Exploring Northwest Florida
Exploring Northwest Florida
These days it’s hard to find any place that is truly pristine, but Bald Point State Park on the eastern end of Franklin County is definitely both of those.
With over 4800 acres of coastal wilderness, freshwater ponds, and tidal marshes, the park offers some of the most picturesque scenery on the Florida gulf coast, so be sure and bring your camera.
Ecologically diverse and historically significant, this day-use Florida state park was the location for both an ancient Native American settlement and for amphibious landing training during World War II. It has also been a place for commercial fishing activity and turpentine production.
Long before the Spanish Explorers arrived in the 1500s, humans inhabited the Bald Point area. Archaeologists have determined that Native Americans were here between 2000-1000 B.C. and evidence of hunting, fishing, and collecting of clams and oysters show these ancient people had permanent settlements.
Flash forward to the 18th and 19th centuries and you’ll find that fishermen established seineyards here with primitive campsites that included racks to hang, dry and repair their nets. Sunday Reel overlook is named for a seineyard which existed there. During the 19th and 20th centuries, turpentine was a major industry in Northwest Florida. Hikers can often find large pine trees carved with the distinctive “cat face” scars that allowed the pine sap to flow into buckets attached below.
Throughout World War II, the area was part of Camp Gordon Johnston and was used as a training facility for soldiers preparing to land in France on D-Day. Heat, bugs and inclement weather made training both difficult and real. There are even accounts of amphibious landing vehicles hitting sand bars and throwing men overboard where the weight of their gear caused them to drown.
In the 1950s and 1960s, before environmental impacts were known, the flat beaches were a perfect place to drive on the beach. Today the white sand beaches of Bald Point State Park are slowly receding and many of the thickly-vegetated dunes that act as buffers holding the delicate sand in place, have begun to erode. To help preserve the dunes, please don't walk on them. Stay on the boardwalks and dune crossovers.
Bald Point State Park is a day-use facility and closes at sundown, but you can get in a lot of sunning, swimming, hiking, and paddling before then. (Note, there are no camping facilities at the park, but you’ll find RV and tent camping at Holiday Campground in nearby Panacea and Ho-Hum RV Park in Carrabelle.)
Located at the confluence of Ochlockonee Bay and Apalachee Bay, the park is surrounded by water and is home to numerous lakes, ponds and creeks. The largest of these lakes is Tucker Lake, formerly accessible only by hiking trails and by paddling Chaires Creek, the lake can now be reach by a paved roadway into the heart of the park.
For swimming and picnicking, there are two beach accesses, the Sunrise Beach Access and the North Beach Access. Both locations have covered picnic tables, grills, outdoor showers, and restrooms. (Note, the Sunrise Beach Access has a portable potty.) There are no lifeguards present and pets are not allowed on the beaches.
At the end of Bald Point Road is a fishing pier, and fishing from the bridge over Chaires Creek off of Range Road is allowed, but surf-fishing is permissible all along the shoreline. Anglers can haul in a variety of saltwater fish including redfish, trout, flounder, whiting, and mackerel. You can also catch blue crabs and wade out to the oyster bars for some fresh seafood.
The park is excellent for birding and wildlife viewing, and hiking the inland trails and side roads is a great way to spot the local inhabitants. Over 230 animal species have been identified and bald eagles, osprey, and migrating falcons share the skies with egrets, gulls, and herons. There are also over 360 species of plants from common wildflowers to Godfrey’s Blazing Star, a rare and endangered flower confined to the coastal scrubs and sandhills of Wakulla and Franklin Counties
Paddlers can explore the bay, the tidal wonders of Chaires Creek, and Tucker Lake. To access the canoe and kayak launch, take the last dirt service road on the right off of Range Road, about 200 yards west of the Chaires Creek Bridge. The dirt parking area at the launch site can accommodate 12 vehicles during dry conditions. The launch area is a flat sandy area where you can unload canoes and kayaks near the water’s edge.
Remember when paddling, or hiking near the waterways, to watch out for alligators and don’t disturb them. Also be on the lookout for snakes, and be sure to have plenty of sunscreen and insect repellent. This is a wild and natural Florida state park, where the animals rule and humans are definitely guests.
Bald Point State Park
146 Box Cut Road
Alligator Point, Florida 32346
Hours of Operation:
The park is open from 8:00 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year.
The park is located on Alligator Point about five miles south of Panacea and 19 miles east of Carrabelle and about 45 miles east of Apalachicola. From U. S. Highway 98, turn onto State Road 370 and go about three quarters of a mile to Range Road, the new entrance to the Tucker Lake day-use area on the left, or stay on SR 370 for 3.8 miles and turn left onto Bald Point Road to reach the swimming beaches, hiking trails and picnic areas.
$4.00 per vehicle, up to eight people$2.00 for pedestrians, bicyclists, extra passengers, and passengers who have an Annual Individual Entrance PassPlease use the honor box to pay fees. Correct change is required.