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Gold Head Branch, for which the park is named, sparkles clearly in the sun. (Photo by Al Tong) This original CCC cabin on Little Lake Johnson is one of nine built in the 1930s, and is still in use today. A Dutch oven heaped with coals sits by a roaring campfire. The swimming area of Little Lake Johnson sits at the foot of this shady hill.
Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park
This 1940s black and white image shows the CCC-built bathhouse and the swimming area at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park.

History and Culture

One of Florida's first state parks, Gold Head Branch became part of the Florida state park system in 1935. The property was donated by Mike Roess and developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC was launched in 1933 under President Franklin D. Roosevelt to combat unemployment during the Depression. In 1935, twenty-five seasoned craftsmen from Company 2444 were sent to the Gold Head site where they were joined by hundreds of CCC youth and established Camp SP-5. Together they planted trees, cleared areas for campsites, built roads and constructed many of the buildings still in use today at the park. The state park was officially dedicated on April 15, 1939.

This Civilian Conservation Corps Camp was located at Gold Head Branch State Park.

CCC Camp

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was created in 1933 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to aid young men who were unemployed during the Great Depression. In Florida, CCC enrollees were instrumental in developing the first eight parks in the Florida Park Service. Gold Head Branch State Park was one of those original eight parks, and many of the CCC buildings are still standing, welcoming visitors more than 70 years later.

This plan outlined the CCC projects at Gold Head Branch State Park.

Project Plan

Looking around Gold Head Branch State Park, it is easy to spot the rugged buildings constructed by the CCC more than 70 years ago. These structures have stood the test of time and continue to serve the public today. Visitors still sleep in the nine rustic cabins facing Lake Johnson and they still prepare for a swim in the old bathhouse. And, more than 70 years later, the Ranger Station still welcomes folks to visit and spend some time in Florida's natural beauty.

The group picnic pavilion is packed with visitors on opening day, April 15, 1935.

Picnic Pavilion, 1939

The official opening of Gold Head Branch State Park on Saturday, April 15, 1939, brought hundreds of curious visitors to the park. With the growing affordability of automobiles during the late 1920s and 1930s and the increasing popularity of Florida as a vacation destination, parks became a desirable amenity for local residents and out-of-town guests.

Park visitors relax at Lake Johnson on opening day.

Lake Johnson, 1939

Parks have the ability to make people relax, even in the midst of large crowds, as this photograph taken on opening day can attest. People are strolling, lounging, wading, canoeing and admiring the view of Lake Johnson, much as they do today.

The bathhouse sits atop a grassy terrace while brick steps  lead to the lake shore.

Bathhouse Terrace

In addition to the building of many impressive structures of the park, the CCC workers built roads, pathways, cleared land and landscaped many areas of the park. This work was back-breaking and sometimes technically difficult, as was the case with constructing the terraces that support several structures in the park. This view of the bathhouse shows the terrace and steps leading to the lake shore.