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Trip report: April 2016

Blackwater Creek in Seminole State Forest...

Scenic and Secluded (Use Permit Required)

Blackwater Creek flows from Lake Norris (in Lake County) for about 20 miles to the Wekiva River. Here we report on a portion of the creek within the Seminole State Forest. Unlike nearby Wekiva State Park or Rock Springs Run, there are no crowds - a pristine and quiet area that is a great wilderness escape. A State Forest Use Permit with gate code is required for drive-in access (e-mailed after a phone call to State Forest Office, 352-360-6675). (Detailed map, photos below.) Note: A few miles upstream, the Creek becomes impassable. It opens up again just below the launch on Blackwater Creek at Lake Norris.

Blackwater Creek, Seminole State Forest

Distance: Varies, per water levels and downfall. 3-4 miles upstream, 8 miles downstream to take-out on St Johns at Highbanks Marina.
Location: Lake County
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Tidal: No
Launch points: Wekiva River Road in the Seminole State Forest (See map)
Nearby points of interest: Wekiva State Park and Wekiva River, Kelly Park and Rock Springs Run, Mt. Dora



Blackwater Creek and Seminole State Forest... Comments and Photos

The most popular trip here (about 8 miles) is downstream about 4.5 miles to the Wekiva River, and then another 3.5 miles to the takeout on the St. Johns River at Highbanks Marina. This route is maintained by the State Forest Service, but the first 4 miles (mostly dense forest) are always subject to newly downed trees. On this trip we wanted to end at our car, so we paddled upstream about 3.5 miles and then floated back, quiet and beautiful - we didn't want it to end.

This is a tannic water creek, too dark to see anything in the water. There are few people, so the wildlife remains wild. Birds flew away as we approached. We saw many alligators and turtles, but they slipped into the water before we could get a photo. On the other hand, we encountered something we don't recall ever seeing before on a Florida river or creek... not a single piece of trash!

Blackwater Creek - launch and downstream

We obtained a permit (with gate lock code) and entered the State Forest from the Bear Pond Trailhead off SR46 (remembering to lock it behind us). (Note: The same code also works from the Cassia Trailhead off SR44.) From Bear Pond it's about two miles on hard-packed forest road to the launch, on the left just after crossing the bridge over Blackwater Creek - easy on and off. This was a weekday and we were the only ones at the launch. (There is limited parking for about 4 to 5 cars. On an earlier weekend visit, there were two cars.) The launch area is shaded with a couple of picnic tables. No gasoline motors allowed!

Blackwater Creek - upstream from forest launch

Lots of tree canopy here. As you go upstream, paddling becomes more technical - increasingly more narrow, shallow and twisty. We encountered some downed trees making passage tricky, but no pull-overs! The trees were cut just enough. After about 3 miles upstream, the creek is about half as wide as it is at the launch and the depth is about two feet or less. With 12' sit-on-tops, this is the kind of water we really enjoy. We could see where trees were cut, but after a storm, don't count on not being blocked by downfall. We could have gone further upstream, but it was getting late, so we turned back to beat the bugs.

Birds and other signs of life

The forest includes many plant and animal natural communities, and endangered species such as the scrub jay and Florida black bear. Birdwatching is also popular, as this also is part of the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail.

Coming around a bend, we startled an alligator on the shore - big splash!
Didn't have time to get a photo, but here are the ripples.

About Seminole State Forest:

Seminole State Forest covers more than 27,000 acres plus 1,725 acres of sand pine scrub, an important ecosystem protected in the forest. Activities include camping, hiking, biking, paddling, horseback riding, hunting and fishing. The Wekiva River forms the forest's eastern border, Blackwater Creek flows through it, plus there are three springs (Palm, Mocassin and Shark's Tooth), and a 7.5 mile segment of the Florida Trail. Pay a per person day-use fee at the trailheads.

Related Resources:

Florida Forest Service - Seminole State Forest

Florida Forest Service - Seminole State Forest brochure (.pdf)

A special thanks to our State Forest Service employees and volunteers who work to keep both sections Blackwater Creek open.


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