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.  


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Payne Lake Recreation Area

The Payne Lake Recreation Area is located on the western most portion of the Talladega National Forest, Oakmulgee Ranger District, just off Alabama Highway 25.  The beautiful 110-acre lake is 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-round to provide camping and day use recreation opportunities.

Payne Lake offers access to 26 camp sites on a first come first served basis. Our camp sites are located between two camping loops known as the Westside Camping Area and the Eastside Camping Area. So no matter your style of camping, primitive tent camping or modern RV, Payne Lake has a camping spot that fits your desire.

The Eastside Camping Area currently offers 8 camp sites and is the perfect place if you are seeking solitude. These campsites are designed to be primitive in nature. There is no electric or water hookups available in this location; however access to water will be available from a shared common location. The sites are small, but can easily accommodate tents and small travel trailers.

The Westside Camping Area conveniently offers 18 camp sites to accommodate modern recreational vehicles or tents. All 18 camp sites have water hook ups available. Seven of the camp site have both electrical and water hook ups.

There is a bath house with showers and a pavilion available to campers.  A dump station is available near the entrance to the area. 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 Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources website at www.outdooralabama.com.

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

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.

Recreation Brochures


PLEASE NOTE: Purchase Maps and Passes in person at one of our Forest Service District Offices. Please locate an office closest to you.

Supervisor's Office-2946 Chestnut ST, Montgomery, AL (334-832-4470) Monday-Friday 7:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m. 

  • Bankhead National Forest - 1070 Highway 33, Double Springs, AL (205-489-5111)
  • Conecuh National Forest - 24481 Alabama Hwy 55, Andalusia, AL (334-222-2555)
  • Talladega National Forest - Oakmulgee District, 9901 Highway 5, Brent, AL (205-926-9765)
  • Talladega National Forest -Shoal Creek District, 45 Highway 281, Heflin, AL (256-463-2272)
  • Talladega National Forest–Talladega District, 1001 North St. (Hwy 21 North), Talladega, AL(256-362-2909)
  • Tuskegee National Forest, 125 National Forest Road 949, Tuskegee, Alabama (334-727-2652)

*National Forests in Alabama Maps can also be purchased online at The National Forest Store or call 971-263-3149.

Need a Mobile Map? Get the App! Keyword - National Forests in Alabama. Category - Parks, Forests and Grasslands

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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.  

Oakmulgee Historic Information