Fall is a beautiful time of year to visit Three Rivers State Park. Nestled on the banks of Lake Seminole near the Florida/Georgia border, this park offers camping, hiking, fishing and boating, wildlife viewing and relaxation. If you’re looking to relax and get away from the hustle and bustle of the modern world, then this is the place to camp.
I met up at with fellow NWFLOA teammate, Glenn Phillips, at this park for what we hoped would be four days of kayaking and fishing. Unknown to us, we had a couple of things working against us. Although the weather was perfect for camping and hiking, the sudden drop in high temperatures from 87 to 60 seemed to have turned the fish off. The other kink was alligator hunting season had opened and hunters were out scouting for their potential trophies and based on our sightings, there were plenty of alligators in Lake Seminole.
Did I mention the alligators? I appreciate and respect alligators. They are magnificent prehistoric remnants representing patience and power. These ambush predators lie in wait, often stalking their prey silently from just beneath the surface of the water and then they explode from the water in a terrifying flurry of gnashing teeth. We encountered several alligators during this trip, and even though several came in for a closer look, they left us alone and went about their business of finding an easier meal.
Alligators were present and abundant on each day of the trip. The fish, however, were another story. The only people we saw having any luck with the fish biting were a couple of people at the campground pier hauling in catfish. I had been fishing for bass or bream, but without even a nibble. I began to blame the alligators on the poor fishing simply to boost my self-esteem. In all honesty, the alligators were probably living off of small mammals like raccoons that came down to the shoreline to drink and find food. Judging from the alligators plump size, they definitely weren’t missing any meals.
Three Rivers State Park has over seven miles of hiking trails and we took advantage of almost all of them. We rode our bikes over to Eagle Trail and struck off armed with camera’s hoping to get a few shots of the Bald Eagles that call the park home. No such luck on this outing, but the scenery was still amazing. Over the course of the weekend we also tackled Lakeview, Ridge and Dry Creek trails. I had hoped to photograph some of the Fox squirrels and Gopher tortoises that call the park home, but they proved to be elusive on this visit as well.
One thing that was abundant at the park was White-tailed deer. I saw several small groups of them throughout the weekend. Gray squirrels were also a common sight throughout the campground areas. The campground has 30 campsites, some of which are located right on the shore of Lake Seminole. There is a BBQ/picnic pavilion, boat ramp and dock and a cabin available for rent. It’s a beautiful park with more than enough space to roam and do your own thing.
We took the kayaks out daily to fish and explore. Lake Seminole is fed by two rivers, Flint and Chattahoochee. The Jim Woodruff Dam at the southern end of the lake in the nearby town of Chattahoochee controls the flow of water into the Apalachicola River. If you’ve spent any time at all in the panhandle of Florida you’ve no doubt heard of the water wars between Georgia and Florida and how the throttled flow of water into the Apalachicola River has had a devastating impact on the oyster industry in Apalachicola Bay. The balance between the needs of an ever-growing population and the requirements for the survival of a sensitive and vital ecosystem are at odds and it is the hope of many that the mighty and historic Apalachicola River and Bay can be saved before it’s too late.
In order to get a better look at the hydroelectric dam, we took a short ride over to Chattahoochee to check things out. It is a very impressive structure and popular with the locals for fishing. I asked one woman what they were fishing for in the rushing waters and she told me that they usually catch bream. While chatting and taking photographs, two boats pulled up just outside of the boundary line to tie up and fish the rapid currents. The most ominous thing I saw, however, was a large sign on the dam that read, “A warning horn will sound before the initial release of water from the damn. Water will rise suddenly without further warning. Persons in or near the water should immediately seek safety when the horn sounds.”
From the dam we headed over to the east bank of Lake Seminole to check out the Army Corps of Engineers Eastbank Campground. It offers water/electric hookups, laundry facilities, a bathhouse and dump station as well as a variety of outdoor areas such as boat ramp, fish cleaning station and picnic areas. It was clean, open and well-kept. Definitely worth considering if other camping venues are full.
At the end of each day, which seemed to be filled with equal parts kayaking, fishing, hiking and bicycling, beautiful sunsets would set the sky on fire and then shortly thereafter campfires would blaze to life. Perfect camping weather to be sure. As the sky darkened a field of stars would appear to make one truly appreciate the peace and serenity to be found on these shores.
Three Rivers State Park is located in Sneads about an hour west of Tallahassee. For more information visit the Florida State Parks website.