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“Great value , great nature, sad that lakes are dry”

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Gold Head Branch State Park
Reviewed 8 July 2012

Most of these reviews have already said it. The swimming and boating lakes are gone. I spent many days here as a child in the 70's and remember the place being packed. The beach was always full of people. I had many great memories here. I visited the park yesterday July7, 2012 and it was so sad to see the huge lakes I remember dried up. With that said: the park itself is still a great place to go if you like hiking through the woods, and enjoying scenery. The price of the park is unbeatable. Five bucks get a carload up to eight people in. I personally wouldn't rent a cabin here only because there is no lake to enjoy, but if you are just wanting to get away and enjoy nature it would be great.I am posting pics of the dried up lakes and some of the nature shots I took while there yesterday. I agree with one person who posted here - it is kinda eerie looking out over the lake beds, however pictures do not do this fact justice.

  • Stayed: July 2012, travelled with family
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6  Thank B P
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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36 - 42 of 53 reviews

Reviewed 10 May 2012

Beautiful long-leaf forest full of bald-eagles, fox-squirrels, gopher-tortoises, deer, and many other creatures as well. The remaining lakes are amazing! It would be great if the lake with the swimming area would fill back up though. The park rangers were all super friendly. The cabins we stayed in were very nice and clean. I have visited this park several times and intend on doing so again.

  • Stayed: May 2012, travelled with friends
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4  Thank Dante R
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 10 May 2012

This park is one of the best examples of a natural sandhill you can find. The major lake is dried up, however, Sheelar Lake and Deer Pond still remain, as they are spring-fed. These lakes are gems, with water that is crystal-clear, but require a very small hike to access. There is no fishing or swimming in these lakes due to them being home to extremely rare microbiological life. If water ever returns to Johnson Lake, the swimming, canoeing, and fishing activities will all be restored.The ravine is verdant and beautiful; hiking it's trail is a terrific way to spend part of the day. I live in Keystone, so my opinion may be biased, but I say if your visiting Florida this park shouldn't be passed by.

  • Stayed: May 2012, travelled solo
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7  Thank JollyRoverMan
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 30 April 2012

I never knew of or visited this park before the lakes dried up, but I absolutely love it here. The ravine is breath-taking; I've lived in Florida all my life and never knew anything like this existed here. It is spring-fed from the walls of the ravine. The water is very shallow and crystal clear, encompassed in lush greenery.

On my first stay here, we had a campsite in the Sandhill loop. This site was nice, and very spacious. There wasn't a whole lot of privacy, which we weren't really worried about, but there was a decent amount of space between us and our neighbors. On my second stay, we camped in a tent-only site (site 68) in the Lake loop. I absolutely LOVED this campsite! Not only was there a tree smack in the middle of the site (which I personally thought was quite cool), but there was a tiny trailhead beginning at our campsite and stretching back into the woods. Curious, we decided to see where it led, and discovered a massive clearing with a dried-up lake at the end.

If you've never seen a dried-up lake, well, it is an otherworldly, eerie, but beautiful, sight.

My only "complaint" is that I wish there were more activities, but I can understand why there are currently so few. In the end, this a wonderful state park to visit if you are looking for unimaginably beautiful surroundings - a perfect place to reconnect with yourself or loved ones.

  • Stayed: March 2012, travelled with friends
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8  Thank Savannah V
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 24 February 2012

My parents took me camping to this place when I was younger and now I go on a camping trip there with my family and friends at least once a year. The lakes dried up towards the end of 2010 and the water level in the remaining lake is too low and of poor quality to swim in, which is a shame. We did go on a memorial weekend trip in 2011 sans lake/swimming, and had a great time, and plan on going back again this year. The setting for this park is beautiful and shaded, with big oak trees everywhere and a very private feel to the campsites. There are hiking trails all over the place, which can be exciting to explore in the middle of the night. We have seen gopher tortises, frogs, and deer on our trips, along with dozens of racoons, of course. This place is all about connecting with your friends and family away from technology in a natural setting, so the fun you have is what you bring. Games with the kids, books, biking, hiking, or just the fun of camping itself. This is a great place to get away, but it isn't so far away that you spend half of your weekend traveling.

The closest gas station is about 15 miles away, so don't forget anything!

Dogs are allowed on a leash in the park and at the campsites, but NOT at the cabins. You are not allowed to leave your dogs unattended at your campsite for more than half of an hour.

Room Tip: We like to be close to a bathroom, but not too close that people try to walk through the site.
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  • Stayed: May 2011, travelled with family
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7  Thank supercat912
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 8 February 2012

Yes, the lakes have all dried up with the exception of Sheeler Lake. It's crystal clear and stocked with small fish. However, just like in what used to be the other water filled lakes, there is no swimming or canoeing allowed at the time of this writing. They are currently trying to refurbish the lake. Although the printed literature suggest that you can do all of these things, you definitely can't. It's best to call ahead and confirm this info, as a few big tropical storms or hurricanes could change all that. Regardless of the lack of water, it was still a great weekend get away with the family!

I visited this camp as a small child in the mid-late 60's and remember vividly swimming in the lakes and sitting on the beach among crowds of people. I have to admit, it's beyond depressing to realize that my children will most likely never share those memories. However, I think it is SO important for them to hear my stories and see first hand, the results that over development, lack of government funding, drought, pollution, etc. has on our ecosystem.

In regards to the facilities, this is not Trump Towers! It's camping people! You're supposed to rough it a little bit, commune with nature and all that stuff! We stayed in a one bedroom (full bed) cabin with twin beds and a futon located in the main room. We didn't feel like we were roughing it at all. There was no fireplace in this unit, but there was a pit (no Bar-be-Que) outside, where we roasted hot dogs and marsh mellows. (Bring wire hangers or skewers for this). Our friends stayed in the cabin next door and we made a rule from the get-go that all meals would be shared and eaten outside with the exception of breakfast (bring folding chairs). We stayed outside most of the night and took moon light strolls through the camp grounds, (fun but a little creepy if you fear snakes like I do!). We shared jokes and scary stories in the amphitheater by flashlight. We also took long hiking trips and a picnic during the day. WE HAD A GREAT TIME, that my kids will remember forever, despite the lack of water in the lakes!
I would definitely bring your own towels, as theirs are more like dish towels. I'd also bring plenty of bottled water and other typical items that you'd bring camping (flash lights, bug spray, sun screen, hat, etc). I suggest wearing pants or high socks as the brush can tend to scrape your legs when walking off trail (I don't really think you're supposed to do that, but we did it anyway, under a little protest on my part with my Yankee friends). If your not from the south, you have to understand that there are poisonous snakes in Florida (big ones!). I've seen Rattlers and Moccasins as big as my legs in Florida woods. Thankfully, we didn't see any this trip and I didn't see any warnings around the campsite, but I'd be on the look out all the same. Someone did spot a brown bear, which is for the most part harmless I'm told, if you back away and leave it alone. We also had visitors at our picnic table at night who apparently enjoy a little Merlot on occasion. Someone accidentally left a cup on the table and all that was left the next day was an empty cup and deep red paw prints. We didn't see any Raccoons swinging upside down from the trees, so we assume they survived with only a slight hang over. I was kind of disgusted to see that people had thrown trash a long some of the trails. I mean, really? As if the dried up lakes weren't depressing enough...
The only time we saw a park ranger was when we checked in and when we called someone to check our refrigerator, which they did promptly. He was extremely friendly and helpful. I have T-mobile and had no reception. My husband had bell-south with limited reception. I would suggest bringing crafts, board games and such if you plan to stay in at night. We met up with campers on one of our moonlit strolls who hung a sheet and used a projector to play movies. That was a pretty cool idea, (if you absolutely can't separate you self from technology for one weekend! )
We had a great time and would definitely go again!

Room Tip: We're city slickers and selected a cabin instead of using a tent.
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  • Stayed: February 2012, travelled with family
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12  Thank sightseeker29
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Reviewed 7 February 2012

this is a 1st hand travel report. the state of florida has allowed another beautiful lake to be sucked dry. let them know what YOU think, and let this website know how important it is to allow accurate reviews, even when they report changes in the terrible direction.

  • Stayed: February 2012, travelled with family
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11  Thank debNsonya
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC

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Additional Information about Gold Head Branch State Park

Address: 6239 State Road 21, Keystone Heights, FL 32656-9707
Region: United States > Florida > Keystone Heights
Hotel Style:
Ranked #1 of 1 Speciality Lodging in Keystone Heights
Number of rooms: 16
Also Known As:
Gold Head Branch State Park Hotel Keystone Heights

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