Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services

Blackwater River State Forest

Location | Natural Features | Recreation | Managing the Forest | Contacts

Blackwater River State Forest is one of the largest state forests in Florida and is named for the Blackwater River, which begins to the north in Alabama and meanders approximately 30 miles southwestward through the forest into Blackwater Bay, near Milton, Florida. Blackwater River is one of the few shifting sand bottom streams that remains in its natural state for nearly its entire length. The topography of the forest is gently rolling, and various natural communities are represented.

Blackwater River State Forest is known for its longleaf pine/wiregrass ecosystem, which, in combination with the Conecuh National Forest to the north and Eglin Air Force Base to the south, is the largest contiguous ecological community of this type in the world. Longleaf pines once covered over 60 million acres in the Southeastern United States coastal plain area. Less than 5 percent of the original acreage now remains. Longleaf pine communities are rich in plant and animal life, including many species classified as endangered, threatened or of special concern.

Location

Blackwater River State Forest is located in the Florida Panhandle northeast of Pensacola. The forest borders the Conecuh National Forest to the north and extends southward toward Eglin Air Force Base.

The headquarters for Blackwater River State Forest can be found 20 miles north of the town of Milton on State Road 191 in the community of Munson.

Large Map [ Adobe PDF Document 1.24 MB ]

Natural Features

The forest lies on the southern tip of sandy, red clay soil deposited over West Florida. Erosion shaped the land's surface into low rolling hills separated by winding water courses and broad floodplains. Elevations within the forest range from 10 feet to 290 feet above sea level. The changes in soil composition and the varying degree of moisture present in the forest support at least five principal types of plant communities: longleaf pine/scrub oak, slash pine, swamp hardwood, loblolly pine/hardwood, and Atlantic white cedar.

Many beautiful streams flow through the forest. The most notable are Blackwater River, Juniper Creek, Coldwater Creek and Sweetwater Creek. Canoeing on these waterways is a popular activity.

Throughout the northern ranges of the forest where soil types retain more moisture, you will find trees such as longleaf pine, southern red oak, water oak and dogwood. In the southern ranges of the forest where soil types are coarse with little capacity to hold water, you will find longleaf pine, turkey oak, post oak, bluejack oak and persimmon. Wiregrass, gallberry, yaupon, wax myrtle and blueberry are common understory species. Bottomlands support such species as water oak, sweetbay, redbay, titi, American holly, Atlantic white cedar and southern magnolia.

Within the forest, pitcher plant bogs are unique areas containing a diversity of carnivorous plants that lure, trap and then digest insects. The carnivorous plants of the forest include glistening sundews, butterworts, bladderworts, and four species of pitcher plants. Pitcher plants trap insects in their erect, trumpet-shaped leaves. The leaves' slippery walls, covered in an array of downward-pointing hairs, prevent the insects from escaping. The insects fall to the bottom of the pitcher, into a deadly bath of rainwater and digestive enzymes.

Recreation

The recreational opportunities on Blackwater River State Forest are diverse and plentiful for many different types of users.

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.

Managing the Forest

Through sound multiple-use management practices, the Florida Forest Service maintains a proper balance between resource utilization and resource protection. The forest is managed for timber, watershed protection, wildlife habitat, endangered and threatened species, and recreation.

Longleaf pine/wiregrass management is dependent on an active prescribed fire program. The use of fire during the growing season is an effective tool in controlling hardwoods and promoting wiregrass flowering. Fire also helps to control brown spot needle blight on young longleaf pine seedlings, improve wildlife habitat, and control hardwood encroachment in sensitive areas such as pitcher plant bogs and red-cockaded woodpecker clusters. It also contributes to the restoration and maintenance of biological communities, and reduces the risk of wildfire.

The prescribed burn program on Blackwater River State Forest enhances the habitat of native fauna and flora by controlling the hardwoods and underbrush that can replace the variety of fragile species living on the forest. Controlled burning allows for the maintenance of the largest remaining fragment of longleaf pine/wiregrass ecosystem in the world.

Timber management practices on Blackwater River State Forest are important in the restoration and maintenance of forest ecosystems and provide a variety of socioeconomic benefits to Floridians. Thousands of acres of slash pine plantations are being converted back to longleaf pine, which historically dominated Blackwater River State Forest's sandy soils. Harvesting activities follow Silviculture Best Management Practices (BMPs).