Special Places

Highlighted Areas

Prospect Bluff Historic Sites

This area is currently closed due to impacts from Hurricane Michael.

The site of two successive forts, the first built during the War of 1812 by the British, and of the tragic massacre of more than 300 African-Americans who held the fort under the British flag in 1816, Prospect Bluff played an important role in Florida history. Located along the Apalachicola River, this interpretive area offers detailed information about the site and its history along with trails, river access and a picnic area.

Built during the War of 1812, the British Fort was placed in a strategic spot along the Apalachicola River, which was the "highway for commerce" in those pre-road, pre-railroad days.

On July 27, 1816, U.S. Navy forces led by Colonel Duncan Clinch fired on what was then called "The Negro Fort." One of the early shots from the ship's guns landed on a ammunition shed inside the fort, resulting in a massive explosion which left only 33 survivors to tell the tale.

In 1818, Lt. James Gadsden oversaw construction of a new fort on the site as a U.S. fort in the heart of Spanish territory, under the auspices of Major General Andrew Jackson. This fort, Fort Gadsden, remained in use until 1821, when Florida became a U.S. Territory.

Detailed interpretive information in the form of kiosks and signage lead you through the site of both forts and the cemetery where the victims from 1816 are buried.

Interested in learning more of the story? Here's an interpretive brochure.

Apalachee Savannahs Scenic Byway

The Apalachicola Savannahs, home to the Apalachee Savannahs Scenic Byway, are sub-tropical grasslands scattered with longleaf pine trees and covered with drought-resistant undergrowth. It’s an open landscape where wiregrass, or sometimes palmetto, covers the forest floor. Swamps and savannahs are commonly interspersed with the longleaf community. Much of the soil here is sandy and often wet. Wildflowers such as orchids, pitcher plants and sundews flourish. These savannahs are some of the most botanically rich areas in the country. Do you know that Florida has about 3,500 species of wildflowers?

The byway begins 9 miles south of Bristol on State Road 12. From State Road 12, turn onto State Road 379 heading south to the town of Sumatra. Travel through the flat-to-gently rolling terrain. Stop and explore bays of magnolia and cypress, groves of oaks, or stands of longleaf pine that thrive in the sandhills and flatwoods. History buffs enjoy visiting Fort Gadsden Historic Site near the southern end of the byway.

The byway is ecologically important as a showcase for one of the largest remaining blocks of natural longleaf pine/wiregrass communities in existence. Longleaf forest surrounded with lush wiregrass once stretched from Virginia through Florida and west to Texas. Today, only enough longleaf forests remain to fill an area the size of Virginia, much of it right here in north Florida.

Endangered red-cockaded woodpeckers, fox squirrels, black bears, bobcats, wild turkeys, gray foxes, raccoons and alligators are at home in the diversified ecosystems of the Apalachee Savannahs Scenic Byway. Search for sights and sounds and enjoy the beauty of the savannahs. Take Only Pictures, Leave Only Footprints.

Apalachicola River

Forming the western boundary of the forest, the Apalachicola is a wide, sinuous river rolling down to Apalachicola Bay. This river has the highest diversity of freshwater fish species in the state, leading to some of the best fishing in Florida's Panhandle. The numerous creeks and tributaries feeding into the Apalachicola offer scenic runs with deep, quiet pools.

Bradwell Bay Wilderness

A swamp thick with titi trees, distinguished by their leathery leaves and fragrant white flowers, dominates the second largest Wilderness in Florida. Here, you'll also find a swampland of hardwoods or pine-titi mixtures and small ponds that are either open or covered with aquatic plants.

The climate is subtropical, and rainfall averages 55 inches per year. Summers are hot and sticky with humidity, but temperatures have been known to drop into the teens come winter. Bradwell Bay's low areas are generally submerged beneath one to four inches of standing water. The water table lies close to, if not above, ground surface over most of this flat Wilderness. Drier islands of longleaf pine and wire grass border parts of the swamp. White-tailed deer, black bears and alligators top the food chain.

With sufficient rainfall, canoeists can run the Sopchoppy River, which defines the eastern edge of the area. Hikers can follow old logging roadbeds or take the east-west Florida National Scenic Trail through Bradwell Bay. Truth is, however, that hikers who opt to use the well-marked trail typically end up wading through sections of waist-deep water.

Mud Swamp/New River Wilderness

Florida doesn't get any more remote than this: no trails, no old roads, no people. Most of the area is Mud Swamp, a region of very poorly drained clay-rich soil that holds more water than nearby Bradwell Bay Wilderness. Barely peeking above the standing water are many small, isolated islands. Heavy rainfall, especially in summer, combines with heat and humidity to provide the ideal environment for biting insects. In addition to hungry pests, this area houses hungry black bears and hungry alligators. Hiking can be perilous.

The New River, by contrast, is lined with beautiful Atlantic white cedar. It enters from the north and flows through the cypress and gum swamps, relatively thin in understory, that dominate the Wilderness. Most visitors put in canoes at Carr Bridge and paddle down about six miles to old Magnolia Landing (not marked on newer maps). The route, a twisting waterway with numerous channels, is too challenging for novices.