Choctawhatchee River Section of the Florida National Scenic Trail now open

December 14, 2016

The new segment is between the Choctawhatchee River Bridge on SR 20 and the Seven Runs Recreation Area on SR 81. Image courtesy Tom Daniel.

Dec. 14, 2016 – Tom Daniel, Trail Coordinator for the Choctawhatchee Chapter, Florida Trail Association has announced a new section of the Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST) in Walton County is now open.

“Our volunteers have been working on this Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST) segment since 2009. The recent completion of the 245 foot boardwalk at Cypress Creek allows us to finally open the trail.  The boardwalk permits hikers to safely cross until the Choctawhatchee River reaches flood stage (13 feet),” said Daniel.

The new segment is between the Choctawhatchee River Bridge on SR 20 and the Seven Runs Recreation Area on SR 81. The segment is 8.3 miles and crosses lands managed by both the Nokuse Plantation (6.9 miles) and Northwest Florida Water Management District (1.4 miles). The new segment directly connects to an existing FNST segment west of SR 81 and eliminated approximately 10 miles of roadwalk on busy State Roads 20 and 81.

Seven Runs NWFWMD Recreation Area on SR 81 serves as the northern access point.  The FNST crossing of SR 81 is located approximately 800 feet north of the Recreation Area at 30.536566, -85.921566.  The Hwy. 20 entrance 30.453284, -85.904429.  Currently the FNST crosses the River on the SR 20 bridge.  Approximately 1000 feet west of Boat Ramp Road (in Walton County) it turns north off SR 20 into the Nokuse Plantation.  Click here for map.

WATER SOURCES and CAMPSITES: There are two primitive campsites. Leaning Pine Campsite (3.2 miles north of SR 20) and Seven Runs Campsite (8 miles north of SR 20). There are only two perennial / reliable water sources on this trail segment. At Cypress Creek (1.2 miles north of SR 20) and at the Seven Runs Campsite. There is no reliable water source available at or near the Leaning Pine Campsite. During drought conditions Cypress and Seven Runs Creeks are the only reliable water sources. All surface and other water sources require treatment prior to human consumption.

Bridge across a Cypress Creek along the newly blazed trail. Photo courtesy Bruce Varner

CAUTION at the Cypress Creek Boardwalk: This location (1.2 miles north of SR 20) is in the floodplain of the Choctawhatchee River. When the river is at or above flood stage (13 feet) the boardwalk may be covered with water. During flood conditions trail users should exercise extreme caution and consider using State Roads 20 and 81 to avoid the crossing. The U.S. Weather Service / NOAA river level gauge information can be accessed by clicking here.

STAY ON THE TRAIL – This FNST segment traverses the Nokuse Plantation which is the largest private conservation area east of the Mississippi River. On Nokuse, trail users are restricted to the blazed FNST trail corridor and with the exception of campsites, trail users are not to venture more than 100 feet from the trail. The FNST borders private property when crossing an earthen dam between Dead River Road and SR 81. Trail users are required to respect private property and not to leave the trail in this area. The top of the dam is private property and off limits to trail users.

THE HIKE: Much of the land on Nokuse was plowed and furrowed by the previous owners for planting pine trees. In areas this makes for washboard / up and down walking. It is only 8.3 miles but is a rough hike and can be physically exhausting.

Interested in joining the Florida Trail Choctawhatchee Chapter, volunteering or learning more? Go to their MEETUP site by clicking here. The Chapter is always in need of volunteers to assist in maintaining the trails.

Learn more about this section of the Florida Trail at Florida Hikes.