Tag Archives: Tate’s Hell State Forest paddling

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 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.

Campsite #8 – Parker Place, Tate’s Hell SF

Reserve this site at Reserve America, State’s Hell State Forest, New River Primitive Campsites.  When you get to your campsite, check for the closest point for cell connection.  If you call 911, the address of this campsite is 1751 River Road, Tate’s Hell State Forest, GPS 29.91190,-84.73108.   Reserve America’s confirmation e-mail or documents will not include this address and first responders will not be able to find you with just a campsite number.  

Like all other sites on the New River, Parker Place on the west side of the river, can easily accommodate 8 people or 8 small tents and cars.  It is a RV/tent site.

It has a long and wide entry which can be used for parking or a narrow soccer field for the kids — the palmettos on either side will keep the ball on the field.

Standard equipment at all Tate’s Hell primitive camp sites are a large picnic table, a fire pit and a standup grill.   You should provide your own potable water and dig your own bathroom arrangement in the woods.  Having a portable toilet with disposable, biodegradable packets are quite convenient.  You are responsible for packing all garbage out of the site.   There are bears in Tate’s Hell SF and food and scented items should be kept in the car or hung from a tree far away from the sleeping area.  A kayak hatch will not deter varmints!

For paddlers, the landing at Parker Place allows for safe put-in and take-out.  However, when the tide is out, be careful to step on the visible sand — the landing can drop suddenly.  And hold on to your kayak if the current or wind is going downriver.

The lower sites on the New allow for a more expansive view because the river doesn’t curve as much.

At the end of the day, this is the down river view.

And this is the upriver view.

The nearest campsites are not within hearing range.  How about that for a wilderness camping experience?

We recommend a campfire particuarly around dusk to keep the mosquitoes away.  Don’t bring campfire from home, unless you’re from Franklin county.  Sometimes forestry leaves firewood at the site; otherwise try the IGA in Carrabelle or inquire at the gas stations.

The early riser in the group can also really ingratiate himself/herself to the group by starting a fire on a cold morning.

The photos were taken when the tide was outgoing.  Water levels will vary by tide at this site.

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

Campsite 9: Pope Place, Tate’s Hell State Forest

You can reserve CS 9 at Reserve America, Tate’s Hell State Forest New River (section).  When you get to your campsite, find the closest point where you can get cell connection.  If you call 911, your site street address is 1591 River Road, Tate’s Hell State Forest. GPS 29.89629,-84.73390.  First responders cannot find you with only a campsite number.   Reserve America’s confirmation documents will not include this address.

Pope Place Campsite, a very large RV and Tent primitive camp site on the New River.   This site, can easily accommodate up to 8 people and as many small single tents.

Privacy is insured not only by the distance between sites,  but also by the trees and vegetation around each campsite.

Entry is wide and can accommodate several parked cars, but there is more than ample space in the site itself.

This is a good site for paddlers since the landing is sandy.  This photo was taken at low tide.  There is a drop so, when taking out, be sure that your feet are on the exposed sand, if possible.  This site is below Gully Branch Road after which tidal currents can be felt. If one capsizes in a fast outgoing current, one could easily lose one’s craft.

The view from this site is spectacular.

Looking upriver.

And…

downriver.

Campers can put-in from upriver sites on the New River or paddle from this site.  Tidal current may be noticeable.   If the current is too strong for up and back or down and back and a shuttle is not possible, try Trout Creek.   Trout Creek is just south of this campsite on West River Road at the intersection with River Road, a little over a mile of this campsite.

The current is not that noticeable on Trout Creek, except where it meets the New River, but water levels will go up and down.  Paddlers need to consider the level of the water if going under limbos on this creek (if there are any), a higher level of water may narrow the opening on a return to take-out.   This is an excellent creek to paddle with children just learning to paddle or for adults who have reluctantly been urged to try paddling.

If you can shuttle, putting in at Gully Branch Road landing, will give you a nice downriver paddle to the campsite.

Adventurous paddlers, who like wilderness paddling with its uncertain challenges (or not),  put in at FR 22 east of Sumatra, camp over at campsite 17 on the New River (in Tate’s Hell SF Juniper section) and paddle to Pope Place for a next day take-out.  The total paddling mileage is about 23 miles: 9.5 miles the first day and 12.5 the next day.  There is a 9 miles upriver section in which no road access is available to the river, so only those capable of handling uncertain river conditions should attempt the top 9.5 miles.

Paddlers have access to the water through your site. Paddlers should park their cars in the entry driveway and not the campsite.

There is no water or toilet facilities.  The forest is heavily rooted and a trowel isn’t going to give you a deep enough pit.  Bring a portable toilet (with biodegradable, disposable bags).  Everything should be packed out.  There are bears in Tates’s Hell and food should be kept in cars, or hung away from sleeping areas.   A kayak hatch is not a good place to keep food or scented items such as shampoo, soap, etc. overnight.

The photos were taken at low water levels; tides affect the water level on this site. 

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

How to find Tate’s Hell SF camp sites on Reserve America

The way the campsites are listed on Reserve America is enough to frustrate even a avid puzzle fan.

Here’s an easier way to find that campsite using the Tate’s Hell State Forest map.  To shorten this, I’m using abbreviations:  CS for campsite, CG for campground, RV/T means both RV’s and tents are allowed on that site; T means tent only.  Womack Creek is under two separate categories:  Tates Hell Womack Creek Campground and Tate’s Hell Womack Creek Primitive Campsites.

On Reserve America the sites are listed under the following categories:  1) Tate’s Hell State Forest Juniper Creek Primitive Campsites, 2) Tate’s Hell State Forest New River Primitive Campsites, 3) Sumatra Primitive Campsites, Tate’s Hell State Forest, 4) Tate’s Hell State Forest County Line OHV Campground, 5) Tate’s Hell State Forest Pickett’s Bay Primitive Campsites, 6) Tate’s Hell State Forest Rock Landing Campground, 7) Tate’s Hell State Forest Deep Creek Primitive Campsites, Florida, 8) Tate’s Hell State Forest Womack Creek Primitive Campsites, 9)Tate’s  Hell State Forest Womack Creek Campground, 10) Tate’s Hell State Forest High Bluff Primitive Campsites,  11) Tate’s Hell state Forest Crooked River Primitive Campsites, and the most recently opened 12) Tate’s Hell SF  Cash Creek Campground, Florida.

First, get the Tate’s Hell State Forest map from the Tate’s Hell site — this gives you an overview of the whole forest.  The campsites are noted by black triangles.   The reference guide below tells you what the name of the campsites or campground you should find your desired campsite.  Look at the previous paragraph to see how that section is named.

Campsites in bold type has a separate report and photographs of that site.  Sites marked with asterisks * are not reservable walk-in sites where you pay at the site or at the forestry office.

CS 1  Sumatra, RV/T

CS 2  North Road, New River, RV/T

CS 3  New River west of river, New River, RV/T

CS  4  Gully Branch, New River, RV/T

CS  5  Dew Drop, New River, RV/T

CS 6  Borrow Pit, New River, RV/T

CS 7  Borrow Pit, New River, RV/T

CS 8  Parker Place, New River, RV/T

CS 9  Pope Place, New River, RV/T

CS 10 New River East, Pickett’s Bay, RV/T

CS 11 Gully Branch, Pickett’s Bay, T

CS 12  New River east of river, Juniper Creek, RV/T

CS 13  New River east of river, Juniper Creek, RV/T

CS 14  New River east of river, Juniper Creek, RV/T

CS 15  New River east of river, Juniper Creek, RV/T

CS 16  New River east of river, Juniper Creek, RV/T

CS 17  New River east of river, Juniper Creek, RV/T

CS 18  Boundary Road, Juniper Creek, RV/T

CS 19*  County Line OHV, OHV Campground, RV/T  (not reservable, walk-in site)

CS 20  County Line OHV, OHV Campground, RV/T

CS 21  County Line OHV, OHV Campground, RV/T

CS 22  Bus Stop, Juniper Creek, RV/T

CS 23 Log Cabin, Womack Creek Primitive Campsites, RV/T

CS 24 Log Cabin, Womack Creek Primitive Campsites, RV/T

CS 25  Log Cabin, Womack Creek Primitive Campsites, RV/T

CS 26  Log Cabin, Womack Creek Primitive Campsites, RV/T

CS 27  Nick’s Road Landing, Womack Creek Primitive Campsites, RV/T

CS 28  Loop Road, Womack Creek Primitive Campsites, RV/T

CS 29  Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T

CS 30  Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T

CS 31 Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T

CS 32  Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T

CS 33* Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T (not reservable, walk-in site)

CS 34 Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, RV/T (electric hookup)

CS 35 Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T

CS 36* Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, RV/T (electrical hookup) (not reservable, walk-in site)

CS 37 Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T

CS 38 Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T

CS 39   Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T

CS 40  Womack Creek, Womack Creek Campground, T

CS 41  Rock Landing, Rock Landing, RV/T

CS 42  Rock Landing, Rock Landing, RV/T

CS 43  Rock landing, Rock landing, RV/T (not reservable, walk-in site*)

CS 44  Crooked River, Crooked River, RV/T

CS 45  Crooked River, Crooked River, RV/T

CS 46  Sunday Rollaway, Pickett’s Bay, RV/T

CS 47  Oxbow, Pickett’s Bay, RV/T

CS 48  Warren Bluff,  Pickett’s Bay, RV/T

CS 49  Pidcock Road, High Bluff, RV/T

CS 50  Rake Creek, High Bluff, RV/T

CS 51  Dry Bridge, High Bluff, RV/T

CS 52  Doyle Creek, Deep Creek, RV/T

CS 53 Deep Creek, Deep Creek, RV/T

CS 54 Whiskey George, Deep Creek, RV/T

CS 55 Cash Creek, Cash Creek Campground, RV/T

CS 56  Cash Creek, Cash Creek Campground, RV/T

CS 57* Cash Creek, not listed on Reserve America, (not reservable, walk-in site)

*The walk-in sites means that it’s on a first come basis.  You  pay at site or at the forestry office and you do not have to pay the additional reservation fee to Reserve America.

Hopefully, this will help you to find the right campsite.

We hope eventually, we will be able to report and photograph every campsite to give you additional information.

What is not generally known is that Tate’s Hell is a great location for paddlers of all skills.  It offers a 9 mile wilderness trail from FR 22, Sumatra campsite soon after put-in  to campsite 17 (with no access to the river by road until CS 17). This section of the new is navigable usually only during the spring high water period and requires some stamina since one never knows what conditions the trail will offer (portages, scoot-overs, limbos, climb-over large tree trunks, etc.)  There are good learn-to-paddle areas like Trout Creek and Barrow Pit pond (CS 6-7) and a delightfully short or longer, depending on tide, full-of-wildlife Pine Log Creek right off CR 67.  There are lots of possibilities for overnight camping while paddling.  From Log Cabin campground on the Ochlockonee to Womack Creek Campground and stopping to do Womack Creek to Nick’s Road primitive campsite and back.  Then south to the Crooked River and Loop Landing PCS to Rock Landing Campground with a vault toilet.  One can continue to paddle on the Crooked west and with a possible road portage if the river is too high under the bridge at CR 67 bridge and Crooked River  to Sunday Rollaway campsite and Warren Bluff campsite on the west of CR 67.  Then to Pope Place on the New River and, you wish, upstream as far as your stamina will take you, with all the New River sites (some easily accessible by river).   Tate’s Hell SF is made for paddlers!

Womack Creek – H. Michael’s impact – October 27, 2018

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Checking out the first branch on river right (left as we paddled upstream from Womack Creek Campground landing), two trees blocked further access (except by portage) beyond.  This is a branch of the Ochlockonee which one will pass to get to Womack Creek, but when the tide is in, it’s a good place to explore and wait the rest of the crew if paddling with a group.  Be alert for submerged snags:  it’s shallow and muddy and in early spring has a early blooming patches of golden clubs and later, in the same area, lizard’s tail plants.

Fortunately, this section of Tate’s Hell State Forest was spared from downed trees preventing passage, except for a leaning tree which when it falls will block further upstream through paddling.  Currently none of the downed trees  will block through passage to Nick’s Road campsite, 3.75 miles from put-in at Womack Creek campground.

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At Nick’s campground, Tate’s Hell forestry staff have cut and cleared off fallen trees, leaving only the debris which the hosts will clean up.  The debris, when dried, should make very good fire-pit starters.

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Noticeably absent this year are masses of vining asters and narrow leaf sunflowers which attract butterflies and other insects to the creek.   Only a few of these were blooming.

A new plant appeared, purple sneeze weed, on a log which like many partially immersed logs when it catches mud and debris from upstream become growing medium for plants.

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A few clematis crispa flowers (and their seed pods) can be seen.   The green fly orchid constantly surprises us by blooming continuously all year round.

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North Florida’s answer to maples and oaks turning color in the fall, sweet gum and Florida maples are beginning to turn.

And setting the holiday stage are three varieties of native hollies:  yaupon, dahoon and American holly.

 

Other seeds, like swamp titi (below), Walter’s viburnum, arrow wood, muscadine, palmetto provide food for birds and other creatures of that creek.

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Two small alligators, the larger juvenile in alligator weed, are too young to be afraid of paddlers.  Alligator weed, an invasive species which appeared earlier this year, will have to be cleared out.  To our knowledge there are no invasives on Womack Creek, or invasives which are not cleared out when sighted.

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A small flock of ducks have returned, a great blue heron, the ubiquitous kingfisher which is impossible to photograph because it won’t sit still.

Womack Creek is open for paddling.

 

A Rainy Paddle on the Ochlockonee 2-25-2018

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Ten paddlers from the Apalachee Canoe and Kayak Club left the Woodlake landing on the east side of the Ochlockonee River (Apalachicola National Forest) to have lunch at Log Cabin Campground in Tate’s Hell at Tate’s Hell State Forest, paddle through the Sanborn cut and back up to the Woodlake Landing — a paddle of 12 miles, 4 miles upriver.

It rained soon after lunch and rained and rained and rained.  At the landing, the pumps and bailers were in use, justifying that extra tool in the boats.  But all paddlers were soaked, even quick-dry wicking clothes don’t dry when still raining.

Only one paddler had a skirt:  the others were either weather-deniers, or paddle-come-what-may optimists, but all considered this a worthy challenge to their skills and stamina.

The temperature, fortunately, had warmed up considerably from the previous weeks’ lows.  Wet, but not hypothermic.

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In the rain, a field of golden clubs blooming in Tate’s Hell State Forest.

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The paddle was led by David Morse, chief forester, Tate’s Hell State Forest.