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Florida State Parks

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USA Parks
Central West Region
Withlacoochee State Forest
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Withlacoochee State Forest Great Horned Owl © Barbara Bowen
After a long day in the forest this great horned own perched himself on a nearby tree as the sun was setting.
Withlacoochee State Forest Swallow-tailed kite eating © Barbara Bowen
In July, the swallow tailed kites gather to migrate back to South America for the winter.
Withlacoochee State Forest © Kelly Lambert
Withlacoochee State Forest Gator and Turtle sunning © Frank Marino
Withlacoochee State Forest © Frank Marino
Withlacoochee State Forest American Bald Eagle © Frank Marino
Withlacoochee State Forest © Frank Marino
Withlacoochee State Forest © Frank Marino
Withlacoochee State Forest Caves © Tiffany Lambert
Withlacoochee State Forest © Tiffany Lambert
Withlacoochee State Forest Mutual Mine Recreation area © Tiffany Lambert
Withlacoochee State Forest Mutual Mine Recreation area © Tiffany Lambert
Withlacoochee State Forest Gulf Frittiliary on a butterfly weed © Barbara Bowen
The brightly colored butterfly weed grow in the sandhill habit of the Withlacoochee State Forest
Withlacoochee State Forest Red Cockaded Woodpecker feeding his young © Barbara Bowen
The Federally Red cockaded woodpeckers begin nesting in April. This RCW adult brought an insect back to his offspring.
Withlacoochee State Forest Flashing the Red Cockade © Barbara Bowen
The male Red Cockaded Wookpecker will flash his red cockaded to warn you if you are in his territory.
Withlacoochee State Forest © Kelly Lambert
Withlacoochee State Forest © Tiffany Lambert
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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.
Nature of the Area
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.
History of the Area
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.
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1. Citrus Hiking Trail: A 43-mile trail that offers a variety of terrains, including sandhills and scrubby flatwoods.

2. Croom Loop Trails: Three loop trails totaling over 35 miles in length with varying difficulty levels suitable for hikers of all skill sets.

3. Hog Island Nature Trail: An easy one mile hike through the forest to an overlook on the Withlacoochee River offering beautiful views.

4. Richloam Tract Trails: Over 40 miles of multi-use trails winding through pine forests, cypress swamps and along river banks; perfect for wildlife spotting.

5. Dade Battlefield Historic State Park's Pine Flatwood Trail: This short half:mile trail takes you around historic sites from Second Seminole War battles while also providing opportunities to see local flora and fauna.

6. Withlacoochee Bay Trail: It is a paved path stretching about five:miles long which provides stunning water vistas at its western end near Felburn Park.

7. McKethan Lake Nature Walk: This two-thirds-of-a-mile-long nature walk circles McKethan Lake where visitors can enjoy bird-watching or fishing off docks scattered throughout this scenic area.

8. Silver lake Recreation Complex's Multiuse Path: A three-quarter mile asphalt pathway ideal for families looking out for picnic spots amidst natural beauty.

9. Tillie K Fowler Regional park's Tower Boardwalk: An elevated boardwalk leading up to observation tower overlooking Ortega River marshes.

10. Blackwater Creek Preserve: The preserve features several hiking paths ranging between .75miles upto nearly four miles showcasing diverse habitats like wetlands,sandhill,pine flatwoods etc.

Visitor Comments, Memories and Reviews
September 2 fav. forest
park review stars; one to five this is where i always go hiking and caving (im a professional caver)
March 30 Best Camp I ever had by Jimboween
park review stars; one to five We took the Cub Scouts camping here and had a blast. From the lakes made from old phosphate mines to the caves, to the nature trails. This place was awesome!
September 22 great place, great people by Jerry M
park review stars; one to five I have three four wheelers and a motor home. I moved to North Carolina last year and have made three trips back to Crooms. I LOVE IT!
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Like something out of a fairytale, a long time ago someone put two steam passenger train cars from 1892 and created something magical, a house This magical home is one of a kind and an experience you dont want to miss.
77.6 miles from park*

Withlacoochee State Forest's location provides convenient access for many visitors since it is within two hours driving time from Cape Canaveral, Orlando, and several other points of interest. The State Forest is located in west central Florida with headquarters located on U.S. Highway 41 approximately seven miles north of the town of Brooksville and 50 miles north of the city of Tampa. Contact us at:

Withlacoochee State Forest

Recreation/Visitors Ctr.

15003 Broad Street

Brooksville, Fl 34601

Phone 352/754-6896

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Florida State Parks