Big Shoals State Forest comprises 1,673 acres of the 3,919-acre Big Shoals Public Lands (BSPL). BSPL is managed jointly by the Florida Forest Service, Florida State Parks, Suwannee River Water Management District, and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The Suwannee River flows along the entire southern boundary of BSPL. The state forest portion is located on the northern side of the public lands.
Located in the southeastern corner of Hamilton County, this property (formerly known as the Brown Tract) was purchased from the Nature Conservancy by the state of Florida in 1986 through the Conservation and Recreational Lands (CARL) program. It was designated as a state forest in March 1989.
Big Shoals is located on the east side of the town of White Springs. There are two entrances to Big Shoals Public Lands: the “Little Shoals” entrance on the west side of the property and the “Big Shoals” entrance on the east. From White Springs, travel 1 mile north on County Road 135 and then turn right into the Little Shoals entrance. From the Little Shoals entrance, continue north on County Road 135 for 2 more miles, then turn right on Southeast 94th Street (Old Godwin Bridge Road) and follow it to the end to the Big Shoals entrance.
There are several natural community types within Big Shoals State Forest. The dominant type is mesic flatwoods; however, upland mixed forests, basin swamps and cypress domes are also well represented. Most of these communities are good examples and have been well maintained. A perennial stream, Four Mile Branch, flows through Big Shoals and into the Suwannee River.
The primary management objective of the Florida Forest Service is to restore, maintain and protect all native ecosystems. Through sound multiple-use management practices, a proper balance is maintained between resource utilization and resource protection. The forest provides habitat for many species of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, bobcat, fox squirrel and wild turkey.
While Big Shoals Public Lands is noted for its whitewater rapids associated with the Big and Little Shoals on the Suwannee River, the state forest portion offers many other recreation opportunities. These include nature study, picnicking, hiking, bicycling, horseback riding, fishing and hunting.
Big Shoals State Forest has a hiking trail and horseback riding trail included in the Florida Forest Service Trailwalker and Trailtrotter programs. There is also a very popular 4-mile paved bicycle trail located on the state forest. A canoe launch is located on the northern section of the river, but please note: The shoals are very dangerous and should not be navigated when the water level is high.
In keeping with its mission to protect and manage Florida's forest resources, the Florida Forest Service has developed rules that apply to all state forest visitors. Find out more about state forest fees and rules.