The District owns a majority of the Econfina Creek corridor, which offers abundant wildlife habitat as it flows steep and narrow through Washington County. Located north of Panama City, it slices into the Floridan Aquifer and is fed by numerous springs as it enters Bay County. It then flows into Deer Point Lake Reservoir, which supplies the county’s drinking water. Regular releases also provide critical fresh water to St. Andrew Bay.
The District has purchased about 41,000 acres of surrounding land and created the Econfina Creek Water Management Area (WMA). It is restoring habitat, protecting listed species and natural systems, preserving cultural resources and controlling erosion to numerous lakes, some linked directly to the aquifer. Globally threatened or endangered species are harbored in its steephead valleys, sandhill lake shorelines and restored and remnant longleaf pine-wiregrass meadows.
Econfina Creek offers the steepest gradient of any designated canoe trail in the state. Canoeists pass waterfalls, rock outcrops, log jams, riverbed springs and plentiful bird life as they approach State Road 20, where the Gainer Springs Complex enters from numerous vents, filling a deep clear pool surrounded by palms, cypress and mixed hardwoods. The District has also protected sensitive shorelines and designated boat landings at many nearby Sand Hill Lakes, including Rattlesnake Lake.
A 14-mile extension of the Florida National Scenic Trail traverses remnant old growth native longleaf pine and wiregrass communities, which still exist on District land near State Road 20 and at Hobb’s Pasture near Deer Point Lake Reservoir. The trail will eventually link to the statewide transverse from the Florida Keys to Fort Pickens on Santa Rosa Island. Pitt Spring also features a short nature trail.
The natural, rolling sandhills entice equestrians to ride a half dozen blazed trails among pristine lakes, lush wildflowers, varied wildlife and ever changing panoramas. However, riders must stay on designated trails and avoid trampling restoration areas or degrading water resources.
Group Camping is available at Blue Spring, Rattlesnake Lake North and South and Sparkleberry Pond. Reservations are secured by completing a Group Area Permit Application. Covered pavilions, picnic tables, fire rings, grills and portable toilets are provided. Primitive campsites (which are first come, first served) have also been established at a number of sites along Econfina Creek, at Porter Lake (Tom Johns and White Oak boat landings) and at the Pine Ridge Equestrian Trail Campground. Camping is allowed only at designated sites, and no reservations are needed for primitive camping. For further information and brochures, call the District’s Lands Division, (850) 539-5999.
Swimming is available at Pitt Spring, Porter Lake (Tom Johns and White Oak boat landings), Devil’s Hole and Rattlesnake Lake North and South (Tuesday through Thursday). Swimming is also available at some group sites, which are weekend use only and require reservations. Lifeguards are not present, so users swim at their own risk. Also, the District is contracting to improve public access for recreation on numerous Econfina Creek springs
Hunting is allowed on most of the WMA and licenses and permits can be obtained from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). A state hunting license and a Wildlife Management Area permit are required and are available from most county tax collectors or their subagents. Quota hunts are also popular in designated areas. The District partners with Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) for fish and wildlife management in most of its water management areas. For brochures call FWC, (850)488-4676, or visit myfwc.com.