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One of Florida's first state parks, Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park was developed on a 2,000-acre site by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the 1930s. The extraordinary craftsmanship of the CCC is still evident today. Located on rolling sandhills in an area known as the central ridge of Florida, a deep ravine with springs issuing from its sides bisects the area and forms Gold Head Branch. Marshes, lakes and scrub provide a habitat for a wide variety of wildlife.
Visitors to the park can enjoy hiking and wildlife viewing along the park's nature trails and a 5.44-mile stretch of the Florida National Scenic Trail. For aquatic recreation, visitors can swim or fish in the lake, or spend a lazy afternoon canoeing. A large picnic area, with tables and grills, pavilions and a playground are available for visitors to enjoy. Nestled under the trees are 3 full-facility campgrounds. Primitive campsites for small or large groups are available as are fully equipped lakefront vacation cabins, some of which were built by the CCC.
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History and Culture
One of Florida's first state parks, Gold Head Branch became part of the Florida state park system in 1935. The initial property was donated by Martin J. "Mike" Roess (pronounced "Race") 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. For years the park was simply known as "Gold Head Branch", until 1966 when the Florida Board of Parks and Historical Monuments changed the name to honor the late Mike Roess. He died in 1952.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Getting Involved Opportunities:
Gold Head Associates, Inc. is the citizens support organization (CSO) for this park. They hold fundraising events and have monthly meetings on the 3rd Tuesday of each month. For more information, send an email to the CSO president. Address physical correspondence to:
Gold Head Associates, Inc.
6239 State Road 21
Keystone Heights, FL 32656
Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park is open from 8:00 a.m. until sundown, 365 days a year.
$5.00 per vehicle, up to 8 passengers per vehicle
$4.00 per single-occupant vehicle, and motorcycles.
$2.00 per pedestrian, bicyclist, and extra passengers in excess of 8.
Full-Facility Camping Fee:
$20.00 per night, plus tax, plus a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee. Includes water and electricity. Maximum of eight people per campsite.
Vacation Cabin Fees:
There is a two-night minimum for cabin rentals on weekends.
$65.00 per night, plus tax, plus a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee. Historic cabins, up to four people.
$75.00 per night, plus tax, plus a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee. Block cabins, up to six people.
$100.00 per night, plus tax, plus a non-refundable $6.70 reservation fee. Modern cabins, up to six people.
Primitive Camping Fee:
$5.00/person per night, up to six people per site.
Primitive Group Camping Fee:
There are three camp sites that accommodate groups up to 25 people each.
$5.00 per person, per night for adults and chaperones 18 years and older.
$1.00 per person, per night for youth 17 years and younger.
Picnic Pavilion Fee:
$35.00 per day, plus tax, small pavilions.
$45.00 per day, plus tax, medium pavilions.
$70.00 per day, plus tax, large pavilions.
$125.00 per day, plus tax.
$4.00 per hour, plus tax, per canoe.
$10.00 per four hours, plus tax, per canoe.
$20.00 per eight hours, plus tax, per canoe.