Category Archives: Tate’s Hell State Forest

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.

The swamps are blooming!

Tate’s Hell State Forest is a watershed; swamps are to be expected.

You may not think of visiting the northern border, with FR 22 separating the state forest on the south from the Apalachicola National Forest to the north, as a place to look for carnivorous plants. This is not on the wild flower trail which offers stupendous blooms off SR 65. It is over 8 miles east of Sumatra on a sandy forest road.

It was a wet non-winter and early spring and a section close to the New River is blooming right now.

Yellow pitcher plants will first catch your eye.

If you stop to examine the area, you will also see, Burke’s southern pitcher plants.

The full face of the flower is shown on the opening of this post.

Some are still in bud.

Pink sundews are all over the ground — hard not to step on them.

And interspersed are Zigzag bladderworts.

Also bunches of flattened pipewort.

They look like nature’s pincushions (like phone books, not a contemporary common reference.)

Bog club mosses can be found in the Apalachicola National Forest where the ground is perennuially wet, but they were in Tate’s Hell SF, also.

Looks like a green centipede.

Among all of that, the white bog violets are still blooming. These have thinner, longer leaves. There are more on the western section of Tate’s Hell SF than the eastern sections which has the white primrose leafed white violets.

Nearby, in small clumps, but noticeable because of their golden color, are Savannah sneezeweed.

At the New River one will see mayberry and high bush blueberries beginning to fruit.

And Atlantic White Cypress (cedar) fruiting.

Flatwoods St. John’s wort are still blooming.

And with the warmth, dragon flies appear — this one a blue corporal.

A great day to be out enjoying the forest.

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.

This is a Cotton Mouth – Gully Branch Road, Tate’s Hell State Forest

This cotton mouth (water moccasin) was crossing from one ditch to the other on Gully Branch Road.

Having seen a lot of water snakes on Womack Creek, and not seeing the indicator of a venomous snake — its triangular shaped head — I assumed it was a brown water snake. However, just in case I was wrong, I gave it enough breadt. It stayed put while I walked around it, taking snap shots.

Later, I found out it was a cotton mouth.

This is what I should have known: dark strips by each nostril and pale snout. The triangular head on this one was not noticeably triangular, but the distinct neck should have been another warning. Nonvenomous water snakes do not have necks. In coloration, dark brown, black to olive and with brown or yellow banding, it looks like come water snakes. If I got close enough, I should have noticed that its pupils are vertical, like cat pupils, not round in most nonvenomous snakes.

Fortunately, they are not known to be aggressive. However, had it been warning me, it would have coiled and exposed the inner lining of its mouth.

The bite is highly venomous and one should seek treatment immediately. Anti venom is available for this species.

As a constant paddler, I should have known how to distinguish a cotton mouth from nonvenomous snakes.

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 #14, New River, Tate’s Hell State Forest

You can reserve this site at Reserve America, CS 14, New River, Tate’s Hell State Forest, Juniper Creek section. When you get to your site, find the closest place to get a cell signal. If you call 911, the address you should give is 3080 New River Campsite #14 Road, Tate’s Hell state Forest, GPS 29.98293–84.73386. First responders will not be able to find you if you only give the camp site number. Reserve America will not have this information on your confirmation.

A long entry to the campsite leading to a level, dry site.

The lower section at low water can be used as a recreation area, but when the water is higher, will be wet. This was taken when the river was very low, particularly for February.

There is another section which is flat and dry enough to accommodate other tents or parking.

One should be able to access the river with a canoe or kayak easily in most conditions.

When taken the river was so low this option would be risky — there was a drop to the water from the edge.

Low water levels offer other possibilities.

The view from this site is beautiful: upriver view and below that downriver view.

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.

CS 47, Oxbow Campsite, Tate’s Hell State Forest

Campsite 47 is on Warren Bluff Road and we were encoutering large water-filled holes that when we realized we had missed the turn to this site. We didn’t feel like retracting our bumpy/muddy excursion to find it. We will report on it when it dries out. Warren Bluff Road probably should not be attempted when its wet by passenger cars. Tate’s Hell State Forest was purchased by the state for restoration of a critical watershed for two major north Florida rivers and restoration is the primary mission of this forest. GPS location: 29.87059, -84.68293.

CS 46 – Sunday Rollaway Campsite, Tate’s Hell State Forest

You can reserve this camp site on Reserve America, Tate’s Hell State Forest, Picketts Bay section. When you get to your site, check cell coverage and find closest point where you can get that coverage. If you need to call 911 give 640 Sunday Rollaway Camp Road, Tate’s Hell State Forest, as your address, GPS 29.90432, -84.65221. First responders will not be able to find you if you only give a campsite number. Reserve America will not include this information on your confirmation.

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Sunday Rollaway bears the remnants of the pine plantation which it was before the state of Florida acquired Tate’s Hell State Forest to restore it to its natural function — a watershed for the Ochlockonee and Apalachicola Rivers.

After a long entry drive, one comes across this delightful end of the road camp site.

The photo above is facing the entrance. It’s what one would see while camping here.

If you have children, they will immediately be taken by the small sandy area at the end of the road where the remnants of pilings which held a bridge are still visible.

Although folks who bank fish may wish access to the end of the road, it seems you can spread out as much as you like without blocking road access to them as a matter of courtesy. Those wishing to launch come campsites are allowed to do so in Tate’s Hell State Forest; hopefully they will respect your desire for privacy and room and will park the cars at the entry and walk in to the river once the boats have been unloaded.

The channels alongside the campsite may make for a buggy summer. This seems an ideal fall through spring site.

The campsite sits high enough above the water line that it will remain dry.

A small area of sand at the end will allow for easy access of canoes or kayaks.

The view to the left at the end of the road is the Crooked River East and to the right Crooked River as it winds itself into and estruarian environment to join the Carrabelle River (New river) and then to the Gulf of Mexico.

Tate’s Hell provides several different type of low land ecosystems in which to camp. You will be camping in estuaries here — giving you wide expanses of sky (sun and moon).

In an prematurely early spring we saw buckwheat trees in full bloom along the entry and white violets on the ground.

There are few trees on this site, so it may be very hot during the summer. Not sure whether you’ll be close enough to the ocean to benefit from evening breezes.

If you camp here, please post your comments on the box provided at the end of this post.