Ochlockonee River State Park

A trip through Florida’s Big Bend area and into the panhandle is like a trip back in time.  Urban sprawl has yet to infect this remote area of the state.  Taking a drive across the 220 mile long Big Bend Scenic Byway will take you through miles of longleaf pine forests and along fabulously undeveloped white, sandy coastline.  I didn’t know before I went, but apparently a detailed brochure exists to help you navigate this incredible highway and really take in all it has to offer.  It can be found here: http://www.floridabigbendscenicbyway.org/sites/default/files/media/docs/Byway-Guide-20120319.pdf

A drive down the scenic byway is one of many things we did while we were in the area.  We visited several state parks within a couple of hours of Ochlockonee, but here we’ll focus on this one incredible state park.  I realized I was pronouncing it all wrong when a kind ranger gave me a tip to say it right.  He said it’s O-Clock-Knee.  Now you know.

Welcome to Ochlockonee!  Driving down route 319 near the tiny town of Sopchoppy, you’ll end up here at the park.  If you’re planning to camp here for awhile, it may be helpful to know that the nearest Walmart is about forty minutes away in Crawfordville.  The nearest store is a Dollar General, about fifteen minutes away.  There really is nothing around here!

Typical state park ranger station.  The entry fee is $4 per vehicle.

If you’re just here for the day, there are quite a few things you can do.  There’s a nice little wildlife drive that goes through a beautiful longleaf pine forest.  You can find the drive off the main parking area in the day use area.  It’s not marked, but it’s to the left of the playground and not hard to find.

The day use area is a beautiful spot.  Great for birding!  There were many little warblers in the oaks surrounding the picnic area.  There are picnic tables nestled randomly among the trees and along the river.  The restroom could use a little love, but it’s functional and as clean as such an old bathroom can be.  There’s a swimming area, but this is Florida, and it’s freshwater.  Swim at your own risk if you like alligators.

Here are some of the sweet little birds we found here:

Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Hermit Thrush
Downy Woodpecker
Carolina Wren
Hermit Thrush
Eastern Towhee
Carolina Chickadee

 

Eastern Bluebirds

The other day use area is the boat ramp.  You can rent canoes at the ranger station, or bring your own boat.  There’s also a nice fish cleaning station if you like fishing.  The restroom here is a porta-potty, but it’s a large accessible one, and it’s clean.  Speaking of accessibility, they also have a handy transfer system to make kayaking accessible for all.

 

This is such a peaceful area to not only put your boat in the water, but just to walk around and enjoy the trees and the birds.  The Ochlockonee River Nature Trail ends up here at this area if you take a right at the fork.  Take a left and you end up at the campground.

 

 

Let’s talk about the campground.  You really never know what you’re going to get when it comes to state park campgrounds.  Some sites are tiny with no privacy.  Some are super secluded and peaceful.  And the sites not only vary park to park, they can vary within the same campground.  This particular campground has mostly good sites.  There were one or two that were tiny and not very private.  The sites on the outer loop back up to the nature trail that runs along the river.  These are the sites you want!

Entrance to the campground.
The view behind the campsite. That little turquoise speck is our tent. You can see that there’s a nice area for exploring behind the campsite.
The road through the campground. Lots of trees and semi-private sites.

I know bathroom photos aren’t exciting, but it’s good information to have when looking for a campground.  The facilities here are a little older, but they’re perfectly functional and as clean as you would expect.

Now for the coolest thing about this park.  The white squirrels!  We only saw them in the campground, but I hear they frequent other areas of the park.  These squirrels are not shy!  They will try to steal not only your heart, but your food and anything else from your campsite that might interest them.  They’ll hop right up on the table next to you!  As cute as they are, please never feed them!  They are wild animals, and feeding them makes them become nuisances and teaches them to not fear humans.  Human food is also just not good for them.  It may be tempting, but don’t give in to their cuteness!  The little guy pictures below was determined to get into that juice.  We took it away from him though.  Sorry dude!

There’s also a gorgeous leucistic deer that lives in the park.  We saw her on the wildlife drive, though not on this trip.  These photos are from a previous trip to the park.  We were told she still lives here though.

 

Of all of the state parks we’ve camped in (a lot of them!), this is one of my favorites!  Being so far out in the middle of nowhere is a definite plus when it comes to making it less crowded and more peaceful.  There were plenty of snowbirds camping here, but for the most part it was incredibly quiet.  It’s seven hours from home, but really it was worth the drive and I would do it again in a second!  Here are some random photos from our walks on the trails and from the space behind the campsite:

I hope you’ve enjoyed this review of Ochlockonee River State park!  If you have any questions about this or any other place we’ve visited, I would love to hear from you in the comments below.  Happy adventuring!

 

 

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