Tag Archives: Crooked River

Water hemlock — one of the most toxic plants on this continent

04-P1080287   Do not eat this plant — it grows profusely on Womack Creek, Crooked River and other similar creeks and rivers in the Panhandle including Wakulla River.

It affects one’s nervous system immediately resulting in seizures.  Poison control  center should be called if ingested.  Children may be tempted to blow on the straw-like stems.

The flowers look like Queen Anne’s lace and cow parsnip — white and lacy towering above the leaves.   They do not make suitable dining table cut flowers — just admire and paddle on.

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.


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.

Tate’s Hell paddle trails


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.


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).


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.


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.


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!



Camping on the Crooked River, March 25, 2014



High tide at loop campsite, Crooked River, Tate’s Hell. March 25, 2014.


Big enough site for more than 4 big tents.




We’ve always wanted to camp here, a cosy (but large site) right on the Crooked River, far away from the main traffic of the forest roads, yet less than 2 miles from the Womack Creek Campground if one wanted to get a hot shower.

We had paddled over 10 miles on Womack Creek, doing our weekly spring observation field work.  There were two sites at the Womack Creek campground filled — we were glad to see that people are finding out what a lovely place it is to camp.   But we had reserved this site (850-697-3734 – Carrabelle Tate’s Hell Forestry) — it is one of the most popular sites in Tate’s Hell — and we had it for one night.

It was predicted to get to the low 40’s, something which we could tolerate in our  40 degree stated, actual 50 degree, sleeping bags, but we brought along our 20 degree bag, just in case to use as a quilt — a luxury when car camping, not possible when kayak/camping.  We were hoping to do a 15 mile paddle the next day with headwinds expected on the paddle back.  We needed to get a good night’s rest.

We had brought along some of the heavy pine wood which a previous camper at Womack Creek had given us — we had used our scroungy pine logs and saved his.  We found out that it was heavy because it was green, and it took some coaxing and adding of pine cones, leaves & pine needles and dead branches to get the fire going.  Fortunately we had an ax with us and we split the logs so it would burn better.   In two hours we had a nice fire going, but we saved enough logs to have for the morning fire — 40 degrees can be cold right out of a warm sack.

Twilight at camp is always a nice time and coming in earlier to set up camp so one can relax at that time is one of the pleasures of being outdoors.  Facing the river, enjoying our hot drinks around the fire, one of us surveyed the trees across the river, enjoying the spring colors.  The other, fortunately was looking at the river.  A curious otter, fat and larger than any he had seen, popped his/her head out, didn’t like what he/she saw and gracefully dove under water.  The only part of the otter the tree-viewer saw was its back and glistening tail.

The wind brought chill, but the fire, once it got going, was sufficient to keep us there until 10.  These campfire sessions for two, when all good talk is exhausted, led us to start reading Shakespeare, which plays were but faint memories.  We did Julius Caesar last March at St. George Island Campsite, Romeo and Juliet in February, can’t remember which campground, we got bogged down on King Lear — probably not a good play for campfire reading — and Macbeth on October 31 at Florida State Caverns campground.  Hamlet was in the pouches of one of our car seats, ready for reading.

But it was a perfect night for taking in the whole of the place, a crescent moon just over the trees in the south, then a single star and then more as the night progressed.  No one was around, no boats on the river, no cars on the road, no sounds except the crackling of the fire.

Everything which would have been attractive to critters was put in the car for the night — the thin sliver of a moon leaving behind a starry sky for us to sleep under.



The day broke over the river — what do they say about red sky in the morning?


And the camp was slowly stirring.


But a good fire got us started.







But after the morning fire burned down, we set off for the  day’s paddle to a low incoming tide.