Comprised of over 200,000 acres with 12 major natural community types, this glorious state forest in north Florida is best known for its large tracts of vast wetlands known as Tate’s hell.
The legend dates back to 1875 when Cebe Tate, armed with only a rifle and dog, chased a Florida panther that had been eating his livestock. Lost for seven days and nights, bitten by a poisonous snake and nearly mad with thirst and hunger, Cebe Tate finally arrived in a clearing near the town of Carrabelle, only to die. His last words were supposed to be “My name is Cebe Tate and I just came from HELL!” The area has been known as Tate’s Hell ever since.
Tate’s Hell is really no where near a hell, in fact its over 35 miles of rivers, streams and creeks offer recreational adventures in canoeing, fishing, kayaking and other boating opportunities. A concrete boat ramp is located at Cash Creek and other non paved ramps abound through the forest. It also contains the section 5 area of the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail, a kayak/canoe trail that traverses around the entire peninsula of Florida.
A number of primitive campsites, hiking trails and boat ramps dot the entire area from the most southern points on US 98 on the Gulf of Mexico to its eastern and western boarders on CR 65 and SR 319 making access easy on this Florida’s peninsula. Many sites are along river banks, making it the perfect place for kayak adventures to start/end. All sites are a bargain at $8 a night.
Tate’s Hell plays an important part in the function of the marshes in the upper bays of Apalachicola that serve as nursery areas for the panhandles shellfish industry. This predominant hydrologic feature was severally misused in the past, but thanks to current restoration efforts, it is on the rebound.
For more information on recreation, hours of operation and fees, call the Carrabelle office of the Division of Forestry at 850-697-3734.