What to do in Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park

U.S. Air Force Colonel Fred Gannon was instrumental in transforming this site from a bombing practice range during World War II to a picturesque state park. The property now preserves beautiful old–growth long leaf pine trees, several over 300 years old, that once dominated this area of Florida. Rocky Bayou, the main feature of the park, is the trailing arm of Choctawhatchee Bay and is popular for boating and fishing. A double–lane boat ramp makes this one of the best boat launching locations on the bay, where both freshwater and saltwater fish are found. Other opportunities for fun include hiking, bicycling, picnicking, and wildlife viewing. Puddin Head Lake, at the center of the park, is a great spot for freshwater fishing and canoeing. A well shaded campground is available for full facility camping. Located on State Road 20, five miles east of Highway 85.

Our park is an excellent facility for campers. Whether you are a tent camper or a RV enthusiast, we have 42 spacious, clean, shady sites that will suit your needs. The sites each boast water and electric, a picnic table, and a fire ring and some have water views. A modern heated and air-conditioned bathhouse provides for your comfort needs. The area is conveniently located near two of the park's three beautiful nature trails, as well as a picnic pavilion overlooking the bayou. Reservations may be made through Reserve America at 1-800-326-3521.

Wildlife viewing is possible at this park.

Recreation
A popular past time at the park, take a leisurely ride on the park's approx. 3 miles of paved road. For your safety, remember persons under the age of 16 years are required by state law to wear a properly fitting bike helmet. To preserve the natural areas of the park, bicycles are limited to roadways and are not permitted on any footpaths.

The Red Cedar Trail hosts the popular and impressive red cedar tree, along with many other varieties of plants, shrubs, and trees. Sand Pine Trail follows the Eastern Shore of Puddin Head Lake. This seven-and-a-half acre lake is a fragile ecosystem with several species of aquatic plants, such as the pitcher plant and Florida Anise. Adjacent to Sandpine Trail, lays Rocky Bayou Trail. The return loop of this trail follows the picturesque shoreline of the bayou. The park shoreline is home to our most fragile ecosystem, known as estuarine sea grass beds. This rare community has designated the waters as an Aquatic Preserve. Here, it is often possible to see dolphins and otters, as well as various migrant fowl, such as the rare trumpeter swan. Birds abound, and with the occasional sighting of the bald eagle, make this trail a favorite among bird watchers.

Boaters can enjoy the convenient double access boat launching facility which provides access to Rocky Bayou, Choctawhatchee Bay, and the Gulf of Mexico. A large parking area is provided in the boat ramp area to allow boaters enough room for their vehicle and boat trailer to park. Overnight docking is not permitted, and all boaters must pay entrance fees to access the park.

Bring your own canoe or kayak for a day of adventure exploring the wonders of Rocky Bayou and near by freshwater stream. This rare community has designated the waters as an Aquatic Preserve. Here, it is often possible to see dolphins and otters, as well as various migrant fowl, such as the rare trumpeter swan. Birds abound, and with the occasional sighting of the bald eagle, make this trail a favorite among bird watchers. Enjoy the tranquil and serene environment away from the noise and the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

With a freshwater stream feeding the tidal influenced Rocky Bayou, along with our freshwater lake, the park offers many varieties of fishing. Some of the more common fish are mullet, trout, and flounder. Saltwater fish may be caught in Rocky Bayou while freshwater fishing is available where Rocky Creek flows into the bay. (Salt and freshwater fishing licenses are required in Florida.)

Location
From the west: Take Interstate 10 east to highway 85 south until you reach highway 20. Go east on highway 20. Park will be approximately 5 miles on the left.

From the east: Take Interstate 10 west to highway 331 south until you reach highway 20. Go west on highway 20 approximately 25 miles until you see signs for park on right.

Climate
Florida's weather is dominated by the water that surrounds it. The Atlantic Ocean in the east and the Gulf of Mexico in the west provide a stabilizing force that maintains the mild climate. Northern Florida is considered sub tropical, although it does receive some snow. This area is drier than the rest of the state. Southern areas of the state, definitely the Keys, lie within a tropical climate. Humidity is high, a characteristic of the climate, although the temperatures usually don't extend past 90 degrees F.

On the average the state receives 50 to 65 inches of rain. Summer is the rainy season, which extends into October in the south. Hurricane season begins in late August. Some hurricanes can bring up to 25 inches of rain. An average of two hurricanes per season reach the Florida peninsula. Most often these storms reach the Atlantic Coast rather than the Gulf Coast.

Address
4281 Hwy 20
Niceville, FL 32578

Phone: 850–833–9144

Email: michael.strivelli@dep.state.fl.us
  • Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park Travel Q&A

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