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Apalachicola National Forest

Apalachicola National Forest

Apalachicola Ranger District
11152 NW State Route 20
Bristol, Florida 32321
(850) 643-2282

Wakulla Ranger District
57 Taff Drive
Crawfordville, FL 32327
850-926-3561

Explore Apalachicola!

The Apalachicola National Forest is the largest forest in Florida at 571,088 acres, which includes 2,735 aces of water.

The Forest is located in the panhandle of Florida, near Tallahassee. Six watersheds within the Apalachicola provide an abundance of fresh water to streams. rivers, lakes and one natural spring.

In addition to the numerous water recreation opportunities, the forest offers several other attractions such as, Leon Sinks, an unusual geological area of caverns and sinkholes.

Two wilderness areas will give you an idea what Florida looked like before "civilization" arrived. And the Forest harbors one of the last remaining longleaf pine/wiregrass communities still in existence. For history or Civil War buffs, a visit to Fort Gadsden is a must.

Recreation

Camel Lake, Silver Lake and Wright Lake are the three main developed recreation areas on the Apalachicola National Forest. For specific information about any of these areas select a tab above or visit the Hiking section for information on trails.

Camel Lake

Camel Lake Recreation Area is small and quiet and surrounded by natural scenic beauty. The campground and day use areas are tucked away in a longleaf pine and scrub oak setting.

Camel Lake is the focal point of the recreation area. The lake and white sand beach attracts swimmers, boaters and anglers. Hikers will enjoy the nearby Florida National Scenic Trail.

Directions:
From I-10, to Bristol, take County Road 12 South. Turn left (east) on Forest Road 105 and drive 2 miles to campground entrance.

Silver Lake

Silver Lake Recreation Area is in the Munson Sandhills, which are composed of deep dry sands over limestone. Because the sand absorbs rainfall so completely, wetlands are relatively rare on the Apalachicola National Forest. In some places on the Forest, the limestone dissolves and collapses, forming many depressions, ponds, lakes and sinkholes. Surrounding spring-fed Silver Lake, are longleaf pine, hardwood hammock and moss draped cypress trees. Bald eagles turtles, bears, alligators and songbirds are abundant at Silver Lake.

The recreation area is open year-round.

Directions:
From I-10 to Tallahassee go through the intersection of State Highways 263 and 20. Follow SH 20 west approximately 4 miles, then south onto County Road 260. Go about 4 miles and turn left at the Silver Lake sign.

Wright Lake

Wright Lake Campground is a quiet scenic lakefront recreation area that offers a host of amenities and activities for campers and day-trippers. The clear, spring fed lake is perfect for fishing, swimming and boating. Swimmers can enjoy the white sand beach. A nearby bathhouse includes flush toilets and hot showers.

Picnic tables and grills are scattered among trees with views of the lake. The campground includes 18 campsites with picnic tables, grills, tent pads and fire rings. The recreation area is fairly level and easily accessible. Hikers can enjoy a 5-mile interpretive trail that circles the lake. A volunteer host lives on site.

Directions:
To get to Wright Lake take State Route 65 to Franklin County and 1.5 miles south of the Liberty County line. Turn west on Forest Road 101 for 1.5 miles and turn right on the entrance road to Wright Lake Campground.

Picnicking

Overview and Background

There are many picnic areas throughout the forest. Most areas have individual picnic tables and grills. Picnic areas are associated with developed sites, campgrounds, swimming areas, boat ramps, and special attractions, such as the Leon Sinks Geological Area. Camel Lake or Silver Lake Recreation Areas, and Fort Gadsden Historic Area also have picnic shelters.

Fees: Some areas have fees.

Places to Picnic

  • Camel Lake Recreation Area
  • Ft. Gadsden Historical Site
  • Hickory Landing and Hunt Camp
  • Leon Sinks Geological Area
  • Mack Landing and Hunt Camp
  • Porter Lake and Hunt Camp
  • Silver Lake Recreation Area
  • Whitehead Landing and Hunt Camp
  • Wood Lake Hunt Camp
  • Wright Lake Recreation Area

Historic Sites

Overview and Background

Like many of the National Forests in the south, the Apalachicola NF began as some of "the lands nobody wanted" - land that had been cut-over, denuded, or farmed to exhaustion. Some parcels were acquired during the great depression when many people couldn't pay the taxes on their land. 

Other parcels were bought outright by Franklin D. Roosevelt's Resettlement Administration, a new deal program aimed at moving families to lands better suited for cultivation. President Roosevelt created the Apalachicola National Forest in 1936 on lands west of the Ochlockonee River, and in 1938 expanded it to include lands east of the Ochlockonee to give it the shape it has today.

Of course, people have been living on these lands since time out of mind. Prehistoric sites date back to Paleo-Indians 12,000 years ago, and Native Americans hunted these forests and fished the waters since before recorded history. 

They were here when the Spanish first explored Florida in the 1600s, and when the first white settlers built their "cracker" homesteads in the swamps and flatwoods. Their ways have come down to us in the use of fire to manage the forest and wildlife, and their language lives on in words like Apalachicola, Wakulla, and Ochlockonee.

There are few prehistoric sites of interest for visitors, but the Apalachicola contains some historic sites well worth visiting.

Langston House (Wakulla County)

Overview: An old farm homestead about a mile in from the Ochlockonee River, the Langston House is a great example of old cracker architecture in its original setting, built around the turn of the century (circa 1904), although the land has been farmed with the mid-1800s. It's provided important clues about the life of Florida's earliest, poorest settlers. It is not a restored building and is being left to deteriorate naturally, but is considered a protected site.

Directions: From Tallahassee, take State Route 20 west, then left onto State Route 375 heading south. Approximately 2 miles south of the intersection with Forest Highway 13, turn right at the sign for the Florida National Scenic Trail and park at the trailhead. A short trail will take you to the house.

  • Fees: none
  • Recreation Site Amenities: none

Ft. Gadsden (Franklin County)

Overview: The site of an old British fort on the Apalachicola River, Ft. Gadsden is notable as being the scene of a mass tragedy. The British-built fort posed a threat to any American vessels traveling the river. In the face of an imminent American attack, over 300 escaped and freed slaves and many local Indians took refuge in the fort. 

On July 27, Col. Duncan Clinch ordered his gunboat to fire on the fort. One of the early shots from the ship's guns landed on a ammunition shed inside the fort, resulting in a massive explosion which left only 33 survivors to tell the tale. Nothing remains of the fort except the rubble from the fort's stone walls. A short interpretive trail leads visitors around the site.

Directions: From Tallahassee, take State Road 20 west to Hosford, turn left on State Road 65. Follow SR 65 into Franklin County. Turn right onto Forest Road 129-B into historic Fort Gadsden.

  • Fees: none
  • General Information:
  • Small museum building with diorama of the fort.
  • Views of the Apalachicola River.
  • Recreation Site Amenities:
  • Short trail around the site of the old fort
  • Vault toilet
  • Picnic shelter with tables

Former Bradwell Game Farm (Liberty County)

Overview: Located at the northern edge of the forest on State Highway 20, the former Bradwell Game Farm was a tract of private land acquired by the Forest Service in 1996. The previous landowner, Carl Bradwell, Sr. stocked deer and other small game for sport. This practice was discontinued upon his death. This 1,400 acre site is now a special quota hunting area. Some of the original buildings remain on site.

Directions: From Tallahassee, take State Route 20 across the Ochlockonee River. Look for a corrugated tin fence with graffiti marking the property boundary on the left. Turn left into the entrance. (No sign at entrance.)

  • Fees: none
  • General Information:
  • Hikers welcome.
  • Licensed vehicles allowed on main entrance road only.
  • Recreation Site Amenities: none

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