsite, locate the closest point for cell connection. If you must call 911, give them 34460 Log Cabin Road in Tate’s Hell State Forest as your address, GPS 30.02728, -84.58807. First responders will not know how to get you by campsite number. Reserve American will not give you this information on your confirmation.

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.

If you camp(ed) here, please add a comment in the box provided at the end of this post.

CS 24 – Log Cabin Campground, Tate’s Hell State Forest

You can reserve this campsite CS 24, Log Cabin Campground at Reserve America, Tate’s Hell State Forest, Womack Creek section. When you get to your campsite, locate the closest place you can get cell connection. If you have to call 911 use 33778 Log Cabin Road, Tate’s Hell State Forest, as your address, GPS 30.03268, -84.59473. First responders will not know how to get you by camp site number. Reserve America does not include this information on your confirmation.

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.

If you camp(ed) here, please add your comment in the box provided at the end of this post.

CS 23 – Log Cabin campground, Tate’s Hell State Forest

You can reserve campsite 23, Log Cabin campground at Reserve America, Tate’s Hell State Forest, Womack Creek section. When you get to your campsite, locate the best spot for cell connection. If you call 911 give 33744 Log Cabin Road, Tate’s Hell State Forest, GPS 30.03274, -84.59584 . First Responders will not know how to find you by campsite. .

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.

If you camp(ed) here, please provide your comment in the box provided at the end of this post.

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 later to be not so indispensable after all.

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, 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.

CS 51 – Dry Bridge Campsite, Tate’s Hell State Forest

Campsite 51 can be reserved through Reserve America; look underTate’s Hell State Forest High Bluff Primitive Campsites. When you get to your campsite, check your cell coverage. If you call 911 give them 1351 Dry Bridge Road, Tate’s Hell State Forest as your address, GPS 29.84321,-84.87516. First responders do not know how to reach you if you give them a campsite number. Reserve America’s confirmation letter will not include this information.

When you get to your campsite, check your cell coverage. Find the closest spot where such coverage is available.

A long entry road to the campsite, the better to give you a wilderness experience, away from the main forestry roads, which, even they, are not much traveled.

A large site and this one with kindling (and in a corner of the site firewood). Don’t count on it, however. Buy yours in Carrabelle or scrounge the woods.

As a paddler, I always look for easy access to and from water, since Tate’s Hell offers paddlers a wide array of paddling opportunities. A paddler designed this site — it has great access to Whiskey George Creek.

The creek is navigable, depending on tide and water level, for about 1.7 miles upstream. Downriver after 2 miles of paddling, Whiskey George Creek ends in the Apalachicola Wildlife Management Area (FWC) and the estuaries which empties into East Bay and eventually the Gulf. The put-in of grass on mud proved to be very slippery when we tried a paddle from this site. Gravel may prevent slipping and falls.

A bench for the person tasked to get the evening meal.

Here’s the view for that fisherwoman looking up river.

And the view downriver as she is hauling in the fish.

Could you ask for anything more?

The photos on this entry were taken when the tide was outgoing. The water levels will vary.

If you camp(ed) here, please add your comment in the box provided at the end of this post.

CS 52 – Doyle Creek Campsite, Tate’s Hell State Forest

Campsite 52 can be reserved at Reserve America. Look under Tate’s Hell State Forest Deep Creek Primitive Campsites. When you get to your campsite, check the closest point for cell coverage. If you call 911 give them 1920 Doyle Creek Road as your address. First responders will not know how to get you by a campsite number. Reserve America does not include this information on your confirmation.

When you get to your campsite, check cell coverage and where the closest coverage is to your campsite.

Like many Tate’s Hell SF campsites, this has a long entry road, which ensures privacy.

It a high and dry campsite on Doyle Creek.

Better access to the creek than some, but this is muck, not sand. Having lost my left paddling shoe in the muck at the landing at St. Marks, I’m not a fan of muck. You can mat the reeds to let the first paddler out or in, but even a sturdy summer growth won’t take too many paddlers going in and out. But this was at low water, so there is more hope here than some other creek-side sites on the western side of Tate’s Hell.

Here’s option 2 — of mix of sand and muck. You chose.

But it’s a large, dry and beautiful site, right on Doyle Creek.

At the end of the day or the beginning, this is what you’ll see upriver.

And this is what you’ll see, downriver.

Dawn and Dusk would be beautiful here…with a little fire in the pit to chase away the mosquitoes.

The photos on this entry were taken when the tide was out; water levels will vary on the creek.

If you camp(ed) here, please add your comment in the box provided at the end of this post.

CS 53 – Deep Creek Campsite,Tate’s Hell State Forest

Reserve this site on Reserve America. Look under Tate’s Hell State Forest Deep Creek Primitive Campsites. When you get to your campsite, find the closest point for cell coverage. If you call 911 give them 2851 Deep Creek Road in Tate’s Hell State Forest as your address. First responders will not know to get you by your campsite number. Reserve America does not have this information on your confirmation.

The problem with Deep Creek campsite for a paddler is….

When the water is high enough to paddle to it by paddling upriver on Graham Creek (landing off SR 65) where it meets Deep Creek and continuing up Deep Creek, the campsite is flooded and what isn’t flooded is soggy.

Because this is one of the smaller campsites in Tate’s Hell State Forest, under those conditions, the capacity of 8 may have to occupy some of the entry road.

Paddling in this area we’ve seen lots of small wildlife. Even though you may have to cart your boat to another landing if the creek is too shallow to paddle when the site is dry, you’ll have interesting company when you return.

It doesn’t have the expansive view which camping in the estuaries or rivers provide, but this camp site location shows that you can have different camping experiences in Tate’s Hell. We have enjoyed our lunch stops here — one feels more a part of the swamp forest and water at this site than in other upland sites in Tate’s Hell SF.

Here’s the view upstream. If the water is really high, one can explore as far as one feels confident to venture (GPS recommended).

And here’s the view downstream which joins Graham Creek.

It’s a cozy site.

The grassy land just slips into the water — no problem getting on land or off land.

The fire pit need repair.

Because this site is often waterlogged, a portable toilet is recommended rather than a digging a pit. One does not want seepage from the pit to get into the creeks.

US Bureau of Land Management requires portable toilets on many of its popular sites. For kayak camping see BLM directions on how to make small toilets using PVC pipe, defecating on flushable toilet wipes and inserting it in PVC with both ends closed (one end screw on). Each paddler carries her tube on the deck, held by deck bungee cord. You can add powder which removes smell in the cylinder.

If you camp(ed) here, please add your comment in the box provided at the end of this post.

CS 54 – Whiskey George, Tate’s Hell SF

Reserve this site at Reserve America, Tate’s Hell State Forest Deep Creek Primitive Campsites. When you get to your campsite, find the closest point for cell coverage. If you call 911 give them 3500 State Forest Road #25 as your address, GPS 29.90243,-84.87642. First responders will not know how to get to you if you give them a campsite number along. Reserve America will not include this information on your confirmation.

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You can’t get to Whiskey George Creek via this campsite unless it’s flooding. But you will be surrounded by swamps.

Or…if you like thrashing in your small kayak through brush and bramble, you could try — eventually you may hit navigable water.

It’s a tortuous way to get here by car, so you can be sure that you will be left alone. If solitary camping is what you want, this may be it.

Don’t do as the last camper or user did: pack it out. A fire pit is not a waste receptacle.

If you camp(ed) here, please add your comment in the box provided at the end of this post.

CS 50 – Rake Creek, Tate’s Hell State Forest

Reserve this site at Reserve America, Tate’s Hell State Forest High Bluff Primitive Campsites. When you get to your campsite, find the closest point of cell connection. If you call 911 give them 390 State Forest Road #31 as your address,GSP 29.82659, -84.84641. First responders will not be able to find you with a campsite number only. Reserve America does not include this information on your confirmation.

When you get to your campsite, check cell phone coverage or find nearest cell phone connection point.

Rake Creek is in south western Tate’s Hell State Forest, more easily accessible from SR 65. It’s probably one of the largest primitive sites in Tate’s Hell.

There is not much shade on this site which is surrounded by sloughs and marshes. Because of its openness we did not see much in the way of gnats or other bothersome flying insects.

One can access Rake Creek by what seems almost a personal sandy roadway to the creek, which may be frequented by local folks fishing.

At the water someone has build two benches facing the creek.

This would be a great full moon camp site — with no trees impairing the view of the path of the moon.

This is the view up the creek.

This if the view looking down the creek.

But there is no way one can easily access the creek via kayak.

The photos were taken when the tide was outgoing. Water levels vary on various water venues in Tate’s Hell depending on tidal currents.

If you camp here, please add your comment in the box provided at the end of this post.

CS 49 – Pidcock Road Campsite, Tate’s Hell SF Campsite

Reserve this site on Reserve America, Tate’s Hell State Forest High Bluff Primitive Campsites. When you get to your campsite, find the closest point for cell connection. If you call 911 give 379 Pidcock Road, Tate’s Hell State Forest, as your address, GPS 29.81976 ,-84.82574. First responders will not know how to get your by campsite only. Reserve America does not give you this information on your confirmation.

This is the view you will get if you drive in.

We love to paddle Cash Creek and if we take one branch it will take us past this campsite. We paddle our way between the abandoned pilings in tannin colored water. When the water is higher, these pilings, concealed under brown water, can catch your boat and hold it fast, risking capsize. We earn the right to this warning from experience.

It’a always nice to see someone enjoying this site. It’s a huge campsite like most of the sites in Tate’s Hell and is perfect for paddlers who love to paddle the tributaries which empty into the Apalachicola River.

If we could access it easily from the water (and it could be done when the water level is up — easier in a canoe than a kayak), this would be a perfect place to stop for lunch.

There is a drop from the banks or thick mud along the rush-growing slough and the sand ledge is not substantial enough to hold a dismounting paddler. The river drops sharply on the edge of this site.

This would make an ideal full moon campsite. Just look at the view one gets from the site.

Looking upriver.

And, looking downriver.

On the road to the campground are several slash pine trees with the customary white band painted around their trunks — indicators of red cockaded woodpecker nests. We noticed that these had PVC pipes inserted in the hole. We didn’t see any activity in them, but wouldn’t it be great to have as neighbors these endangered birds (even if they might be noisy).

Tate’s Hell forests are mostly slash pines, not long leaf, which is the customary home of red cockaded woodpeckers. But we have seen one natural bored nest off Trout Creek in slash pine.

In the fall the estuary is a favorite spot for migrating birds.

We have never camped here, but this is one site we would like to try one day and figure out how one can more easily put-in and take-out kayaks.

There are three small campsites at the Cash Creek Landing (one is on a first come basis and not reservable), but this is a more desirable a camp site unless one prefers lots of company. There is more traffic at the Cash Creek Landing site from fishermen launching their boats to go into the estuaries and then to the Apalachicola River and drive in and turn around cars (particularly on the weekends). The Cash Creek Landing is a Day Use area with covered shelters over picnic tables.

This is a perfect site for paddlers who wish to paddle the area creeks and rivers, totally isolated even from the dispersed camping one finds in Tates Hell State Forest. We have been told by fishermen that fishing here is good. A young fisherman who lived near the Suwanee River camped here. We saw him in his fishing kayak on the New River at Gully Branch Road landing. He had no luck on Gully Branch, after a day of fishing, but he regaled us with stories about the fish he caught the day before on Cash creek.

The photos were taken when the tide was outgoing. Water levels will vary.

If you camp(ed) here, please comment in the box provided at the end of this post.