7720 Deaton Bridge Rd., Holt
This 590-acre preserve is a good example of Florida’s enlightened policy of public-land management. The objective of the Florida Park Service is to maintain—and re- create where necessary—the plant communities and ecological systems that prevailed in the area before the first Europeans arrived in the early 16th century.
The Blackwater is one of the few remaining sand-bottom rivers in the Southeast, and despite the darkish color of the tannin-stained water, it is one of the cleanest. The water contrasts dramatically with the pristine white of the ever-changing sandbars deposited on the curves and oxbows of the meandering river.
The Blackwater, understandably, is a great favorite for both canoeing and swimming, with its fine sand beaches. Other features are the nature trails and a boardwalk across a swamp to a picnic area, where you find the state’s champion Atlantic white cedar, a noble tree indeed.
The ecological systems here include the river floodplain, with swamps, sandbars, and oxbow lakes; the pine flatwoods, dominated by slash pine with an understory of blackberry vines, blueberry bushes, and gallberry; and the high pinelands that support longleaf pines, turkey oaks, and sweetleaf. White-tailed deer and gray fox may be seen in the woods, and the river otter roams the floodplain.
Open year-round. Admission charged.