Tate's Hell State Forest

Location | Natural Features | Recreation | Contacts

Tate's Hell State Forest is one continuous tract of land comprising over 202,000 acres. Conquering this wet and seemingly unproductive area for timber production was the focus of the timber industry from the 1950's to early 1990's.

During the 1960's and 1970's, the hydrology was substantially altered in an attempt to establish extensive tracts of pine plantations and to enhance the production of pine timber. These alterations involved the construction of roads and associated ditches, followed by the planting of large dense stands of slash pine that were fertilized with phosphorus and nitrogen. The network of roads has increased public access to the area, making it a popular location for local residents to hunt and fish. To protect the Apalachicola Bay from severe freshwater run-off, the state began purchasing the majority of the property with Conservation and Recreation Lands (CARL) Program funds in 1994 and has continued to purchase additional lands.

Location

Tate's Hell State Forest is located in Franklin County, between the Apalachicola and Ochlockonee Rivers. The forest extends into the southeast corner of Liberty County, south of the Apalachicola National Forest and 1.5 miles northwest of the town of Carrabelle. Access Tate's Hell State Forest from U.S. Highway 98, County Road 67, or State Highway 65.

Natural Features

The natural resources found on Tate's Hell State Forest are very diverse due to the unique and various natural community types. At one time Tate's Hell State Forest supported at least 12 major community types which included: wet flatwoods, wet prairie, seepage slope, baygall, floodplain forest, floodplain swamp, basin swamp, upland hardwood forest, sandhill, pine ridges, dense titi thickets and scrub. Currently, the forest contains approximately 107,300 acres of hydric communities such as wet prairie (contains a vast diversity of plant species), wet flatwoods, strand swamp, bottomland forest, baygall, and floodplain swamp. Past management practices have disrupted the function of the natural ecosystems on Tate's Hell State Forest. The restoration of these ecosystems is a primary objective of the Florida Forest Service.

Many species of wildlife make their home on the forest. Those with confirmed sightings on Tate's Hell State Forest that are currently listed as threatened, endangered or species of special concern are: bald eagle, Florida black bear, gopher tortoise, and red-cockaded woodpecker. Rare plant species living on the forest include: Thick-leaved Water-willow (Justicia crassifolia), White Birds-in-a-nest (Macbridea alba), Florida Bear grass (Nolina atopocarpa), Chapman's Butterwort (Pinguicula planifolia), and Small-flowered Meadow beauty (Rhexia parviflora).

The predominant hydrologic feature within the state forest is Tate's Hell Swamp, which drains toward Apalachicola River and Bay. The River and Bay are designated as Outstanding Florida Waters (OFWS), and are the highest priority water bodies under the Northwest Florida Water Management District's SWIM Program. The Apalachicola River is designated for recreation and propagation and maintenance of a healthy, well balanced population of fish and wildlife.

 

Several unique stands of cypress wetlands are located within the forest. These cypress trees are documented to be over 150 years old but only reach a mature height of approximately 15 feet, hence the name "dwarf cypress". They are also referred to as "miniature" or "hat-rack" cypress. The Ralph G. Kendrick Boardwalk offers an observation tower overlooking one of the most prolific areas.

 Apalachicola Bay is a State Aquatic Preserve with designated uses such as shellfish propagation and harvesting. Tate's Hell Swamp plays an important role in the function of the marshes in the upper bays south of the forest that serve as nursery areas for Apalachicola Bay. The Tate's Hell Swamp tributaries to East Bay include Cash Creek, High Bluff Creek, Rake Creek, Whiskey George Creek, Juniper Creek and Doyle Creek. The New, Ochlockonee and Crooked Rivers are the major rivers that adjoin the state forest. Numerous other creeks flow throughout the forest including such named creeks as: Alligator, Bear, Cow, Deep, Fish, Gully Branch, Graham, Sunday Rollaway, Pine Log, Roberts, Sanborn, Sandbank, Trout, Womack, and two Juniper Creeks. There are no lakes, however several ponds have formed in old pits and numerous natural shallow ponds occur throughout the forest.

The Legend of TATE'S HELL...

A tale that has been told for many years recounts how Tate's Hell Swamp got its name. Local legend has it that a farmer by the name of Cebe Tate, armed with only a shotgun and accompanied by his hunting dogs, journeyed into the swamp in search of a panther that was killing his livestock. Although there are several versions of this story, the most common describes Tate as being lost in the swamp for seven days and nights, bitten by a snake, and drinking from the murky waters to curb his thirst. Finally he came to a clearing near Carrabelle, living only long enough to murmur the words, "My name is Cebe Tate, and I just came from Hell!" Cebe Tate's adventure took place in 1875 and ever since, the area has been known as Tate's Hell, the legendary and forbidden swamp.

Recreation

Recreation Trails

Trailwalker patch
OHV logo.
Great Florida Birding Trail
High Bluff Coastal Trail [Adobe PDF Document 577.03 KB] (map) is part of the Florida Forest Service's  Trailwalker Hiking Program Off-Highway Vehicle Trails This state forest is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail

Tate's Hell State Forest offers a variety of recreation activities for the outdoor enthusiast. There are 35 miles of rivers, streams and creeks available for canoeing, boating and fishing. A concrete boat launch site is located at Cash Creek, with additional launch sites available at locations throughout the forest. Fishing requires a valid license and is regulated under the direction of the Fish and Wildlife Commission. Picnicking at one of the many day use areas is a popular activity on the forest.

Primitive campsites are dispersed throughout the forest. Most sites are on the river banks with canoe/kayak/small boat access and fishing. Find current camping fees. A special use permit is required for all campsites except the Womack Creek Camping Area. Womack Creek is first come- first serve, with fees deposited in an iron ranger. All stays are restricted to 14 consecutive days in any 30 day period. Camping special use permits and reservations are available at the Carrabelle Office and the Tallahassee Field Office.

The entire state forest is a Wildlife Management Area and is open to regulated hunting under the direction of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. During general gun and muzzle loading gun hunting season a State Forest Use Permit is required for primitive camping and is available at the Florida Forest Service office in Carrabelle for a fee. Special permits that allows hunt camps for the duration of the hunting season are also available for a fee. Visit myfwc.com/hunting for information.

In keeping with its mission to protect and manage Florida's forest resources, the Florida Forest Service has developed rules which apply to all State Forest visitors. Find out more about state forest fees and rules.

Trails Campsites Other
Hike Bike Horse Canoe Camp
 sites
with
 Electric
Leashed Pets OK More Activities
Check Mark Nature none none Check Mark  Check Mark
 Primitive*
 Youth Groups*
none Check Mark  Picnicking, Fishing, Swimming, Hunting,
 OHV Trails

* State Forest Use Permit Required


Contact Us

Carrabelle Office:

Open Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m. and 1:00 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

Florida Forest Service
Tate's Hell State Forest
290 Airport Road
Carrabelle, Florida 32322

(850) 697-3734
(850) 697-2892 Fax

Email Tate's Hell State Forest

Tallahassee Field Office:

Open seven days a week, 7:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.

Florida Forest Service
Lake Talquin State Forest
865 Geddie Road
Tallahassee, Florida 32304

(850) 681-5963