Tag Archives: Womack Creek paddling

CS 29-40 – Womack Creek Campground, Tate’s Hell State Forest

You can reserve the sites at the Womack Creek Campground at Reserve America, Tate’s Hell State Forest, Womack Creek Campground. If you have to call 911, your address is 5503 Jeff Sanders Rd., GPS 30.00197, -84.53935. Emergency responders will need the street address. This information is not included in your Reserve America confirmation.

When you arrive at your site, check to see where you can get coverage, if you cannot get coverage at your site.

At 5503 Jeff Sanders Rd. you will find Womack Creek Campground, the largest of Tate’s Hell State Forest’s campgrounds. Although called “primitive” it has currently a large rest house with hot showers and flush toilets. Water is not potable; it can be filtered, but water in the area smells of shulper and needs to sit overnight to remove the smell. Recommend you bring your own drinking and cooking water. Because the resthouse sits on the rim of a bluff overlooking a curve in the Ochlockonee River, the sandy banks have been eroding at a very rapid rate and is currently about 1 foot away from a corner of the foundation. The restroom facilities may soon be closed because of the danger of collapse of the foundation. In such a situation, Tate’s Hell Forestry may have to install vault toilets because the primitive tent sites are too close to each other even though well separated by thick palmetto stands. Digging your own toilet as in isolated single sites in the forest is not sanitary.

Although any number of hosts and visitors have noted that the eroding banks should be shored up over the years, nothing has been done that we can see. This is a lovely campground and increasingly has attracted group camping.

It has been a favorite campground for us because it’s the landing to Womack Creek. In 2013 we organized a paddle for about 85 paddlers to camp here for a weekend and paddle Tate’s Hell SF and area paddling venues. A major front caused cancellation of the paddles on the last day. Tate’s Hell Forestry was very supportive of the group’s plans and provided free firewood and other assistance to enable the event to be a success. Talquin State Forest Region Recreation coordinators have always been willing to help with group events in the forests under their jurisdiction.

We noticed yesterday when we took these photos that there was more dog poop around the campground, which is not common here (or any campsite in Tate’s Hell SF). As tenters, we are particularly conscious of dog feces since we are sleeping directly on ground and walk the area a lot more than campers do. If you reserve a campsite here and you are tenting, you might wish to call the Tate’s Hell State Forest office and request that they remind the host to clean up the dog poop before you expect to be there. If you are trying to introduce a good tenting experience to friends or family, this is sure to discourage them from doing any more camping.

Also, be warned that the host has a dog which while very friendly jumps on you. It is not on lease as it should be. Before you let your children out of your site area, you may want to check with the host to make sure that he is aware that you have children, particularly if you have a child who may not be familiar with dogs larger than they are and may not know how to handle an overly friendly dog.

This is what you will see as you drive into the campground.

This is the parking area for cars for those in the tent only campsites which are inaccessible to cars.

This is the site of the host’s trailer, the only host at Tate’s Hell State Forest. Hosts are volunteers.  They volunteer 20 hours a week of volunteer time and are given a site and water and electricity hook-up for that work. The host at Womack Creek campground is also responsible for the campsites at Nick’s Road landing and other nearby campsites. This is very hard work, so please be patient with them. The regular work often takes more than 20 hours a week and they often buy from their own pockets paper and soap for the bathrooms. To assist these volunteers, you can keep the restrooms and your campsite clean and clear of garbage and debris and clean up your firepit of thrash — the firepit is not a thrash bin.

Campsite 33 and 35 are not reservable. For those camping here, place your fee in the envelope provided and deposit the check/cash in envelope in this iron ranger. There is a day use fee of $2. Campers from other sites often use the showers at Womack Creek Campground. They should pay the day use fee of $2 per person.

This is an enclosure to protect the burrow of a gopher tortoise, an endangered specie and keystone specie. Keystone species are essential to many other living things which depend on them or their habitats to live. In the case of gopher tortoises, about 150 different species including a number of other endangered species. Please do not use this area as a play area and if you see a gopher tortoise, stay away — they are not play animals. They are essential denizens of this ecosystem.

The rest rooms have a very long and wide veranda from which one can rock and view the Ochlockonee river flowing below you. Those rocking chairs were donated by the then Florida Canoe and Paddling Connection paddlers (now Florida Kayaking.com) who held a camp/paddle here in 2013.

The view downriver – note how close the banks are to the rest rooms.

The upriver view from the veranda. At dusk and at dawn this is an incredibly reposeful place to be.

Between the boat landing and the restrooms are the day use pavilions with 2 grills.

And below that is a grassy play area and the boat landing.

The Ochlockonee River curves just before this landing. At flood tide, there are eddies which are quite strong upstream of the landing. Looking upstream you will see the opening of Womack Creek on the left and to the right the Ochlockonee River.

CAMPSITES IN CAMPGROUND

CS #29

This is a tent only campsite as are campsites 3-33, 35, 37. Campsites 33 and 35 are not reservable, but available on a walk-in basis.

The tent sites vary in size, but are not large. There is a picnic table at each campsite and a fire pit. Remember that if you plan to use the fire pit, the tent should not be too close to it or the flying embers will burn a hole in your tent fly.

This site is large enough to hold a 4-6 person tent. It will be cramped.


Except for campsite 37 and the RV/tent sites cars are not accessible to the site. That campsite is not reservable, but is the largest tent site in the campground.

Campsite 30 should accommodate a 4 person tent or 2 two person backpacking tents.

I failed to get the sign post photo of the site below, which is campsite 31.

In the middle of the campsites is a large area for a group fire pit.

Campsite 32 is a smaller tent site which can accommodate a 4 person tent.

Campsite 33 is a non reservable site.

Campsite 34 is an RV/tent site with electricity. It costs more and is reservable. Of the 3 RV/tent sites this may have the largest tent site not on gravel.

This is campsite 35 which is walkable from the main entry road, but car parking is in the group parking area. It is not reservable.

It is one one of the more private of the campsites at this campground.

Campsite 36 is an RV/T site with gravel.

One could pitch a small tent here or at the entrance in a small triangular grassy area right off the main road.

Campsite 37 is the largest of the tent sites and one can park one’s car in the site.

Campsite 38 is an RV/tent site with electricity.

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

This is a smaller tent only site for a 2 person tent.

A young couple from Indiana was camping here. It rained the night before, but they enjoyed biking the trails.

If you camp at any of these sites, please add your comments.

What’s blooming now on Womack Creek – 3-3-2018

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The air was dulcet — in the low 60’s, 50’s when we put it, but with a cloudless sky, it soon warmed to a comfortable paddling temperature.

There are two areas of blooming on the Creek.  From the put-in at Womack Creek Campground landing, selecting the left branch (the river to the right is the Ochlockonee), one quickly enters the protected waters of Womack Creek.  From that landing to Nick’s Road campsite is 3.75 miles.  About 2.5 miles from put-in the river branches, take the left to go to Nick’s campsite landing.   The branch on the right is a dead-end — it will not take you to the Ochlockonee River unless the river is at very high flood stage and you could easily get lost without GPS or a compass (this area and north on the Ochlockonee has branches which can lure and confuse paddlers without compass or GPS, particularly when the water is high.)

Depending on water level you can continue beyond Nick’s — the right branch after Nick’s has a longer area of navigability than the branch to the left, which, if you want to be Rambo, will eventually lead you to SR 67.

The two sections of blooming:  the first 2.5 miles to the branch, the branch to the left to Nick’s Road campsite 1.25 miles.

Walter’s viburnum:

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These are the dominant white flowers on the lower 2.5 miles.  On the upper section, these are already dying and forming seed heads.

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The pinxster azaleas are in full bloom in the lower sections, mixed with Walter’s viburnum.

However, there are still bushes which flowers are still in bud.  Expect blooming in this area for another month.

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Blossoming of Pinxter’s in the upper may be for another 3 weeks, but these are now intermixed with Parsley haw.

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Both Walter’s Viburnum and Parsley Haw are tall shrubs and if the tide is outgoing, you may not be able to get a close-up.  The way to distinguish both are the leaves and the Parsley haw when first blooming have pink stamens, as in the lower photo.

Also beginning to bloom are cross vines (not trumpet vines which they resemble), Swamp jessamine (not Carolina which it resembles), bristly buttercup, and beginning to bloom Cowcreek Spider Lily, an endemic species of this area.

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Before reaching Womack Creek, in one of the branches, is a patch of Golden clubs in bloom.

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Soon to be blooming are yaupon holly, fringe tree, swamp dogwood.

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Swallowtail butterflies, monarchs, dragonflies are out.  Swallowtails appear with the blooming azaleas.

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Too early for hornets.

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Sweet gums are leafing; slash pines are blooming — clearly spring on Womack Creek.

Saving a life on Womack Creek – March 3, 2018

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky.  The temperature at put-in was around mid-50 and during the paddle around 60.  There was little or no wind.  The tide was outgoing, but going upstream there was no appreciable current.  A perfect day for paddling and  boating — 7 boats on that creek, more than any we have ever seen since 2012.

Returning to put in, I saw a great blue heron floating under a bare overhanging tupelo branch downriver.  It did not attempt to fly away as I approached and I soon saw why.  It was caught up in a bush hook which extended from that branch into the water.  All along the creek we had seen new bush hook lines hanging — some which we had to avoid to prevent entanglement ourselves.  This might have been put up by the camper at Nick’s road campsite or a load of young men who took a long time going upriver and back.

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We both approached slowly.  Ed had the knife (I had lost mine which had been fastened to my PFD), but we approached slowly from different directions.  I thought I might have to hold the bird while he tried to extricate the hook.

The heron was amazingly docile as Ed brought his kayak alongside it to diagnose the problem.  The hook had caught the joint between the forewing and the backwing and was firmly imbedded.  There was no untoward movement by the bird, which amazed us.  However, when Ed tried to see if he could remove this barbed hook (he  has been fishing with barbless hooks for a long time), the bird thrashed around — it must have been painful.  Deciding that the barb was in too deep to remove without further damaging the bird’s flesh, he cut the line at the hook.

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The great blue, extricated from the line, swam slowly and then waded up to the bank and slowly disappeared into the woods.

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Hopefully, it will survive.  Hopefully it can fly.

In this same area last year, perhaps two years ago, we found a barred owl entangled in a bush line.  It had tried to fly away with whatever had lured it to the bush line and got entangled in the line.  It’s limp body had not yet decomposed so it was recent.  There used to be a pair of barred owls near the campground which lulled us to sleep at night when we camped there.  We camped there soon after this incident and could not hear the barred owls.

May 30 – Womack Creek in summer garb

P1140894To avoid the summer thunderstorms, we put-in early.  At 8:40 we were already on the river and the first blossoms we saw on river right was stand of cheerful shortleaf sneezeweed.   This and the poisonous water hemlock were new blooms on the creek.

The temperature was in the mid-80’s, the water was calm, the sky blue.   There was a slight breeze which was cooling and did not hamper paddling.  The tide seemed to be at equilibrium.

For those planning to paddle this creek, the following flowers are at the end of their blooms:  swamp titi, arrow wood, swamp rose, pickerel weed, swamp (false) dragonhead, button bush, narrowleaf primrose.  However, these plants are still in bloom:  sweet bay, scenting the air around them; coastal rose gentian (look on the forest floor); clematis crispa, nestled in their vines and spatterdock in the water; green fly orchids will be blooming for another month — you will have to look on the trees for them.

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We were delighted to find pairs of cardinals and, even more surprising, pairs of protothonary warblers flitting in the shrubbery.   They were the most common birds, but there was one little kingfisher and a buzzard overhead.   In the woods one could hear a hawk.

There were not as many cooters as one would normally see and these were juveniles.  One 4 foot alligator — another juvenile.

We were also happy to see many apple snail eggs throughout.  This is the preferred food for limpkins and their presence in this creek may mean that we may be finding pairs of limpkins there.  Except for one sighting last year, we have not seen apple snail eggs in that creek since 2011.

P1140960This was perfect temperature for water snakes, but as hard as we looked, we failed to detect any.  There are there, however — a favorite location is in the blackberry bushes which are now loaded with fruit.

New Ogeche tupelo leaves are sprouting after the infestation by tent caterpillars, but we noticed very few drupes (fruits).

Except for a Gulf Fritillary, the butterflies have departed to other areas with more nectar and pollen.  A few wasps, hardly any honeybees, a few bumblebees and other smaller insects.   But the dragonflies are throughout the creek, dipping into the water or hitching a ride on the kayaks.

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Deer (yellow) flies, however, were persistent and aggravating, particularly in the upper 1/3 of the creek.

We explored one branch — these are smaller creeks and provide lots of shade and a cooler temperature, but at the risk of deer flies.

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There is a smaller tree down in the upper third of the creek which we could have cut through if we hadn’t forgotten the saw.  And there is a much larger tree which would require a chainsaw to cut through shortly after that, but we were able to paddle around a small opening.

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When we took out, just before 1pm, the air around the water was in the 80’s, but the land was closer to 90.   Southerly breezes were cooling us at about 8-10 mph, and the tide was coming in.   In the summer — the water is where one wants to be.

Summer colors and flowers on Womack Creek – May 21, 2015

It was in the mid or high 70’s when we put-in at the Womack Creek Campground landing.   There was a slight breeze, the sky was sunny with some clouds.  The tide was outgoing.

P1140431We were expecting the swamp roses to be in full bloom.  But we had been gone from the creek for 6 weeks and only a few were blooming.  But they were fragrant!

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Other trees and shrubs which had passed it bloom were narrow leaf primrose,  cow creek spider lily, and sweet bay.

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The most dominant flowers are clematis crispa, arrow wood,  false dragon head, button bush and swamp titi.P1140478

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We had hoped to see orchids on the bloom stem we saw previously, but that had bloomed out.  Instead we came across a patch of green fly orchids now blooming. P1140533 P1140532 P1140529A new flowering plant, still unidentified, was blooming.

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We were hoping for blueberries to snack on, but the birds and animals had dispatched them in the 6 weeks we were away.  But the blackberries are ripening.  And while the muscadines upriver have little grapes on their vines, the lower vines are still blooming.

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The temperatures are just perfect for snakes to catch some sun’s rays and we were not disappointed.  A brown water snake and what we think is a green water snake were sunning.

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And, the hornets were busy building their nests.

P1140576And perhaps in the future we shall see limpkins in the creek — there were many apple snail egg cases on various plants.

P1140437P1140501P1140555The hornets were building nests, the bumblebees, dragon flies, damsel flies, Gulf frittilary butterflies, and assorted flies and bees were taking food from flowers and other parts of the plants.   We saw bright yellow headed prothotonary warblers in the shrubs, a pair of ducks, heard cardinals and other birds in the forests, and on the paddle back saw 4 magnificent kites flying overhead.

No one else was on the river; we heard no aircraft overhead — it was a warm, delightful paddle and we escaped the predicted thunderstorms of the late afternoon.

 

Summer temperatures, summer blossoms, Womack Creek 4-14-2015

P1140159Swamp Rose — in a few weeks the many bushes will fill the creek with its fragrance and pink blossoms.

Summer weather too soon.  Thunderstorms or rain predicted for the week and we chanced today’s opportunity to paddle Womack Creek.

Our last visit was 16 days ago and so much has happened on that creek: the American wisteria, a thickly clustered and fragrant native species, bloomed in the interval and deprived us this year of their blooms and their scent.   All but the last few pinxter azaleas have bloomed, but the stalwarts in the shade still can outshine the swamp dogwoods which peached their peak in the interval.

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Spring memories can easily fade when these flowers are stepping into the spot light.

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Blue flag iris in a short branch of the creek.

P1140166Swamp sweetbells.

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When the patch is all in bloom the cow creek spider lily resembles a merry troupe of dancers.

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Swamp dogwood, a few stands still blooming, but most are going to seed.

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False indigo, a favorite of insects.

P1140184The source of the non-sugaring tupelo honey, Ogeche tupelo blossoms beginning to bloom and a few honeybees have already found them.

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Clematis crispa, you’ll have to look to find them — this year they are less clustered along the vines.

P1140213But you won’t have to search for these; with their bright yellow faces, they call for attention.   Narrow leaf evening primrose.

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A few Virginia sweetspire still blooming.

P1140256A sure sign of summer, spatterdock.

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and…highbush blueberries!  Each bush differs in taste, some tart, some sweet, some tart-sweet.  This calls for sampling.  This year the bushes are loaded, so sample some, there’ll be enough for the birds.

P1140170Another sign of early summer — carpenter bees on Virginia sweetspire.

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A colony of busy wasps.

Not many birds today, but…

P1140231Tah dah!!!   A beautiful juvenile little blue heron.

There are more blooming plants and trees on this 3.75 mile of Womack Creek than almost any other creek in the Panhandle.

The last trip we destroyed what we hoped is the last of the invasive Japanese climbing ferns (3 locations).  Today we dug up the first of the invasive taro plants, off the shoreline requiring some slogging to get to it.  To our knowledge Womack Creek has no exotics, only native plants and trees.

March goes out like a lamb…. Womack Creek 3-29-2015

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Womack Creek is in the middle of its spring flowering.  The blooms above, Rusty Blackhaw had a back drop of Pinxter Azaleas right now at it’s full bloom.  Fringe trees, cross vines, yaupon holly are all blooming.  And poison ivy.

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Swamp sweet bells are just beginning to bloom.  Below with cross vine.

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Two swamp roses were blooming, promising more blooms and fragrance.

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And the earlier bloomers are now going to seed and fruit.  Pumkin ash and blueberries.

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A kingfisher, an owl, a duck, cardinals and a yellow-crowned night heron — not much in the way of bird life.

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One alligator out, only a handful of cooters, a few swallowtails, but hardly any honeybees and other insects except…

P1130917 This is wilderness, folks!

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Get in your boat, canoe or kayak and check out the rivers and creeks of Tate’s Hell.