Baker County Parks & Freshwater Swimming
To the north of Macclenny lies the origin of the St. Marys River as it flows northeast from the bio diverse region of the Okefenokee Swamp. Fifteen minutes southwest of downtown lies over a 250,000 acres of mesic pine flatwoods with natural cypress swamps and the area's largest freshwater lake. Whether you are a backpacker looking for the most primitive Florida campsite or an avid boater looking for a waterfront spur with hookups, Baker County parks and freshwater beach options will meet your needs:
Olustee Beach Recreation Area is located off U.S. 90 in the Osceola National Forest on Ocean Pond. The day-use only Baker County park features a sandy beach, boat ramps, picnic tables, covered shelter with grills, cold showers, flush toilets, and drinking water are available for day use only. Note: Fires are restricted to the grills provided. Camping is not permitted and there is no lifeguard for swimming areas. Dogs must be on a leash and are not allowed in the beach area.
If you looking for a scenic Baker County park and swimming area for a larger group, The Landing on the north shore of Ocean Pond is a great choice. Tranquil waterfront views, a covered group picnic area, restrooms, boat launch and private beach is ideal for family reunions, company outings, a birthday party or just hanging out with friends. NOTE: Swimming is not allowed in areas around boat access ramps. The group campsite fee is $50.00 for a 24-hour period and the facility can accommodate up to 50 guests.
Ocean Pond Campground
Located on the lake's north shore, Ocean Pond Campground offers visitors a unique opportunity for lakeside swimming with their boat parked in front of their campsite. The campground is first come, first serve and the park does not accept reservations. Fees are reasonable and depend upon the type of campsite that you choose. Nineteen sites have paved spurs with electrical and water hookups, twenty sites have paved spurs with water hookups and twenty sites on gravel spurs. All sites have convenient access to restrooms, drinking water, picnic areas and playgrounds.
John M. Bethea State Forest
The 37,736 acre state forest is located north of Glen St. Mary in northern Baker County along the Florida/Georgia border. Overnight primitive camping areas in the John M. Bethea State Forest are available year round by permit only from the forest office. The park does have a boat launch for easy access to the St. Marys River. Based on the water level of the overall floodplain, exposed sandbars can create really unique swimming opportunities for canoers and campers along the black water river.
St. Marys Shoals Park
Want to see the real Florida? St. Marys Shoals Park has preserved 2568 acres that look like the wild Florida of 100 years ago. The bio diverse recreational area offers nearly two miles of tea-stained river frontage with beautiful white sandy shoals. Park facilities and beaches are shared by equestrian riders, ATVs, hikers, campers and boaters but all have regulated access to scenic wild Florida forests and black water swamps. Due to the sensitivity of the floodplain, check with park officials following any extreme weather patterns.
Most primitive campsites are free but fees may charged for boat ramp access as well as campsites with facilities and hookups. Generally speaking, prices are kept to a minimum in order to help stretch each visitor's vacation dollar. At some Baker County parks and freshwater beaches, there may be a small per-vehicle fee required to enter the recreation area. For recurring park visitors, annual passes are available through the Ranger's District office for campgrounds located in the Osceola National Forest.