Explore the natural beauty of Blackwater River State Forest

A view of Hurricane Lake in the Blackwater River State Forest. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

A view of Hurricane Lake in the Blackwater River State Forest. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Lakes, trails, rivers offer endless recreation

Boasting more than 210,000 acres of long leaf pine forests, lakes, streams and rivers, Blackwater River State Forest is a great place to explore nature. As one of the largest and oldest State forests in Florida, it is chock full of recreational for anyone who enjoys exploring the outdoors.

Located in the northwest corner of the Florida Panhandle, straddling Santa Rosa and Okaloosa counties, Blackwater River State Forest has a long history. In 1936, the State of Florida took over managing the forest, and it became an official State Forest in 1955. Restoration of the original long leaf pine/wiregrass ecosystem has been ongoing since, and many of the original species of fauna and flora are returning. Long leaf/wiregrass ecosystems include gopher tortoise, indigo snakes, red cockaded woodpecker and a wide variety of other unique species.

Typical campsite area. Some have electric/water. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Typical campsite area. Some have electric/water. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

The recreational areas offer hiking, biking, swimming, boating, picnicking, fishing, camping, horseback riding, and in the wildlife management areas, hunting. All of the recreation areas are family oriented and alcohol is prohibited. The lakes that permit boating are with electric motors only.

Krul Lake:
Krul Recreation Area is a camping and day use area built next to a 6.5-acre man-made lake. It is recharged from springs located on the north end of the lake, and its cool water is a popular swimming area. The Sweetwater Trail starts at the Krul parking lot and runs 1.3 miles to Bear Lake. The first half-mile of trail is an ADA accessible boardwalk with a suspension bridge over Sweetwater Creek. An old, still operational gristmill is located along the boardwalk.

Features include swimming, picnic tables/grills, hiking trail, swimming dock/pier, restrooms, showers, campsites with electric and water. Campsites are available on a first come basis. No pets allowed.

Download Blackwater Sweetwater trail map.

Directions: Krul is located ½ mile east of Munson north of Highway 4.

Pitcher plant bog at Blackwater River State Forest. A sign of a well managed forest with prescribed burns. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Pitcher plant bog at Blackwater River State Forest. A sign of a well managed forest with prescribed burns. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Bear Lake:
Bear Lake is a 107-acre artificial impoundment located on Bear Creek. Maximum depth is 23 feet, with an average depth of 8 feet. A dam was constructed in 1959 and first opened to fishing in the spring of 1961.

Bear Lake has electric and non-electric campsites with several hiking trails nearby. The Sweetwater Trail, 1.3 miles in length, connects Bear Lake to Krul Recreation Area. The

Bear Lake Loop Trail encircles the lake and is 4 miles long. The Bear Lake-Jackson Connector Trail connects Bear Lake Loop Trail to the Jackson Trail. It is 2 miles in length. A mountain bike trail also encircles the lake and is 6 miles in length. The campground has a dining hall with kitchen available by reservation only. All other sites are on a first come first served basis. No swimming is allowed, alligators are present.

A view of Bear Lake. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

A view of Bear Lake. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Other features include picnic tables/grills, fishing, boat ramps, restrooms, showers, campsites with electric and water. Campsites are available on a first come basis. Leashed pets allowed. Dining facility (reservations required). Call (850) 957-6140.

Hurricane Lake:
Hurricane Lake is a 318-acre man-made lake located on Hurricane Creek. The lake has a maximum depth of 25 feet, with an average depth of 7 feet. Hurricane Lake was constructed in 1971 and opened for fishing in 1973. It has two improved recreation areas located on the north and south sides of the lake. North Hurricane campground has a primitive youth camping area by reservation only. All other sites are on a first come first served basis. No swimming is allowed. Alligators are present.

Features include fishing, hiking trail, campsites with electricity and water, restrooms, showers picnic areas, boat ramp and primitive camping for youth camps. Leashed pets allowed. For more information, call (850) 957-6140.

Directions: These recreation areas may be reached from Hurricane Lake Road off of Highway 4. They are located approximately 7 miles north of Highway 4 in north Okaloosa County. There is access to the south side primitive campground from Kennedy Bridge Road and access to the north side campground via Beaver Creek Highway.

Karick Lake:
Karick Lake Recreation is a 65-acre artificial impoundment on Deadfall Creek in northern Okaloosa County. It has a maximum depth of 18 feet at the dam and an average depth of 7 feet. A considerable amount of flooded timber provides fish habitat. The lake was constructed in 1965 and open to fishing in 1966.

Karick Lake has two camping areas; one on the north side and one on the south side of the lake. The east end of Jackson Trail starts at North Karick Lake. Camping at Karick Lake is first come first served except for the primitive youth camping area on the north side. The campgrounds are located east of county road 189 approximately 7.5 miles north of Baker. No swimming is allowed.

Features include picnic areas, canoeing, fishing, campsites with electricity and water, restrooms, showers, boat ramp, pier. Leashed pets allowed. For more information, call (850) 957-6140.

Bone Creek:
Bone Creek is a Day Use area which includes a man-made pond with swimming area, dock, and picnic tables.  Fishing is allowed in the lake except in the swimming area. Day Use Area hours are 7:00 am- 7:00 pm, April 1- September 15, and 7 a.m.- sunset, September 16- March 31.

Features include picnic areas, swimming, fishing, canoeing, restrooms, pier. No pets allowed.

Directions: Bone Creek Recreation Area is located above Holt, Florida. The entrance sign to Bone Creek is located on Highway 90.

Equestrian stables at Coldwater Creek Recreation Area in Blackwater River State Forest. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Equestrian stables at Coldwater Creek Recreation Area in Blackwater River State Forest. Lori Ceier/Walton Outdoors

Coldwater Recreation Area:
The Coldwater Recreation Area, bordered to the north by Coldwater Creek, offers trails that take horseback riders through some of the most scenic woodlands in Florida. Opened in 1974, the facility has been a prized recreation area for bird dog and fox hound field trial participants and horseback riders. The forest around the campground is prescribed burned frequently to promote habitat for quail, red-cockaded woodpeckers, gopher tortoises, and other native species. Because of frequent burning, beautiful vistas are located throughout the area.

Features include equestrian trails, canoeing, swimming, picnic areas, horse stalls, campsites with electricity and water, restrooms, showers, and dining facility. Leashed pets allowed.

All horses must have proof of current negative Coggins test results when on state lands. ALL children under the age of 16 are required to wear a protective helmet while riding on state lands.

Reservations are required for the stables, dining facility and all campsites in this recreation area. For reservations call (850) 957-6161 weekdays between 7 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Central Time.

Download Coldwater guide

Wildlife Management Areas:

For hunting purposes, Blackwater River State Forest is broken down into three wildlife management areas. The Blackwater WMA, the Blackwater Carr Unit, and Blackwater Hutton Unit are managed together with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Wildlife viewers, cyclists, horseback riders, paddlers and other nature lovers can find wild places to pursue their interests in addition to hunting and fishing.

Both hunting and non-hunting recreationists are encouraged to check FWC’s Wildlife Management Area web pages for Blackwater River State Forest:

Learn more about Blackwater River State Forest here.

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