Exploring Northwest Florida
Exploring Northwest Florida
Blackwater River State Park offers a variety of outdoor activities year-round.
If you’ve never been tubing in icy cold water in the middle of July, you really need to give it a try. What is tubing? Well, you get an old car tire inner tube, and another one to hold the cooler, tie them together with a piece of rope, get in, and float.
Of course, the downside is that you have to hike back to your starting point, unless you have the foresight to park a car at your destination, but that’s just a detail. The main idea is to float and relax.
More ambitious water rats may want to paddle, but the Blackwater River is great for that too. In fact, the river is a designated Florida Canoe Trail that attracts canoeists and kayakers from all over the country. With dark, tannin-colored water (where the river gets its name) and the purest, white-sand bottom in the world, much like the gulf beaches a few miles south, the river is perfect for swimming, fishing (Florida fishing license required), canoeing and kayaking, and yes, tubing.
Located near Milton and about 25 miles northeast of downtown Pensacola, Blackwater River State Park offers both day-use and overnight camping facilities on 590 acres. It lies within the 194,000-acre Blackwater River State Forest, which is Florida’s largest state forest.
Most of the time the river is slow-moving, about two to three miles per hour, and has an average depth of about 2.5 feet, which makes it perfect for swimming, fishing, and paddling. However, heavy rains and hurricanes can cause the river to rise, so it’s best to call ahead and ask about water levels and conditions before setting out for a day’s adventure.
There are no canoes or kayaks at the park, so you’ll need to bring your own, or rent from one of the local outfitters like Blackwater Canoe Rental (1-800-967-6789) or Adventures Unlimited (1-850-623-6197). They also rent tubes and offer both day trips and overnight canoe camping.
There are also two hiking/nature trails within the park, The Juniper Lake Trail and the Chain of Lakes Nature Trail. Both of these are short, but they connect with the 1100-mile cross-state Florida Trail, so longer hikes are available.
Picnic tables can be found near the restroom facilities and down by the river, and three covered picnic pavilions are available for a fee. There are also outdoor showers to clean up for the ride home.
If you bring your tent or RV, you don’t even have to leave the park to go home. A two-loop campground is open all year for overnight stays. There are 30 campsites available for both tents and RVs up to 50 feet long. All sites include 20/30/50 amp electricity, water and sewer hook-ups, a picnic table, fire ring, and a grill. Three of the sites have concrete pads and are designated accessible. Sites range from full shade to full sun.
Between the two camping areas is a bathhouse with hot showers and a children’s playground is located in one of the loops. The campground is pet friendly.
Blackwater Rivers State Park is great for wildlife viewing and birding. It is part of the Great Florida Birding Trail so you’re likely to see dozens of different birds including bald eagles, red-tailed hawks, woodpeckers, pelicans and wild turkeys.
Wildlife that you’re likely to see includes alligators (do not feed them, trust me on this) river otters, deer, rabbits, opossum, grey squirrels, flying squirrels, and of course snakes, so be alert on trails.
As far as plants, the carnivorous pitcher plant is native to the area, so keep a look out. You might spot one. There are also longleaf pines and Atlantic white cedar trees along the river, including one of the largest and oldest that has been designated a Florida Champion Tree.
Note: The boardwalk pavilion area and parking lot are currently closed for renovations, but hiking and camping are open.
Location: 7720 Deaton Bridge Road, Holt, Florida 32564
Hours of Operation: The park is open year-round from 8:00 a.m. until sundown.
Campers who plan to arrive after sunset, please call the park after 5:00 p.m. at 850-983-5363 to get the gate combination and instructions.
Driving Directions: Blackwater River State Park is located 15 miles northeast of Milton, off U.S. 90.
Heading East on I-10, take exit 31 (Hwy 87N). Go one half mile, right turn on Highway 90, then go seven miles to town of Harold. Turn left onto Deaton Bridge Road and go three miles to the main gate.
Heading West on I-10, take exit 45 to the town of Holt (at the blinking light). Turn left onto Highway 90 and go approximately 15 miles to the town of Harold. Turn right on Deaton Bridge Road and go three miles to the main gate.
$4.00 per vehicle. Please use the honor box to pay fees. Correct change is required. Limit 8 people per vehicle.
$2.00 Pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, passengers in vehicle with holder of Annual Individual Entrance Pass
Picnic Pavilion Rental Fees: $35.00 per day, plus tax
Camping Fee: (Reservations 1-800-326-3521)
$20.00 per night, plus tax. Includes water and electricity. Florida residents who are 65 years of age or older or who hold a social security disability award certificate or a 100 percent disability award certificate from the Federal Government are permitted to receive a 50 percent discount on current base campsite fees. Proof of eligibility required.
Domestic pets are permitted in designated day-use areas. They must be kept on a handheld leash that is six feet long or shorter and be well-behaved at all times. Pet owners are required to pick up after their pets and properly dispose of their droppings. Pets are not permitted on the beach or park buildings. Service animals are welcome in all areas of Blackwater River State Park. Click here for further information about pet safety and camping rules
Get Involved: Be a Park Volunteer, call the park office at 850-983-5363
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