CARY STATE FOREST
Cary State Forest, situated in northeastern Florida, is a natural haven boasting an expanse of over 20,000 acres. This preserved forest treats visitors to a diverse landscape of towering longleaf pines, shimmering lakes, and serene wetlands. With its extensive network of trails, it offers a gateway for outdoor enthusiasts to explore and immerse themselves in the beauty of Florida's native flora and fauna. The forest teems with wildlife, making it a paradise for birdwatchers, hikers, and nature lovers alike. Cary State Forest provides a tranquil retreat from the hustle and bustle of urban life, showcasing the breathtaking splendor of Florida's natural ecosystems.
The ecosystems on Cary State Forest are varied and include longleaf pine/wiregrass, mesic flatwoods, wet flatwoods, baygalls and cypress ponds. Other noted wildlife species found on the forest include: wild turkey, bobcat, great horned and barred owl, wild hog, white-tailed deer, pileated woodpecker, yellow-throated vireo and pinewood tree frog.
Cary State Forest is managed as a Wildlife Management Area by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. For specific regulations and dates on hunting, contact the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission at (904) 758-0525
Cary State Forest, located in northeastern Florida, has a rich and intriguing history. Here is an overview of its historical background:
1. Early Inhabitants: Before European colonization, the land that now comprises Cary State Forest was inhabited by various Native American tribes, including the Timucua and Seminole peoples. They utilized the natural resources of the area for sustenance and cultural practices.
2. European Settlement: In the 18th century, European settlers began to establish homesteads and plantations in the region. The area witnessed conflicts between settlers and Native Americans during this period.
3. The Cary Estate: The forest gets its name from the Cary family. In 1828, Thomas Hedley Cary purchased a large tract of land, which included the present-day forest area. The Cary family used the land for farming, timber production, and hunting.
4. Logging and Turpentine Industry: Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the logging industry boomed in this part of Florida. The extensive longleaf pine forests attracted timber companies, who exploited the area for its valuable lumber. Additionally, the production of turpentine, a tree resin used for varnishes and composites, thrived in the region.
5. Conservation Efforts: In the early 1900s, concerns grew among conservationists about the rapid deforestation in Florida. To mitigate the extensive logging, the state government initiated efforts to purchase land for preservation and reforestation. By 1937, the State of Florida purchased large tracts of land in the Cary area, establishing Cary State Forest.
6. Reforestation and Recreation: The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a New Deal program established during the Great Depression, played a significant role in developing Cary State Forest. CCC workers engaged in reforestation projects and created recreational facilities, such as picnic areas and campsites, many of which are still in use today.
7. Modern Conservation and Management: Over the years, Cary State Forest has expanded its conservation efforts. It serves as a working forest, managed by the Florida Forest Service. The forest aims to balance timber production, wildlife preservation, and outdoor recreational activities, while also providing educational opportunities and environmental research.
Cary State Forest encompasses approximately 20,000 acres of land and offers a wide range of activities for visitors, including hiking, biking, horseback riding, fishing, and wildlife observation.
Three primitive campsites are located on Cary State Forest. A restroom facility with showers is provided for campers and day use visitors. A State Forest Use Permit is required for use of all campsites. Reservations are recommended since campsites are available on a first-come, first-serve basis. You can obtain a State Forest Use Permit and make reservations by telephoning Cary State Forest at 904/266-5021.