DAYCATIONS are explorations of this incredible area we live in, ones where you can venture forth for no more than a day, and encounter nature, history, wildlife, water, lots of great things and places to just recognize and enjoy.
DAYCATION # 7 EXPLORING FLORIDA FISH AND WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREAS
Florida Fish and Wildlife has several wildlife management areas in our vicinity. No entrance fee is required to visit these incredible areas. In order to hunt or fish you must possess all the appropriate licenses and permits. Contact www.MyFWC.com/recreation for further information. Hickory Mound is a true mix of outdoor adventures. It indulges the birder, the fisherman, crabbing, paddlers, hunters and/or hikers. The best way to explore the land and water of Hickory Mound is to visit the impoundment. Wildflowers are abundant during the spring time, as are migratory birds. There are many creeks winding through the salt marshes, and Franklin Ponds has bass, catfish and sunfish ready for your rod and hook. You'll find the remains of stone quarries, fishing and hunting camps, villages, mounds and burials from Native American habitation are evident. During the early20th century, timber companies just about denuded the land of cypress trees on this area. You'll walk on the raised trams that were originally constructed to support the railroads that carried the huge cypress trees to the mills. Uplands were converted to pine plantations for pulpwood productions. In the 1960's, Buckeye Cellulose, enclosed 1800 acres of salt marsh and coastal forest with an earthen dike, and created a water-control system which created brackish water. Our state acquired the land in 1987 as part of the Big Bend Wildlife Management Area. Hickory Mound is one of five units of the WMA. It completed public ownership of a 200 mile strech of coast, keeping the vitality of coastal marshes and seagrass beds as one of the most extensive in North America.
In exploring this incredible resource, you can drive, bike, or walk the levee. You'll see the full range of north Florida wading birds. There is a viewing tower to help you locate and enjoy sightings of wildlife. By moving slowly over the netwook of the old logging trams, you'll encounter lots of wildlife. Enjoy the Bat House Trail, among others. Hickory Mound is a site on the Great Florida Birding and Wildlife Trail. There are unpaved roads that can be explored. Horseback riding is allowed on named and numbered roads. Boat ramps provide access to some great fishing. You can also fish in the area's abandoned limerock pits, such as Franklin Ponds, which is stocked. Platforms are available for crabbing and fishing along the impoundment area. Make sure you acquire the recreation guide, which has an excellent map, as you enter the area.
To get to Hickory Mound, travel east of town on U.S. Highway 98. After crossing over the Econfina River, you'll come to a limerock access road named Cow Creek Grade. You'll go six miles on this road to a check station where you'll secure information and a map. By going another two miles you'll arrive at the coastal impoundment.
For further information, contact www.floridafishandwildlife.com
TIDE SWAMP is another of the interesting wildlife management areas we are fortunate to have in our area. You can explore it, by heading east on Highway 27 (Appalachia Parkway), through Perry, where you'll hook up with US Hwy 19/98. Travel south about 4.5 miles and turn right on CR 361. You'll drive 22 miles to Hagen's Cove Road where you'll turn right. Visiting Dallus Creek requires you to continue six miles south, where you'll turn right on Dallus Creek Road. The brochure you'll pick up at the entrance has an excellent map of the area, along with lots of good information.
There are walking and cycling trails, you can do a driving tour, or explore the miles of undeveloped shoreline. Bay scalloping season is a good time to visit, as are the spring/fall migrations of birds. An observation tower is at Hagen's Cove. You can wander the pine woods, only make sure you wear something bright orange during hunting season. Explore the old tram roads- you can hike or bike them. There are short, marked walking trails at Dallus Creek Landing and Hagen's Cove. The map will offer you a driving tour, taking you through or near the hardwood swamp and pine plantations.
This area is referred to as the place where Florida's forests meet the Gulf. Hagen's Cove has unique natural beaches, Paddlers can launch their canoes/kayaks at Dallus Creek Landing. Timbering eliminated most of all the mature cypress trees in this area. You can walk or ride on the raised trams in the Tide Swamp area. These roads were built with hardwood trees laid end to end in two parallel lines the length of the planned trams. Crossties from cypress were placed across the hardwood trunks, and then steel rails were anchored to the crossties with spikes. Then sand cars backed down the crossties, pouring sand in between the trees and ties. This helped stabilize the trams. As the cypress and longleaf pine were harvested into extinction, the land was planted in pine plantations for pulpwood. Gradually, Florida Fish and Wildlife is restoring the land and original timber. You will see signs of the restoration throughout Tide Swamp's habitats as you drive along CR 361, and along the area's driving tour route.