Blackwater River State Forest and the surrounding area has carved a niche along the Florida panhandle as a one-stop adventure destination. In fact, the town of Milton, located northeast of Pensacola, was designated “Canoe Capital of Florida” by the legislature in 1980 and proudly maintains the title today. The Blackwater area has something for almost everyone: hiking, kayaking, camping, swimming, horseback riding and off-road cycling.
Canoeing and Kayaking
There are several places throughout the Blackwater area for paddlers to find adventure. Prime destinations include Blackwater River, Juniper Creek, Cold Water Creek and the nearby Yellow River. The Blackwater River System including Juniper and Cold Water are pristine sand bottom waterways with numerous large sandbars which are perfect for picnics or camping.
Sweetwater Creek, although still referenced on many paddling maps, is not recommended for paddling due to the number of log jams and poor access at Munson School Bridge. It is a short rambo section that merges with Juniper Creek which is by far the prettiest section of waterway with its towering clay bluffs in the upper section below Red Rock Bridge.
For paddlers who don’t have access to their own kayak or canoe there are several outfitters in the area that provide rentals and shuttle service in the Blackwater area. The two most popular are Adventures Unlimited and Blackwater Canoe Rental and Outpost. Both of which provide trips ranging from $20-$25 per person with a two person minimum.
For canoeists and kayakers looking to do more fishing than paddling there are several large man-made lakes in the area. Hurricane Lake, Karrick Lake and Bear Lake offer fishing, camping and hiking trails. Bone Creek Recreation Area is a day use pond that allows fishing, swimming and canoeing.
Camping, Hiking and Mountain Biking
The Blackwater system covers such a large area that it would take several days to fully explore its wonders. The best way to see the area is to plan a camping trip at one of the many campgrounds and use it as a base camp while exploring the rest of of the local area. The nearby towns of Milton, Munson and Holt provide easy access to supplies should one run low on supplies.
Camping is allowed along the rivers and at designated shelters along some of the area trails such as the Florida Trail and Jackson Redground Trail. Blackwater River State Park offers camping for a small fee, as does Krul Recreation Area, Karick Lake, Hurricane Lake and Bear Lake. More camping opportunities can be found within the Blackwater WMA and the Blackwater Hutton Unit.
Cyclists can test their skills at the six mile Bear Lake mountain bike trail or at the newly constructed Blackwater State Forest MTB trail near the Red Rock Bridge. Currently 8 miles are available with the intention to add more mileage in the future.
Horseback Riding in Blackwater State Forest
Equestrians will enjoy riding the currently 15 miles of open trails along the Coldwater Recreation Area. Recent flooding has the remainder of the trails under repair. Coldwater Recreation Area offers camping, stables and dining facilities, all of which require a Reservations. For reservations call 850-957-6161 weekdays between 7:00 am and 3:30 pm Central Time. As required in Florida, all horses must have proof of current negative Coggins test results when on state lands.