ROCKY BAYOU STATE PARK
U.S. Air Force Colonel Fred Gannon was instrumental in transforming this site from a bombing practice range during World War II to a picturesque state park. The property now preserves beautiful old?growth long leaf pine trees, several over 300 years old, that once dominated this area of Florida. Rocky Bayou, the main feature of the park, is the trailing arm of Choctawhatchee Bay and is popular for boating and fishing. A double?lane boat ramp makes this one of the best boat launching locations on the bay, where both freshwater and saltwater fish are found. Other opportunities for fun include hiking, bicycling, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. Puddin Head Lake, at the center of the park, is a great spot for freshwater fishing and canoeing. A well shaded campground is available for full facility camping. Located on State Road 20, five miles east of Highway 85.
Located in Niceville, Florida, the park was established as a state reserve in 1966. It spans over 357 acres of land and water bodies. The area served as a gunnery and bombing practice site during World War II.
The park's ecosystem includes longleaf pine forests which are home to endangered species like red-cockaded woodpecker. In addition to wildlife preservation efforts, recreational activities such as fishing were introduced for visitors.
In recent years it has become popular among tourists due its diverse flora & fauna along with opportunities for camping and picnicking.
Annual Entrance Passes can be purchased at all park ranger stations and museums. If you require immediate use of your pass, this is the best option. Passes can be purchased during regular business hours 365 days a year. Please call the park in advance to ensure availability. Those who are eligible for discounted or free passes may use this method to receive their pass. Annual Entrance Passes may be purchased online by visiting the FLORIDA STATE PARKS ANNUALENTRANCE PASSES
Full Facility Camping
Our park is an excellent facility for campers. Whether you are a tent camper or a RV enthusiast, we have 42 spacious, clean, shady sites that will suit your needs. The sites each boast water and electric, a picnic table, and a fire ring and some have water views. A modern heated and air-conditioned bathhouse provides for your comfort needs. The area is conveniently located near two of the park?s three beautiful nature trails, as well as a picnic pavilion overlooking the bayou. Reservations may be made through Reserve America at 1-800-326-3521.
Boaters can enjoy the convenient double access boat launching facility which provides access to Rocky Bayou, Choctawhatchee Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico. A large parking area is provided in the boat ramp area to allow boaters enough room for their vehicle and boat trailer to park. Overnight docking is not permitted, and all boaters must pay entrance fees to access the park.
Enjoy fishing in a serene environment where you can catch species like redfish, speckled trout and flounder. The park also offers freshwater angling for largemouth bass. For deep-sea enthusiasts, offshore options include grouper and snapper.
Rocky Bayou State Park is located near Destin, Fort Walton Beach and Mary Esther
Rocky Bayou State Park offers numerous picnic spots with tables and grills, some overlooking the bayou. Pavilions are available for rent.
Biking enthusiasts can explore the 3.2-mile Red Cedar Trail, but be aware it's shared with hikers.
The trail offers a moderate challenge due to its sandy terrain and occasional roots on the path.
Ensure you have proper gear as there are no bike rentals available within this park area.
Please remember that helmets are highly recommended for safety reasons while biking in these natural surroundings.
Respect wildlife by keeping distance and not feeding them during your bicycling adventure here.
Stay vigilant of weather conditions; Florida storms can develop quickly making trails slippery or flooded.
A popular past time at the park, take a leisurely ride on the park?s approx. 3 miles of paved road. For your safety, remember persons under the age of 16 years are required by state law to wear a properly fitting bike helmet. To preserve the natural areas of the park, bicycles are limited to roadways and are not permitted on any footpaths.
The Red Cedar Trail hosts the popular and impressive red cedar tree, along with many other varieties of plants, shrubs, and trees. Sand Pine Trail follows the Eastern Shore of Puddin Head Lake. This seven-and-a-half acre lake is a fragile ecosystem with several species of aquatic plants, such as the pitcher plant and Florida Anise. Adjacent to Sandpine Trail, lays Rocky Bayou Trail. The return loop of this trail follows the picturesque shoreline of the bayou. The park shoreline is home to our most fragile ecosystem, known as estuarine sea grass beds. This rare community has designated the waters as an Aquatic Preserve. Here, it is often possible to see dolphins and otters, as well as various migrant fowl, such as the rare trumpeter swan. Birds abound, and with the occasional sighting of the bald eagle, make this trail a favorite among bird watchers.
Birdwatchers can explore various habitats, including pine flatwoods and marshes. Over 100 bird species have been recorded here.
The park's Birding Trail is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail network.
Visitors might spot ospreys, bald eagles or red-cockaded woodpeckers among other birds in this diverse ecosystem.
Guided tours are available for those interested in learning more about local avian wildlife.
From the west: Take Interstate 10 east to highway 85 south until you reach highway 20. Go east on highway 20. Park will be approximately 5 miles on the left. From the east: Take Interstate 10 west to highway 331 south until you reach highway 20.
Go west on highway 20 approximately 25 miles until you see signs for park on right.