Blackwater Creek in Seminole State Forest... Scenic and Secluded
Blackwater Creek flows from Lake Norris in Lake County, Florida, to the Wekiva River. The creek is about 20 miles, but here we focus on a portion of the creek within Seminole State Forest. Unlike nearby Wekiva River and Rock Springs Run, this is uncrowded - a pristine and quiet area that is a great wilderness escape. (Detailed map and photos below.)
Trip Report: We obtained a permit (with gate lock code) and entered the State Forest from the Bear Pond Trailhead off SR46 (remembering to lock it behind us). (Note: The same code also works from the Cassia Trailhead off SR44.) From Bear Pond it's about two miles on hard-packed forest road to the launch, on the left just after crossing the bridge over Blackwater Creek. This was a weekday and we were the only ones at the launch. (There is limited parking for about 4 to 5 cars. On an earlier weekend visit, there were two cars.) The launch area is shaded with a couple of picnic tables. Only hand-powered craft are allowed, no motorboats here!!
From what we have read, most people head downstream to the Wekiva and St. John's, taking out at Highbanks marina - about 8.5 miles. This route is usually open, but subject to recently downed trees. We wanted to end at our car, so we paddled upstream about 3.5 miles and then back, quiet and beautiful - we didn't want it to end.
The upper creek is more narrow and lots of tree canopy. This is a shallow section that becomes more technical - increasingly more narrow, shallow and twisty as you go upstream (toward Lake Norris). We encountered some downed trees making passage tricky, but no pull-overs! The trees were cut just enough. After about 3 miles upstream, the creek is about half as wide as it is at the launch and the depth is about two feet or less. With 12' sit-on-tops, this is the kind of water we really enjoy. We could see where trees were cut, but after a storm, don't count on not being blocked by deadfall. We could have gone further upstream, but it was getting late, so we turned back to beat the bugs coming out.
This is a tannic water creek, too dark to see anything in the water. There are few people, so the wildlife remains wild. Birds flew away as we approached. We saw many alligators and turtles, but they slipped into the water before we could get a photo. On the other hand, we encountered something we don't recall ever seeing before on a Florida river or creek. Not a single piece of trash!
Seminole State Forest covers more than 27,000 acres plus 1,725 acres of sand pine scrub, an important ecosystem protected in the forest. Activities include camping, hiking, biking, paddling, horseback riding, hunting and fishing. The Wekiva River forms the forest's eastern border, Blackwater Creek flows through it, plus there are three springs (Palm, Mocassin and Shark's Tooth), and a 7.5 mile segment of the Florida Trail. Pay a $2 per person day-use fee at the trailheads. A free State Forest Use Permit with gate code is required for driving access and camping (e-mailed after a telephone call - 352-360-6675).
The forest includes many plant and animal natural communities, and endangered species such as the scrub jay and Florida black bear. Birdwatching is also popular, as this also is part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail.
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Paddling in Florida - Kayak, Canoe