We began the day at Tate’s Hell State Forest by viewing some dwarf cypress trees from boardwalk and an observation deck. Although the trees are more than 150 years old, they only reach a height of 15 or so feet due to soil content. We were able to take a look at some of the cones on the trees, which are sometimes collected for Andrews Nursery.
While driving through Tate’s Hell we were also able to see some low water crossings, which are installed to reestablish the natural flow of the wetlands. There is a method to the process to ensure that not a lot of erosion occurs.
Next, we went to a red-cockaded woodpecker cluster. The Florida Forest Service and Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission work together to maintain the best possible habitat options for the woodpeckers to live in. Because they build their nests in live trees, it can take up to ten years for a woodpecker to build a cavity.
Artificial cavities sized exactly for the woodpeckers have been put in on some trees to help them out, and any trees identified as being habitated are marked with white bands to ensure they are not disturbed. There are a total of 63 clusters in Tate’s Hell.
Besides being a host to wildlife, the forest offers several options for recreation. We were able to meet up with some kayakers and canoers on Ochlockonee River. Afterwards we visited a beautiful primitive campsite where we met with the campsite host, a Florida Forest Service volunteer who maintains the area and lives there full time.
The final (and my favorite) stop of the day was the site where a prescribed burn had recently been conducted. Although Tate’s Hell State Forest has only been under management for the last 15 years, the prescribed fires have been very beneficial to the health of the forest. The area was so peaceful, all of the understory that was overgrown had been removed, leaving room for flowers and native plants to grow.