Typical view [?]
NOTE: Tons of wildlife
NOTE: Tends to be more exposed but parts are covered
NOTE: Can be sandy can be hilly, in summer not mowed usually
NOTE: Summer you may wish for a machete but it's managable
LOCATION: Accuracy: Read me
Southfork is pretty special but almost nobody goes here. There are water features, hills in spots, and more wildlife than I've seen anywhere else in Florida. There are a few areas of scrub habitat and several areas with good tree cover. It connects to another park (Beker State Park) that requires a long walk to reach - sometimes I wonder if anyone has been there but me. Personally I like big wild areas to explore that require a bit of work and nobody else goes there. However that's not for everyone. It can be taxing especially in summer from the heat and from trails not being mowed. Also I've run into a fair number of diamondback rattlesnakes. I've never had ticks here though. As far as birds go it's wilderness but it's not dense forest so you tend to actually see the birds rather than just trust they are up there in the canopy somewhere.
There is one picnic bench... it's not that kind of park.
It's difficult to find by address. In your GPS you can search for "Thundercloud Gun Club" and it's more or less across the highway from that. It's next to a solar panel farm but there is another across the street from up up the highway. There are 3 big electrical transformers on poles close to each other on the north side of the road in front of it and the road curves to the left not far after.
I usually end up spending at least 5 hours here but if you walked out as far as you could without going into Bekker State Park it's probably 3 hours round trip if you didn't take a break.
I made a map for this one:
I mention Beker State Park a lot because it is the land north and east of this park. Odd that this map calls it South Fork State Park - others don't. Calling something a State Park usually means trails and rangers - that area is just reserved land that's not developed like that yet. Southfork (not state park) and Beker are usually divided by a very old barbed wire fence but it's down in many places so be aware you might be wandering in there. You are allowed in - there's a designated entrance at C and there are what remains of a couple jeep trails in there but the websites are a bit vague about where they want you to go (or not go). You might want to call and ask if you think you might wander far.
Describing the different labeled areas on the map: There's only one entrance - the parking lot south of A. F is scrub until you get over towards C where there is a creek in a valley between hills - there's what's left of a very old bridge near that creek. If you go forward it goes through forest and you reach an unlocked gate to Beker State Park C. If you walked far enough into Beker I assume you could reach Moody Branch around H but I haven't. E is mostly scrub and sandy jeep trails - not so fun in summer. If you like animal tracks there are a lot. Along the dark green line east and northeast of E there are large oak trees and if you go straight forward to D there's a shady sandy jeep trail. There is a way to the river along that path but you have to hop the fence and I believe that's more Beker State Park land. Not advising you to do that - it's very hard to spot as well. That line from D to B is not a path - only parts of it are. The closest spot that could join the two has a creek that goes through it - one that turns into a 2ft tall waterfall if you were to force your way through the thick palmetto bushes. Again - not advising you to do that. Usually it's not enough flow to be exciting but when it rains this place can flood fast. I call B the "Arc Trail". it doesn't go all the way through to C - it has an area that's blocked by thick palmetto bushes here too. However, there is a fork a bit south of the B marker on the map (it's a very clearly used jeep trail that they maintain). I often walk here and there is a micro-creek at the bottom of a couple hills that's a nice view down into a bit of a valley. There are a few side trails that go into the large scrub prairie F. If you follow the arc trail to the end there's a big grassy field on the right and the path goes to the left into the scrub prairie. You often see a family of pigs here. There is what remains of an old jeep trail that goes down hill to the the actual South Fork of the Little Manatee River. You have to pay close attention to see where the big trees are missing to spot it. This is I believe Beker State Park property. Not advising you go off trail. If you actually walk around Beker it's sort of like a more filled out scrub Prairie than F. Somewhere in here is another old jeep trail to the river. I've seen a lot of fence lizards here. I keep looking for a Florida Scrub Lizard - they are reputed to be in here. G is part of the solar panel farm.
If I was going to take a short walk I might go to D and explore E a bit but best not in summer.
Usually I either go from B to A to maybe F or just A to F. If I have a lot of time and energy I'll go all the way to the entrance C.
A to B and B are usually very overgrown in summer. The road A is on is where I'd see the rattlesnakes. They put a lot of rocks on the trails, I assume to limit erosion from flooding, and it's in those patches where I've almost stepped on a couple angry rattlers. That's why I suggest not wearing headphones, using trekking poles, and just being aware.
At C if you look left (West) there is a hunter's perch in a tree. If you follow the path around left and left again you'll see across a private fence where they feed deer to hunt them. If you stay right (north) of the fence by that perch there is a narrow path that goes at least a quarter mile down where you can see some farm land. That is Bekker State Park property I believe. Not terribly exciting.
There are many more jeep trails than the maps shows and many are maintained - not land they are trying to let be absorbed by nature again.
F is an interesting habitat - lots of black vultures and night hawks. When night hawks are in mating season they dive bomb each other and even you and they have this very unexpected low pitch "wooof" sound from the shape of their wings. I've had one knock my hat off once. Not dangerous - just interesting. You see turkeys and coyote running around out here fairly often. Also you see owls, Florida Scrub Jays (if you're lucky), and towhees out here. I haven't seen many snakes in this part. Also there's a creepy trash barrel in the middle of nowhere with an empty child's backpack in it. Always creeps me out. Also I don't know why but this place seems to be a magnet for released mylar birthday party balloons and 50 year old beer cans. If you mess around with the phone app iNaturalist there's a few rare plants that only exist in Florida Scrub Habitat and nowhere else in the world. So try not to stomp on plants off trail.
Coral snakes I tend to see towards the top of the arc trail. Also in that area is an abandoned shack.
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