Oakmulgee Ranger District

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General Information

The 157,000 acre Talladega National Forest, Oakmulgee District is located in the Fall Line Hills of the Eastern Gulf Coastal Plain Physiographic Region.  Dissected by the Cahaba River, the Oakmulgee, and its bottomlands, generally run east to west, and to the south is the Black Belt Prairie region.  The vegetation is similar to Upper Coastal Plains with steep slopes more reminiscent of the Appalachian Plateau.

The longleaf of the Oakmulgee represents Alabama’s largest contiguous longleaf forest.  It is also among the most unique ecosystem as it is a remnant ecosystem cut off from any current similar land cover types for sharing flora and fauna species or their genetic and reproductive characteristics. Soil types, vegetation, topography, and historical land use patterns have created a mosaic of habitats often contradictory including hardwood species on slopes and pine species in mesic drainages.  

Payne Lake Recreation Area

The Payne Lake Recreation Area is located on the western most portion of the Oakmulgee District, just off Alabama Highway 25.  Payne Lake is a 110 acre lake surrounded by camping and day use areas offering outdoor enthusiasts solitude, a scenic view across the lake and picturesque campsites.  Payne Lake is open year long. 

The Westside Camping Area conveniently offers 7 camp sites to accommodate modern recreational vehicles. These sites have water and electric hook ups and 20 sites with water hook ups only. There is a bath house with showers and a pavilion available to campers.  A dump station is available near the entrance to the area. 

 The Eastside Camping Area and Nature Trail are currently closed.

Payne Lake offers the perfect base camp to launch your hunting trip to the nearby Oakmulgee Wildlife Management Area.  You can also take a long walk through open longleaf forest leaving from your campsite or the day use parking area.   Early risers may hear the bald eagles nesting nearby coming by for a fish breakfast.

The Day Use areas include a swimming area and nearby bathhouse; a pavilion and several picnic tables.  Fishing is available from the bank as well as from boats launched from the boat ramp (Electric motors only – gasoline motors may be attached but must be tilted up).

For detailed information on hunting in the National Forests in Alabama and Alabama’s Wildlife Management areas, please visit the Official Web site of Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.

You will find additional information in the Recreation Activities section.

Motor Vehicle Use - Have questions about motorized vehicles in the National Forests in Alabama?  Know Before You Go...Travel Tips Q&A

Primitive Camps

See the Forest from a different angle as you walk the one and one-half mile nature trail along Payne Lake. The trail offers a view of the wetlands and a chance to see the area's waterfowl.

If you're looking for a true camping experience, then you're looking for primitive camping. The Oakmulgee offers 8 primitive camping areas nestled in the forest. These areas are mowed once a year and have sufficient room between trees to pull in a horse trailer or a small camper.  There areas are available for year-round primitive camping or staging a horse-back ride on the nearby forest roads. There are no tent pads available in these areas.  Campers are urged to be careful with campfires, use a pack it in and pack out method with their trash, and always adhere to Smokey's message to make sure fires are dead out.


The Payne Lake Nature Trail is currently Closed. However there are miles and miles of forest roads and paths through the forest that provide a great walk in the woods.  Learn to navigate the longleaf ridges to visit nesting red-cockaded woodpeckers. Visit the photographer’s platform and watch nesting bald eagles.  Contact the District office for ideas and suggestions based on the time of year and season. 

ORV / ATV Trails

Licensed off-road vehicles (ORV) are permitted on all national forest roads that are open for public travel. Vehicle drivers must be licensed and conform to all State laws. Unlicensed ORV's are permitted only on designated trails. Information regarding ORV trails can be obtained from any local district office.

Recreation Brochures

Talladega NF

Oakmulgee Ranger District


The lands that make up the Talladega National Forest, Oakmulgee Ranger District were first settled in the early 1800’s.   At that time the area’s native longleaf pine was cleared for agricultural purposes and the timber shipped to support this nation’s industrial revolution.  The financial crisis of the Great Depression left many of these timber companies bankrupt and the Oakmulgee Purchase Unit was created in 1935.  At the time these lands were purchased by the United States government, they were about 60% cut over. 

Today these lands support Alabama’s largest population of red-cockaded woodpeckers, an endemic species of the native longleaf forest.  Restoring these lands to longleaf has been a focus of the Oakmulgee District since the mid-1980s.  The Forest Service and partners have restored over 30,000 acres of previously cleared lands back to the native longleaf.