Blackwater River State Park is located at 7720 Deaton Bridge Road, off US90 in Milton on the Florida panhandle. The park opened to the public in 1968 with 360 acres and today has grown to 600 acres. The Blackwater River runs through the park providing hours of enjoyment for canoeists, kayakers, fishermen and swimmers.
One Of The Purest Sand Bottoms
The river has one of the purest sand-bottoms in the United States. The sandy bottom contrasts with the dark tannic water and gives the river its name. The river flows through swampy waters and wetlands. In these areas as vegetation decays tannins leach into the water creating a transparent, acidic water that is darkly stained and looks like tea.
Upon entering the park you come upon the ranger station. It costs $4 to enter the park. If there is no one at the booth you can use the self-pay station located just outside the booth. It’s also where you can get some informational pamphlets including a park map.
Parking Lot Is Straight Ahead
Once you’ve paid, you drive straight in towards the parking lot. This park has a campground with two small loops. For this article, we will continue past the campground entrance and will wind up in the parking lot. We will cover and review the campground in a separate article.
The parking lot is oval-shaped and features some really long spots designated for RV’s. You could use these spots to park your rig for the day or even stay for the night for a small additional fee. If there is no one at the booth to talk to you can call the number on the sign for more information. They will give you all the information needed over the phone. These spots are set up for parking only and have no hookups.
Boardwalk Style Paths
From the parking lot, there is a walkway that leads to a couple of sets of covered pavilions, bathhouses, beach access, and a hiking trail. These amenities are all interconnected by either paved or boardwalk style paths.
There are three covered pavilions but one was closed for repairs on both of our visits to this park. The covered pavilions can be rented for the day and each feature picnic tables, benches and BBQs. They are situated near the river and we noted that the one pavilion that was under repair had the best view of the river.
Catch Some Sun And Relax
In between the pavilions are two bathhouses. They were extremely clean. The boardwalk trail system that connects the pavilions and bathrooms also will take you onto the beach. The beach is not lifeguard protected. It sits along the Blackwater River. It makes for a great place to set up a chair, catch some sun, and just plain relax.
The last offshoot of the boardwalk network is a hiking trail called the Juniper Lake Nature Trail. This trail takes you along the river and weaves throughout the landscape. At one point you can circle back around and head back towards the pavilions making it a nice loop. If you continue straight you will head into the campground area.
This takes care of this section of the park so back to the parking lot we go. By the way, if you like to Geocache, there is one in the parking lot area…just saying.
Exiting The Park
If you have finished walking the Juniper Lake Nature Trail, enjoyed a meal or snack at one of the covered pavilions, and/or spent some time on the beach and you’re ready for more hiking, you will have to get into your car (you could walk but it’s easier in a vehicle) and head for the exit.
You will make a left out of the park. Within a quarter-mile, you will see a small bridge that spans the Blackwater River. There are parking lots on both sides of this bridge. Each parking lot has a hiking trail associated with it. The entrance fee you paid in the main area covers the fee for these parking lots. Just be sure to display your tag. Consequently, if you came to one of these parking lots first and paid your $4 fee there, that tag is also good for entry into the main park.
The Blackwater Trail
The parking lot on the same side of the bridge as the main park entrance has a canoe/kayak launch point and the entrance to the Blackwater Trail. This trail is a three-quarter mile easy in/easy out and back trail that connects to a much longer trail called the Florida/Juniper Creek Trail. The Florida/Juniper Creek Trail is not part of the state park and is way too ambitious for us…lol. The Blackwater Trail is a nice trail to just stroll along and enjoy the area vegetation.
Once you’re out of the trail and back in the parking lot you can walk across the bridge to the other trail. There is a separate walking path on the bridge so you don’t have to dodge traffic. Once across the bridge, you will see the other parking lot you could have parked in that’s included in your park entry fee. The hiking trail is on the other side of the road so be careful crossing. Thankfully the road is not all that busy.
Chain Of Lakes Trail
This trail is called the Chain of Lakes Trail and it is a one and one-half mile loop. It is designated a loop trail (well sometimes) and was our favorite trail. Half of this trail follows along the Blackwater River with access paths to the beach and the other half takes you away from the river into a mixture of tall pine trees and cool vegetation.
While walking on the part of the trail that is closest to the river we met a couple who said they saw (and we just missed seeing) a river otter. We hung around the area for a bit longer but the little guy never showed himself again.
The one downside of this hike was that the trail dipped down in one section and because of the heavy rains we had the day before it was completely flooded and impassable. We wound up having to go back the way we came and then enter the trail from the other side. To do this we had to walk up the road about 100 yards or so. There was a sign marking the entrance.
Blocked Due To Flooding
This portion of the trail had tall pine trees and cool vegetation. It began as a wide-open area and as we walked the trail got more narrow with more vegetation closer to the trail. The changing landscape was impressive and lead us to the flooded area we encountered earlier. We realized we could go no further due to the flooding on the trail and turned around and headed back. Even though the one section was flooded and we had to go in and back twice it was worth it. The flooded section was only a small area so we were able to enjoy most of the trail.
Each parking lot at the trailheads have covered picnic tables and bbq grills.
The Blackwater River State Park is an excellent place to either spend the day with your family or by yourself. It features hiking, picnic areas, and a beach. If you Geocache, you might even find one or two there…hint, hint, hint…lol. We would definitely recommend this park to anyone who is looking to spend the day outdoors. For $4 it’s a no-brainer.
Date Of Visit: 11/1/19 & 1/4/2020
Cost: $4 per Day
Pet Policy: Allowed but must be on a leash. Not Allowed on the beach.