Manager's Message

a man in protective gear stand sin front of a prescribed fire with a drip torch

Kevin Patton, Park Manager

Gold Head Branch State Park is one of Florida's oldest state parks. Gold Head was developed and constructed in the 1930s by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps). If you are interested in the Great Depression Area New Deal architecture, Gold Head is the place to visit. The majority of the park facilities were built during this era.

The park consists of over 2,000 acres of sand hill community with several clearwater lakes. Water levels are at a five-year high thanks to Hurricane Irma recharging the water table. The park swimming area in Little Lake Johnson is open for business so come out and enjoy the water and the sun. The pan fish populations have exploded due to this higher water. If you enjoy fishing it is fairly easy to catch blue gill bream in Little Lake Johnson. These can be caught from a small area of bank near our swimming area or you can rent one of the park's canoes and fish for them throughout the lake. This can be great fun for all of the family and provide for lunch later.

If you are into birding, the park has a great variety of birds including American bald eagles, Eastern and Osceola wild turkeys. In the evenings, hundreds of wood ducks as well as good numbers of black-bellied whistling ducks fly into the area lakes and ponds to roost. The first real cold front in September usually kicks off the fall migration of the Neo-Tropical migrants. These small birds come through the area feeding on their way to their wintering grounds in Central and South America. Some migrants island hop through the Caribbean and others fly all the way across the Gulf of Mexico. They then return through this area in April.

Sandhill community naturally burns every one or two years. We use prescribed fire to mimic the natural process in our parks. Through many years of managing natural lands, we have learned that most natural fires occurred during the growing season April through June. Species such as wire grass will only produce viable seed when it is burned during this time of year. When you mimic this natural process in the park, you get a much higher diversity of plant and animal life. Many of our threatened and endangered species such as the American kestrel and red-cockaded woodpecker are totally dependent on this natural process for their proliferation and survival. We have burned over a thousand acres this year, the result of this will be habitat improvement for all of our species including the rare and endangered.

Gold Head has many miles of hiking trails including seven miles of equestrian trails and five miles of the Florida Trail. Some of our hiking trails run down through the ravine system. The drastic habitat change from the ravine system to the open sand hill provides for a unique hiking experience.

The park's cabins and campgrounds can be busy anytime of the year, so if you plan on staying overnight at the park, please plan well ahead of time by making your reservations through Reserve America online or by phone at 1-800-326-3521.

Please come visit us at Gold Head and enjoy natural beauty and a multitude of recreational opportunities.