Location: Carrabelle Beach, Florida
Webpage: Florida State Forest
Description: Out in the wilds of Tate’s Hell State Forest is the Dwarf Cypress Boardwalk. This 0.2 mile boardwalk takes the visitor up and over the dwarf cypress swamp. These trees over hundreds of years old but have not grown taller than about 15 feet. The reason for this stunted growth is not known, since seed planted from them in other locations will grow to more normal heights and there is no genetic difference. It is hypothesized that the reason may be due to nutrient limitations and there are research studies in place to test this hypothesis. The boardwalk is located along sandy roads 4.5 miles from Florida State Highway 65 and can be impassable after heavy rains. The history of the state forest is extensive drainage of the flatwoods for pine production and the boardwalk extends along an abandoned road created from the drainage. After it was determined this practice damaged the salt water marshes along the Gulf Coast due to increased freshwater runoff after a rain, much of the drainage and road system has been abandoned. Consequently this dwarf cypress swamp did not remain flooded for much of the summer months and there has been significant pine encroachment. Thee swamp is not flooded throughout the year and is being managed to return it to its natural condition.
1) Even though there had been significant rainfall in the past week in the area, we found the sandy road to be a bit bumpy, but easily passable with our small SUV. We also saw other visitors in regular cars making the drive as well.
2) The boardwalk is fairly new and well constructed out over the old road bed, which is still very obvious under the water. The dwarf cypress was impressive knowing it was hundreds of years old and yet only 15 feet tall! As you can see from some of the pictures, the swamp is quite large and full of the dwarf cypress. When you look at the picture, remember that we visited the forest in early March and there were no leaves on the cypress.
3) The walk up to the top of the boardwalk is only about 0.2 mile and the slope is gently as it only needs to climb about 30 feet to give a great view of the swamp. Therefore, it takes less than an hour to visit. I would have thought that on a Tuesay afternoon that we would be the only visitors, however, two more vehicles had pulled into the small parking lot by the time we left.