Located just south of Tallahassee, the Apalachicola National Forest is Florida's largest National Forest, spanning 571,088 acres. It is a place of botanical splendor, with virgin stands of pines and cypress, vast pitcher plant savannas, and extensive forests of longleaf pine crucial for survival of the red-cockaded woodpecker.
The Apalachicola National Forest includes six watersheds and more than 2,500 acres of water, encompassing the Apalachicola River, New River, Ochlockonee, Sopchoppy, Lost Creek, and Wakulla River basins. A steady flow of fresh water from upland areas feeds the productive coastal nurseries of Apalachicola Bay and Ochlockonee Bay, both known for their shellfish and commercial seafood operations.
Outdoor recreation in the forest includes a wide spectrum of activities, from kayaking and canoeing the waterways to mountain biking, horseback riding, hunting and fishing, ATV and motorbike riding, backpacking, and some of the best birding and botanical study in Florida.
Proclaimed a National Forest in 1936, the Apalachicola National Forest is the largest forest in Florida at 571,088 acres, which includes 2,735 acres of water.
Six watersheds within the Apalachicola provide an abundance of fresh water streams, rivers, lakes, and natural springs.
In addition to numerous recreation opportunities on our waterways and trails - including 67 linear miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail - the forest offers other attractions such as Leon Sinks, an unusual geological area of caverns and sinkholes, and the Apalachee Savannas, with its stunning displays of wildflowers in open prairies near the Apalachicola River.
For history buffs, a visit to Fort Gadsden, an outpost along the Apalachicola River dating back to the War of 1812, is a must. Although the fort vanished more than a century ago, interpretive information and artifacts present the colorful history of this strategic location along the Apalachicola River.
Located in Florida's Panhandle, southwest of Tallahassee, the Apalachicola National Forest is well-known for its spectacular botanical diversity, including colorful pitcher plant prairies and one of the last extensive longleaf pine and wiregrass communities still in existence. Two wilderness areas will give you an idea what Florida looked like before "civilization" arrived.
Apalachicola National Forest contains two Wilderness Areas: Bradwell Bay Wilderness Area and Mud Swamp/New River Wilderness. There area also several special purpose areas: Camel Lake Recreation Area, Fort Gadsden Historical Site, Leon Sinks Geological Area, Silver Lake Recreation Area, and Wright Lake Recreation Area. In descending order of forest land area it is located in parts of Liberty, Wakulla, Leon, and Franklin counties. The forest is headquartered in Tallahassee, as are all three National Forests in Florida, but there are local Forest ranger district offices located in Bristol and Crawfordville.
Hunting and fishing are monitored and governed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). The national forest itself is a wildlife management area. The FWC divides the management area into sections that allow dog hunting, still hunting, and private property. Modern gun season for large game starts Thanksgiving weekend and ends in January.
The Apalachicola National Forest is in the southeastern conifer forests ecoregion. Areas of the national forest with dry, sandy soils support Florida longleaf pine sandhills and east Gulf coastal plain near-coast pine flatwoods. Sandhills are woodlands dominated by longleaf pine (Pinus palustris). Pine flatwoods are forests and woodlands on broad, sandy flatlands. Both of these pine communities are sustained by frequent fires.
Near the floodplains of spring-fed rivers grow southern coastal plain hydric hammocks, dense forests of evergreen and deciduous hardwood trees. Blackwater rivers support southern coastal plain blackwater river floodplain forests of baldcypress along their banks. Major rivers support diverse east Gulf coastal plain large river floodplain forests
The National Forest is also home to several wetland plant communities. Southern coastal plain nonriverine basin swamps are large, seasonally flooded depressions of bald cypress and swamp tupelo . East Gulf coastal plain savannas and wet prairies are low, flat plains covered in grasses and sedges, which are seasonally flooded and maintained by frequent fires. Southern coastal plain nonriverine cypress domes are small wetlands of pond cypress notable for their dome-shaped appearance.