WITHLACOOCHEE STATE FOREST
WITHLACOOCHEE STATE FOREST
Withlacoochee State Forest is currently the third largest state forest in Florida and is divided into eight distinct tracts of land. Using sound ecosystem management, the Division of Forestry provides for multiple-use of the forest resources which includes timber management, wildlife management, ecological restoration, and outdoor recreation. The size and diversity of Withlacoochee State Forest provides visitors with a variety of natural communities, wildlife and recreation activities to enjoy.
Withlacoochee State Forest was acquired by the federal government from private landowners between 1936 and 1939 under the provisions of the U.S. Land Resettlement Administration. The U.S. Forest Service managed the property until a lease-purchase agreement transferred the property to the Florida Board of Forestry in 1958.
Withlacoochee State Forest has several waterways which flow through different portions of the property. The Withlacoochee River, Little Withlacoochee River and Jumper Creek have all been designated as Outstanding Florida Waters. The most notable is the Withlacoochee River which meanders through 13 miles of the forest.
A variety of tree species create dense woodlands and canopy trails. Species found on the forest include: slash pine, longleaf pine, pond cypress, bald cypress and a mixture of oak, maple, southern magnolia, gum and hickory. Springtime forest visitors will be delighted with the colorful blossoms produced by the abundance of wildflowers. Flower varieties such as goldenrod, thistle and blazing star can be found along state forest roadways.
The Withlacoochee State Forest is located in west-central Florida and has a rich history dating back thousands of years. Here is a brief overview of its history:
1. Ancient History: The forest area was once inhabited by Native American tribes, including the Timucua, who resided here for thousands of years before European colonization. These tribes relied on the forest's resources for sustenance and shelter.
2. European Settlement: In the 16th century, Spanish explorers and missionaries arrived in Florida. With the establishment of Spanish missions, the forest area witnessed the arrival of European settlers, leading to conflicts with the Native American population.
3. Florida Crackers and Ranching: During the 19th century, Florida Crackers (also known as cow hunters) arrived in the area and introduced cattle grazing. The forest became home to vast cattle ranches, and the presence of cowboys heavily influenced the region's culture and livelihood.
4. Logging Era: With the growth of the timber industry in the late 19th century, the forest saw extensive logging operations. Companies like the Cummer Lumber Company harvested vast amounts of timber, leading to the depletion of some tree species.
5. State Forest Establishment: In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, the federal government acquired large tracts of exhausted timberland and transferred them to the state for rehabilitation. The Withlacoochee State Forest was established in 1930 and became one of Florida's first state forests.
6. Conservation and Reforestation Efforts: Following the establishment of the state forest, conservation efforts were initiated to restore and preserve the forest ecosystem. Reforestation programs were implemented, and new tree species were introduced to create a more diverse forest ecosystem.
7. Recreation and Wildlife Conservation: The Withlacoochee State Forest has become a popular destination for outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, camping, boating, fishing, and wildlife watching. The forest provides habitats for various wildlife species, including black bears, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and numerous bird species.
The Withlacoochee State Forest spans more than 157,000 acres, making it one of the largest state forests in Florida. It continues to serve as a vital natural resource for conservation, recreation, and cultural heritage.
1. Withlacoochee River Park: This park offers a campground with 15 sites, each equipped with water and electricity hookups.
2. Silver Lake Campground: Located in the heart of the forest, this campsite has facilities for RVs as well as tent camping spots.
3. Mutual Mine Recreation Area: A popular spot for group camping trips due to its large picnic pavilion and grill area.
4. Crooked River Campground: Offers primitive campsites along the scenic riverfront; perfect for those who enjoy fishing or canoeing during their stay.
5. Holder Mine Campground: It is located within Citrus Tract portion of Withlacoochee State Forest near Inverness offering both electric hookup & non-electric sites suitable for tents or RV's.
6. Tillis Hill Recreation Area: Known best horse:friendly site which also includes equestrian trails.
7. Cypress Glen Preserve: For more rustic experience you can opt Cypress glen preserve where only walk:in tent camping are allowed.
8. Iron Bridge Primitive Camping Site: As name suggests it provides very basic amenities but gives an opportunity to connect directly with nature.