Cherokee Sink. A beautifully restored natural geologic formation called a sinkhole lake. There are picnic tables and walkways down to the water. Swimming, SCUBA diving (register in advance at Ranger Station), picnicking, and hiking are allowed. Contact: 850/224-5950; http://www.floridastateparks.org/wakullasprings .
Located near the scenic point where the Ochlockonee and Dead Rivers intersect, the park’s name means "yellow waters," which describes the mix of brackish, tidal surge, and fresh water emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. Trails allow visitors to explore the park and view the diverse wildlife including endangered Red-cockaded woodpeckers, rare White squirrels, and natural communities such as pine flatwoods and oak thickets. A boat ramp provides easy access to the river. Both freshwater and saltwater fish inhabit the waters around the park, including Largemouth bass, Bream, Catfish and Speckled Perch. Contact: 850-962-2771
San Marcos de Apalachee Historic State Park
Bald Point State Park. Some of the most picturesque areas along the North Florida Gulf Coast can be found at this park, one of the newest additions to the award-winning Florida Park System. Located on Alligator Point where Ochlockonee Bay meets Apalachee Bay, Bald Point offers a multitude of land and water activities. Coastal marshes, pine flatwoods, and oak thickets foster a diversity of biological communities that make the park a popular destination for birding and wildlife viewing. Every fall, Bald Eagles, other migrating raptors, and Monarch Butterflies are commonly sighted here as they head south for the winter. A surprising site, you might see Black Bears, Sea Turtles, and Alligators sharing the same stretch of beach…watch for tracks!
Tate’s Hell State Forest. This is one continuous tract of land comprising over 202,000 acres. Tate's Hell State Forest offers a variety of recreation activities for the outdoor enthusiast. There are 35 miles of rivers, streams and creeks available for canoeing, boating and fishing. A concrete boat launch site is located at Cash Creek, with additional launch sites available at locations throughout the forest. Many species of wildlife make their home on the forest. Those with confirmed sightings on Tate's Hell State Forest that are currently listed as threatened, endangered or species of special concern are: bald eagle, Florida Black Bear, gopher tortoise and red-cockaded woodpecker. Rare plant species living on the forest include: Thick-leaved Water-willow (Justicia crassifolia), White Birds-in-a-nest (Macbridea alba), Florida Bear grass (Nolina atopocarpa), Chapman's Butterwort (Pinguicula planifolia), and Small-flowered Meadow beauty (Rhexia parviflora). Contact: 850/ 697-3734.
Ralph Kendrick Dwarf Cypress Dome, Tate’s Hell State Forest. One of the most unique features of this area, the Dwarf Cypress—also known as Bonsai or Hat-Rack Cypress—are found throughout Tate’s Hell, but nowhere more pronounced than in the area of this boardwalk. Many of the trees are more than 300 years old, but they grow to a height of only 6-15 feet. Contact: 850/ 697-3734
Explore a range of different ecosystems and enjoy the stunning views of Wakulla State Forest on the Wakulla State Forest Trail System. This recreation area features one designated Trailwalker and one Trailtrotter trail.
• The Nemours Hiking Trail loop is a 1.75 mile trail which traverses through a mixed pine/hardwood forest, pine plantation, early succession wildlife clearing, and a hardwood/cypress slough.
• The Double Springs Mulit-Use Trail loop is 4.5 miles in length. Riders and hikers should expect an amazing trail that will include low water crossings, inclines, and winding trails.
For those hikers and riders who prefer exploring off the marked trails, nineteen miles of service roads transect the Wakulla Tract as well as a series of service roads located on the Woodville Tract. Picnicking is available at the parking area pavilion located off of SR 267 and also at the parking area on the Woodville Tract off of highway 363.
Apalachicola River Wildlife and Environmental Area. This is part of a vast ecosystem that begins hundreds of miles away in the Chattahoochee National Forest in Georgia. The 82,554-acre Apalachicola River WEA, which is administered by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, contains the largest expanse of floodplain forest in Florida. The floodplain forest of the lower Apalachicola River protects, feeds, and nurtures Apalachicola Bay, the site of Florida’s most productive oyster harvesting. This region is also considered one of the most important bird habitats in the southeastern United States: more than 280 species have been identified in the Apalachicola River WEA. The area lies on the eastern fringe of the Mississippi Flyway and hosts large numbers of birds from both the Midwest and the Atlantic seaboard during migratory periods.
Lake Talquin State Forest. Established in 1977, the forest consists of 16,326 acres of flatwoods, rolling uplands, swamps, sand hills, and hardwood trees. This forest has the distinction of offering access to two Outstanding Florida Waters, the Ochlockonee River and Lake Talquin. Contact: 850/488-1871
River Bluff Picnic Site, Lake Talquin State Park – Overlooking Lake Talquin, which is 12,000 acres in size and encompasses 14.5 linear miles of the Ochlockonee River floodplain, the site offers outstanding recreational opportunities. Visitors can catch Large-Mouth Bass, Bream, Shellcracker, and Speckled Perch or enjoy nature walks, picnicking, boating, and canoeing. Nature lovers will find rolling hills and deep ravines with forests of pines and hardwoods where they may sight Turkeys, Bald Eagles, Ospreys, and Deer. Seepage streams emerge from ravine heads and feed into the lake. Contact: 850/922-6007;
St. George Island State Park. 1,962 acres of long, narrow barrier island, with miles of undeveloped beaches, dunes, and emerald waters provide the perfect setting for a day on the Byway. Few parks offer better opportunities for Gulf Coast shelling. Anglers can fish for Flounder, Redfish, Sea Trout, Pompano, Whiting, and Spanish Mackerel. During spring migration, birders should look for songbirds in the small oaks near the youth camp area restrooms and park campground. Shore birds such as the Snowy Plover, Least Tern, Black Skimmer, and Willet often nest along the park’s sandy shores and grass flats. Watch for Gopher Tortoise near the youth camp area. Sea turtles nest along the park beaches, with Loggerhead Turtles being the most common. There is a display of an oyster boat at the boat launch facility. Contact: 850/927-2111;
St. Marks Unit, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. Covering more than 68,000 acres of land and 31,000 acres of bay, the Refuge is internationally recognized for its more than 300 species of birds. Excellent birding at Refuge ponds along the road. Outstanding nature trails and viewing platforms. Excellent migratory waterfowl viewing in fall and winter months. Wildflowers in spring and fall plus Monarch and other butterfly migration in fall. Visit the Nature Center first for information and to check the daily bird sightings for unusual species. Contact: 850/925-6121; www.fws.gov/saintmarks .
Panacea Unit of the St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge. This Unit is largely dominated by uplands pine and oak forests with several fresh water lakes interspersed. Primitive walking trails crisscross this unit, which is open to quota-hunts during the fall and winter months. Otter Lake Recreation Area offers picnic tables and shelters, restrooms, and a launching point for small boats. About 6.5 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail traverses this unit of the Refuge. Contact: 850/925-6121; www.fws.gov/saintmarks .
Leon Sinks Geological Site, Apalachicola National Forest. 5.9 miles of marked, interpreted trail running past Longleaf Pine forest, Gum Tree swamps, sinkholes, swales, caverns, a natural bridge, streams, and depressions. Excellent presentation of the area’s unique geology known as Karst Topography. This term is applied to terrain in which rain and groundwater have dissolved underlying limestone bedrock over long periods of time, leading to collapsed surface formations, which often are then filled with water. Good variety of trees especially in spring when dogwood and magnolias are in bloom. Contact: 850/926-3561; www.fs.fed.us/r8/florida/recreation .
St. Vincent National Wildlife Refuge. The Visitor’s Center offers interpretive displays and information on St. Vincent, a remote 12,300-acre barrier island at the west end of Apalachicola Bay. The wildlife refuge contains an 86-acre unit in Franklin County as well as 45-acre Pig Island in St. Joe Bay, Gulf County. St. Vincent is dissected by dune ridges, which are geological records of ancient beaches and fluctuating sea levels over the last 5,000 years. Many of the sand roads follow these ridges extending from east to west the length of the island. The interdune areas vary from freshwater lakes and sloughs to dry upland pine forests. Four miles wide and nine miles long, St. Vincent is larger and wider than most of the northern Gulf Coast barrier islands. Previous owners introduced a variety of exotic wildlife to the island. A population of Sambar Deer, a species of Elk native to Southeast Asia, still roams the island. In 1990, St. Vincent was selected as one of several southeastern coastal islands for the breeding of endangered Red Wolves. An island shuttle service provides transportation to St. Vincent. Contact: 850/653-8808; www.fws.gov/saintvincent .
County and City Parks
Camp Indian Springs
Mash Island Park
Medart Recreation Park
Myron B. Hodge City Park
Panacea Mineral Springs