Seven Hills to the Sea Bicycle Tour
Camping fourth night:
Dead Lakes State Recreation Area, PO Box 989, Wewahitchka, FL 32465, (904) 639-2702
The 52 mile ride to Dead Lakes Recreation Area follows the coast for about half of the distance before turning north, away from the Gulf and toward the quiet inland forests. The roads to Port St. Joe circle the south end of St. Joseph Bay and afford some fine views of this huge, shallow bay to the north. A few sections of the road are densely lined with palm trees, making the miles extra special. Bait shops along the way are interesting places to visit. The bait tanks are usually teeming with shrimp and many types of smaller fish.
On the eastern outskirts of Port St. Joe, the Constitutional Convention State Museum makes another interesting stop for a bit of state history. Port St. Joe has a large pulp mill, and the route passes great piles of logs bound for the chippers. If you want to take one last swim before leaving the Gulf, Mexico Beach (just beyond the turn to the north at mile 28) is the place. Its white sand and azure waters make it a very popular beach along this coast.
The day's destination, Dead Lakes State Recreation Area, has taken its name from the thousands of dead, sun bleached tree skeletons that rise from the adjacent lakes. Natural flood levees blocked the lower reaches of the Chipola River as it flowed into the Apalachicola River and killed the floodplain forest. A dam now stabilizes the water level of the flooded swamp, but the striking tree trunks remain as monuments to a river's natural cycle.
The campsite is in a shady stand of longleaf pine and wiregrass, next to a couple of small, man-made lakes and a swampy thicket. Nature trails circle around these lakes and along the swamp and give a good glimpse of the abundant bird life here.
Traffic increases approaching and in downtown Port St. Joe and remains fairly heavy along the coast. The 15 miles on CR 386 are very lightly traveled. SR 71 is a significant north-south haul road, so anticipate truck traffic.
Port St. Joe is the largest town on the day's route with a full range of services ... restaurants, banks, laundromats, groceries and a hardware store. Wewahitchka has a couple of convenience stores, so you can stock up there just before heading to Dead Lakes. Convenience stores are located at miles 14, 27, and 48.
Directions from St. Joseph Peninsula State Park to Dead Lakes State Recreation Area
0.0 From the entrance of the park continue straight on C-30E.
9.7 Turn left onto C-30.
14.3 View of St. Joe Bay.
16.4 Turn left onto US 98.
17.5 Enter Port St. Joe.
18.4 Downtown Port St. Joe, continue on US 98.
25.5 St. Joe Beach (Beacon Hill).
28.1 Turn right onto CR 386 (Overstreet Rd).
33.8 Cross Intercoastal Waterway.
48.0 Turn left onto SR 71.
48.2 Wewahitchka City Limit.
49.3 Cross SR 22.
51.8 Turn right to Dead Lakes State Park (unmarked road but sign for park).
52.3 Entrance to Dead Lakes State Recreation Area.
53.1 Dead Lakes campground.
Total Trip Mileage to date: 172.8
As well as these directions, you should bring along your own map, in case you miss a turn, get lost, a road changes, or for any of the other thousands of reasons that you may need to vary your route.
Many thanks to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection for this tour description.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication