Sometimes, great things come in small packages. Though Ochlockonee River State Park, at about 540 acres, is relatively small, it boasts tremendous natural diversity. Visitors here can hike, paddle, and even swim their way across some of the Florida Panhandle's many unique and beautiful landscapes.
Towering longleaf pines lord over sandy flats, live oak, and palmettos thrive on the margins of wetlands, and the wandering Ochlockonee and its many tributaries hum the activity of fish, birds, frogs, and more. There are excellent opportunities for wildlife viewing, and the park is home to several rare species, including red-cockaded woodpeckers and gopher tortoises.
Ochlockonee River is also surrounded by several other much larger parks, forests, and preserves, including Apalachicola National Forest, St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, and Bald Point State Park. Each of these provides even more chances to explore all the Panhandle has to offer, whether that means trekking through wild swamplands or lounging on a beach on the west end of Apalachee Bay.
If you're traveling with an RV or trailer, Ochlockonee River can accommodate you. The park boasts a quiet but lovely campground with about 25 RV sites, all of which offer water and electric hookups. Since the park is small, once you're parked you'll be right in the middle of the action. Hiking trails, a swimming area, and the park's boat launch will all be within easy walking distance. Get ready to set out on your next Panhandle adventure!
Ochlockonee is located on the western end of Apalachee Bay, about an hour's drive south from Tallahassee. The park's entrance is right off of US-319, a major road which cuts north-south across the Florida Panhandle. The few roads within the park are paved and well maintained, and drivers need not worry about any sharp turns, steep hills or tunnels.
Drivers with high-profile vehicles will want to be aware that conditions around the park can often be winding, with weather coming in off the gulf. Of course, if you plan on traveling through during the Atlantic hurricane season (June through November), make sure to check the forecast ahead of time to make sure a sizable storm isn't moving through the area.
Parking at the campground will put you right in the heart of the small park. You'll be able to access the park's few trails and its day-use areas on foot. All spots are back-in except for one. As long as your rig is underneath a site's given length limits, you should have no trouble maneuvering in.
There are several additional parking spots available at trailheads in nearby parks and preserves, including St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge and Apalachicola National Forest.
Set right near the banks of the Ochlockonee itself, the park's main campground gives visitors a great sample of the natural beauty the park has to offer. Stately pines and twisting live oaks provide partial shade while huge palmettos thrive on the sandy forest floor.
In total, Ochlockonee's modest campground sports 25 sites suitable for RVs and trailers, plus two additional tent-only sites. Electric hookups (30- and 50-amp service) and water hookups are available at all RV sites. Tent sites have only electric, but freshwater spigots can be found throughout the campground. Though sewage hookups are not available, the park does have a conveniently located sanitary dump station.
The grounds also have a modern restroom with showers, and each site has a picnic table and fire ring. Pets are welcome at the campground as well; just make sure to have them on a leash when you're outside of the rig. Reservations can be made online, with bookings allowed up to 11 months in advance. Given the park's popularity and the limited availability of sites, reservations are highly recommended.
Unfilled sites at the park's main campground are available on a first-come, first-served basis.
The park's boat launch, easily accessible and located within walking distance of the campground, is your gateway to the beautiful and extensive waterways of Florida's Panhandle.
The Ochlockonee can hardly be described as a single river - rather, it's a dense network of winding and intermingling tributaries, themselves connected to numerous coves and inland lakes. The possibilities for exploration are endless. Be sure to bring a camera and some binoculars in your campervan, as the riparian habitats you'll be paddling through are absolutely teeming with life. Expect to see a tremendous diversity of shore and wading birds, plus raptors, reptiles and amphibians.
If you didn't bring a boat of you're own, don't fret. The park rents out canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards.
Ochlockonee State Park itself only has a couple of miles of hiking trails. The Ochlockonee River Nature Trail and the Pinewoods Flats Nature trail are both short, mellow paths that nevertheless introduce hikers to the tremendous natural diversity the park has to offer. They, as their names imply, head along the bank of the Ochlockonee and through the heart of a longleaf pine forest, respectively.
But hiking is by no means limited to the trails within the state park. There are several preserves and forests just a short drive away, each of them offering many more miles of trails to explore. The sizable St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge abuts the park's eastern end. The six-mile Cathedral of Palms Trail is a popular route that takes hikers on a jaunt through a rich coastal forest.
Directly to the park's west is Apalachicola National Forest, which boasts over 600,000 beautiful acres and dozens of miles of trails. Head over to the nearby Bradwell Bay Wilderness, within the national forest, to get a taste of some of Florida's most undisturbed, rugged forests and swamplands.
Ochlockonee has a small designated swim zone at its Dead River Day Use Area. Jump in the river to cool off after a long day of hiking or paddling, or perhaps just to escape the mugginess that Florida summers are famous for!
If you're looking to dip your toes into bigger waters, then you can head over to nearby Bald Point State Park, about a half-hours drive away. Bald Point has a long, gorgeous stretch of beach right along Apalachee Bay.
Whether you spend the day hiking, fishing, paddling, or just hanging out at Ochlockonee's gorgeous campground, make sure you keep a camera handy! Florida's natural diversity is on display within this small park, and photographic opportunities abound. Capture images of soaring ospreys and skulking alligators, or aim your lens at some of the area's fascinating flora. Landscape photographers won't want to miss the sun setting over the Ochlockonee, and beautiful beaches along the Gulf of Mexico sit just a half hour's drive away.
The marshes, wetlands, pine forests, and coastal habitats in and around Ochlockonee River State Park are home to a tremendous diversity of wildlife.
The park is one of the few remaining refuges of the red-cockaded woodpecker, which makes its nests in the trunks of old, but still live, longleaf pines. The area's pine forests are also home to some of the remaining populations of the threatened frosted flatwoods salamander. Other local critters include gopher tortoises, gopher snakes, American alligators, ospreys, bald eagles, and much more.
Anglers will find plenty to be excited about at Ochlockonee and the areas that surround it. The park's rich waters, both fresh and saltwater, support large and healthy fish populations. Common catches here include largemouth bass, bream, crappie, sunfish, bluegill, and catfish. There are several easily accessible fishing spots along the shores of both the Dead and the Ochlockonee Rivers within the park. You can also paddle out with your rod and reel - many miles of waterways await your exploration! Wherever you end up casting your line, make sure you have a proper Florida fishing license.