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Reported: April 2016

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.)



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Distance: Varies, depending on water levels and debris, about 8 miles total in this section. Note: The section between Seminole State Forest and Lake Norris Conservation area is impassable.
Location: Lake County
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Tidal: No
Launch points: Wekiva River Road in the Seminole State Forest (See map, left)
Kayak/Canoe Rentals: None nearby
Nearby points of interest: Wekiva State Park and Wekiva River, Kelly Park and Rock Springs Run, Mt. Dora

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.

Paddling on Blackwater Creek in Seminole State Forest
(tap or hover over photo for larger view)
Blackwater Creek - upstream from forest launch
The launch is just past the bridge over Blackwater Creek, easy on and off.
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At Bear Pond Trailhead - need code to open gate Launch looking toward bridge; picnic tables are convenient for loading! Ready to launch Downstream just past the bridge,
from here we turned and went upstream
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Upstream from launch A couple of narrow sections Picnic table and grill
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The creek gets narrower, twistier and more shallow An obstacle to maneuver around More debris in this area Returning to launch
Birds and other signs of life
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Ibis Ripple from alligator not wanting its photo taken Heron Bird in a tree The only sign of other people - wilted flowers, attached perhaps as a memorial?
Coming around a bend, we startled an alligator on the shore - big splash!
Didn't have time to get a photo, but here are the ripples.

More information: (opens in a new window):

- Florida Forest Service - Seminole State Forest
- Florida Forest Service - Seminole State Forest brochure (PDF)

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