Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest lies mostly within Hendry County, with a section located in Collier County. The state forest was purchased under the Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) program using Preservation 2000 and Save Our Rivers funds.
The Florida Forest Service manages Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest for multiple uses. Multiple-use management practices on the forest focus on ecosystem restoration, silvicultural and watershed management, recreation and wildlife management, and archaeological and cultural resource management.
The area of Okaloacoochee Slough was heavily logged in the early 1900s. The timber was used for making railroad crossties for the growing railroad system that was developing in southern Florida. During this time, sawmills began to spring up, producing small towns that were dependent on them. One of these early towns, Sears, stood on the northern border of the forest. After a fire destroyed the sawmill, the town of Sears went into decline and eventually disappeared.
During the same time period, the Atlantic Land Improvement Company (ALICO) Inc. continued harvesting operations by using two portable sawmills, which were referred to as the Twin Mills. Although the sawmills no longer exist, remnants of sawdust piles can be found near Twin Mills Grade.
Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest is located approximately 30 miles east of Fort Myers, in southeastern Hendry and northeastern Collier counties.
Access: The forest can be accessed along County Road 832, marked by the various self-service pay stations.
The Okaloacoochee Slough, the forest's namesake, is a 32,370-acre pristine slough that is oriented north-south through the forest. The natural systems of the Fakahatchee Strand and Big Cypress Preserve are dependent on the water supplied by the Okaloacoochee Slough. The Okaloacoochee Slough is one of the few places in South Florida north of the Everglades or Big Cypress National Preserve where the pre-Columbian landscape can still be observed.
This unique natural system provides a large roaming area of contiguous habitat for a variety of wildlife species. The forest is home to listed, threatened and endangered species, including the Florida panther, Florida black bear, sandhill crane, wood stork and gopher tortoise.
The forest offers a variety of recreational activities for visitors. There are many miles of open forest roads available for hiking and bicycling. Fishing opportunities are plentiful in the numerous canals, ponds and ditches that are accessible by vehicle. Several “hidden” areas can be found for those who enjoy a hike to an isolated fishing spot. The forest’s wetlands provide opportunities for wildlife viewing.
Hunting is a popular activity on Okaloacoochee Slough State Forest. All hunts are done on a quota system and include a spring gobbler hunt, archery hunt, general gun hunt, special hog hunt and a dove hunt. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission coordinates all hunting activities held on the forest. Visit Okaloacoochee Slough WMA for information.
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.