Ocala National Forest: Wikis

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Ocala National Forest
IUCN Category VI (Managed Resource Protected Area)
Location Florida, USA
Nearest city Ocala, FL
Coordinates 29°10′25″N 81°49′18″W / 29.17361°N 81.82167°W / 29.17361; -81.82167Coordinates: 29°10′25″N 81°49′18″W / 29.17361°N 81.82167°W / 29.17361; -81.82167
Governing body U.S. Forest Service
Juniper Springs in the Ocala National Forest

The Ocala National Forest is the second largest National Forest in the U.S. state of Florida and covers approximately 607 square miles (1,572.12 km2) of Central Florida. It is located three miles (5 km) east of Ocala and 16 miles (25.75 km) southeast of Gainesville. The Ocala National Forest, established in 1908, is the oldest national forest east of the Mississippi River and the southernmost national forest in the continental U.S. The word Ocala is thought to be a derivative of a Timucuan Indian term meaning "fair land" or "big hammock". The forest is headquartered in Tallahassee, as are all four National Forests in Florida, but there are local ranger district offices located in Silver Springs and Umatilla.

Contents

Geography and ecology

The Ocala National Forest lies between the Ocklawaha and St. Johns Rivers in central Florida. In descending order of land area it is located in parts of Marion, Lake, Putnam, and Seminole counties.

The Ocala National Forest receives more visitors than any other national forest in the Sunshine State. Millions annually visit the forest, which is one of Central Florida's last remaining traces of forested land. The Ocala National Forest contains a high proportion of remaining Florida Scrub habitat and is noted for its Sand Pine scrub ecosystem. The forest contains the largest concentration of sand pine in the world as well as some of the best remaining stands of Longleaf Pine in Central Florida. The forest’s porous sands and largely undeveloped character provide an important recharge for the Floridan Aquifer. The Rodman Reservoir system forms most of the northern and north western border as part of the Ocklawaha River Basin.

The Ocala Forest is also known for having over 600 natural lakes and ponds. The forest is riddled with slow-moving rivers and wet "prairies". They are sunny, shallow expanses of water, usually ringed by cypress trees and filled water lilies and other with aquatic plants. Between the river boundaries of this Forest lie central highlands, coastal lowlands, swamps, springs and hundreds of lakes and ponds. Near the Juniper Prairie Wilderness and Juniper Springs is "The Yearling Trail", the location where The Yearling was filmed.

Ocala has a wide variety of wildlife. The Florida Black Bear population has its highest concentration here. American Alligators, white-tailed deer, wild boar, and numerous small animals, including bats, Coyote, Gray Fox, Red Fox, Virginia Opossum, Raccoon, North American River Otter, Bobcat, Striped Skunk, Southeastern Pocket Gopher, and Nine-banded Armadillo can be found as well. The sandy soil is home to the Gopher Tortoise.

The United States Navy's Pinecastle Bombing Range in the Ocala National Forest is the only place on the East Coast where the Navy can do live impact training. The Navy drops nearly 20,000 bombs a year at the site, a few hundred of which are live. The Pinecastle Bombing Range is a fenced 5,760 acre (23 km²) area, with the eastern edge of the range located about 2 miles (3.2 km) west of State Road 19 and the Camp Ocala campgrounds, and one-half mile (800 m) west of the Farles Lake campground. F/A-18 Hornet jet fighters and other aircraft take off from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, fly low over the forest, and drop their bombs in the middle 450 acres (1.82 km2) of the range. All air-to-ground exercises using conventional ordnance up to and including 500 pounds (226.8 kg) MK 82 bombs and five-inch (127 mm) Zuni rockets are authorized. Napalm and High Explosive Incendiary (HEI) are prohibited. Live ordnance is restricted to the Live Ordnance Impact Area; inert ordnance is used on all other targets. Pinecastle targets have also been certified for laser operations. The Navy has used the area for target practice for 50 years under a special use permit from the National Forest Service.

The ghost town of Kerr City is in the forest. It is located on County Road 316 just west of State Road 19.

Activities

The Ocala National Forest offers an accommodating climate for year round recreation. The mild winters are fine for family camping while a summer canoe trip down a palm-lined stream is a cool way to spend an August day. The temperatures for the dry months of November through February range from a daily average of 50 °F (10.0 °C) to a high of 72 °F (22.2 °C). The summer season is much warmer and wetter. Short afternoon thundershowers often raise the humidity to about 90% while the temperatures range from 80 °F (26.7 °C) to 95 °F (35.0 °C). The average rainfall is approximately 55 inches (1,400 mm) per year.

Water plays an important part in a variety of recreational opportunities in the forest. Activities range from canoeing, boating, fishing, skiing, snorkeling, swimming and the use of personal watercraft. Several boat ramps are available in the forest.

Many hiking trails run through the forest including the Florida Trail, Salt Springs Observation Trail, Lake Eaton Sinkhole Trail, St. Francis Trail, and Yearling Trail.

Bicyclists can travel along a challenging 22-mile (35.4 km) long ride on the Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail. Because this trail is not paved, bicycles need to be suited for rough terrain. Mountain bikes are ideal.

The Ocala National Forest offers many locations to ride Off Road Vehicles. Currently, two trail systems offer a variety of recreation experiences: (1) the Ocala North OHV Trail System offers a longer experience with six distinct trail loops totaling 125 miles (201 km) and (2) the Wandering Wiregrass OHV Trail in the Southeast portion of the forest offers shorter day-use riding with a trail length of 17 miles (27 km). A new trail system was added in 2008 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the forest. It is part of the south trail system off FR 573.. A small trail (20 miles) called the Scrubjay and a longer trail (42 miles) called the Centennial may be accessed from trailheads off FR 573, SR 40 and the Big Scrub Campgraound. There are areas that are restricted to off road vehicles; a detailed forest map can help provide information on areas open to off road vehicles.

There are many trails for horseback riding in the forest. Forest riding trails are actually old roads six to eight feet wide, marked at intervals with painted spots – called blazes – on the trees. Some of the best trails include the One Hundred Mile trail and the LAM trail.

The Ocala National Forest is a wildlife management area, in which hunting and fishing activities are managed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. A permit is required for all hunters (except those indicated as exempt) to hunt in this area. A Quota Hunt Permit may also be required during certain time periods or certain game.

Lakes

The following is a list of lakes in or on the border of the forest:

Campsites

  • Salt Springs - within in the town of Salt Springs.
  • Big Bass Lake – southernmost campsite in the forest, known as a halfway mark between Weirsdale and Altoona
  • Big Scrub – two miles (3 km) northeast of Doe Lake campsite, nearest town is Moss Bluff
  • Buck Lake – three miles (5 km) north of Altoona, six miles (10 km) north of Umatilla; located about 100 feet (30 m) above sea level, where State Road 19 and Lake County road 445 meet.
  • Alexander Springs – about four miles (6 km) northeast of Buck Lake, close to Route 445, ten miles (16 km) southwest of Astor
  • Halfmoon Lake – named after nearby Halfmoon Lake.
  • Lake Delancy – northernmost major campsite, three miles (5 km) east of Rodman Reservoir, 10 miles (16 km) southeast of Orange Springs
  • Camp La-No-Che – a 1,400-acre (5.7 km2) Boy Scout camp located on the south side of the forest in the town of Paisley

See also

References

External links

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Travel guide

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikitravel

North America : United States of America : Florida : Ocala National Forest

Ocala National Forest[1] is located in Lake, Marion, and Putnam Counties, in the State of Florida of the United States of America.

Understand

Ocala National Forest is one of Central Florida's last remaining traces of forested land. The Ocala National Forest is the oldest national forest east of the Mississippi and contains the largest forest of sand pines in the world. The sand pine is the only tree capable of growing to a usable timber size in this forest's dry, sandy soil.

  • Ocala National Forest, Seminole Ranger District, 40929 State Route 19, Umatilla, Florida 32784, Phone: (352) 669-3153.

Fees/Permits

$50 for day-use recreation activities at Lake Dorr, Farles Lake, Mill Dam and Fore Lake. It is also valid for boat ramp use at Lake Dorr, Farles Lake, Mill Dam and Lake Eaton. 50% discount with possession of Golden Age Passport or Golden Access Passport.

$40 for day-use recreation activities at Juniper Springs, Silver Glen Springs, Wildcat Lake, Alexander Springs and Clearwater Lake Recreation Areas ONLY, and is non-transferable.

$25 The Spring Hopper Pass for day-use recreation activities at Juniper Springs, Silver Glen Springs, Wildcat Lake, Clearwater Lake and Alexander Springs Recreation Areas ONLY. This pass is valid for a maximum of 4 persons in one vehicle for a two-day period.

  • A $26.50 Wildlife Management Area Permit is required for all hunters, except those indicated as exempt.
  • Campers looking for swimming, and picnicking should go to Salt, Alexander, and Juniper Springs.
  • At Silver Glen Springs Recreation Area, the Lake George Trail begins a two mile journey, transversing the shoreline of the lake and ends at a scenic location overlooking a rustic pier and boathouse. A wide variety of wildlife, plants and trees can be seen along the trail.
  • Alexander Springs Recreation Area, where 80 million gallons of water per day gush from the spring at a year-round temperature of 72 degrees is at the north end of the Paisley Woods Bicycle Trail. The trail, developed by the Lake County Bicycle and Pedestrian Program and Florida Free-Wheelers, Inc. in cooperation with the Forest, is 22 miles long, but shorter loops can be accessed at the halfway point.

Sleep

Camping

Buck Lake and Farles Lake are closed ! Due to people not paying the $5.00 camping fee ! They were closed on 05 Jan 2009

The forest contains 12 major campsites, some with cabins. You may make reservations online or by telephone, toll free: 877 444-6777.

  • Alexander Springs campsite is about four miles northeast of Buck Lake. It is close to Route 445, ten miles southwest of Astor.
  • Big Bass Lake campsite is the southernmost campsite in the forest. It is known as a halfway mark between Weirsdale and Altoona.
  • Big Scrub campsite is two miles northeast of the Doe Lake campsite. The nearest town to this campsite is Moss Bluff.
  • Buck Lake campsite is located about 100 feet above sea level, and is where State Road 19 and Lake County road 445 meet. The campsite is three miles to the north of Altoona, and six miles north of Umatilla.
  • Camp La-No-Che is a 1400 acre (5.7 sq km) Boy Scout camp located on the south side of the forest in the town of Paisley.
  • Clearwater Lake campsite was named after Clearwater Lake, which is close to the campsite. The nearest town to this campsite is Paisley. It is also the easternmost major campsite forest. This campsite is also close to the Lake Woodruff National Wildlife Refuge.
  • The Doe Lake campsite is the closest major campground to Lake Weir. This campsite is in the west of the forest, five miles east of Lake Weir. The campsite lies right by the Ocklawaha River.
  • Grassy Pond campsite
  • Halfmoon Lake campsite is named after the nearby Halfmoon Lake.
  • Hopkins' Prairie campsite
  • Juniper Springs, the campsite in which is practically the center of the Ocala National Forest this campsite lies near the junction of State Road 19 and State Road 40.
  • Lake Delancy campsite is the northernmost major campsite in the forest. It is three miles east of Rodman Reservoir. The campsite is 10 miles southeast of Orange Springs.
  • Silver River campsite

Backcountry

Leave-no-trace camping (pack in/pack out) is available for tents only.

Stay safe

Bears and alligators exist in the area. Approach neither.

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