Chipola River Wildlife Management Area (WMA) spans 9,094 acres in two separate tracts located along the Chiploa River in Jackson and Calhoun counties. The WMA provides valuable protection to water resources associated with the river, which flows south for 95 miles from Marianna to the Apalachicola River. Visitors enjoy hunting, fishing, boating, paddling, primitive camping and wildlife viewing. The Upper Chipola Recreational Trail system, accessed through Florida Caverns State Park, creates opportunities for hiking, bicycling and horseback riding on a portion of the WMA.

 

photo of Upper Chipola River
Nathan Bunting

The 7,719-acre Jackson County tract lies four miles north of Marianna and shares its southern boundary with Florida Caverns State Park. This tract encompasses the upper watershed of the Chipola River, which includes its two main tributaries, Marshalls Creek and Cowarts Creek, and portions of the spring-runs of Hayes and Waddell Springs. 

Access to this tract is almost exclusively by boat and a boat ramp is located at Christoff Landing. Parking and walk-in access is available along county-maintained roads at Cowarts Creek and Christoff Landing, as well as near the Hwy. 162 bridge. Additional hunting and recreation access to the southern portion of the area is through the state park via the Upper Chipola Recreational Trail.  This multi-use trail offers six miles of hiking, horseback riding and off-road biking. Access is limited when river levels are high. Children under the age of 16 are required to wear a helmet when horseback riding on public lands.  For more detailed information go to Nicole's LawPDF.  All horseback riders must have proof of current negative Coggins Test results for their horses when on state lands. Camping is allowed only at designated sites. A primitive campsite is located immediately west of Christoff landing.

In Calhoun County, the 1,375-acre Altha Tract is situated 16 miles south of Marianna. The area provides access to the river as well as unique family and youth hunting opportunities. A boat ramp is located at Johnny Boy Landing off of Hwy. 274. This popular landing may be crowed on the weekend with swimmers and tubers.  While there are no formal trails on the Altha Tract, visitors may enter from the river or walk in from roads that border the property. Vehicles may drive on Johnny Boy landing Road and Look and Tremble Road, south of HWY 274. The 37-mile long Chipola River Paddling Trail begins in Marianna and continues south, passing through the Altha Tract. The river has numerous limestone shoals that may hinder navigation during low water conditions. Check water levels prior to departure at USGS Real-Time Water Data for Florida. For maps of the canoe trail and details on access points, check with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Office of Greenways and Trails.

The river provides excellent fishing for bluegill, spotted sunfish and redear sunfish and is home to largemouth bass and the unique shoal bass. Catch-and-release is recommended for shoal bass.

photo of Barbour's Map Turtle
Barbours's Map Turtle

Hunters find productive squirrel and deer hunting in the floodplain forests that border the creeks and the river. (Note that the type of hunts and permit requirements differ on the two tracts; check the regulations summary for details.)  In the fall, the forests are ablaze with the foliage of Florida maple and basswood. The area is home to the rare Barbour's map turtle as well as to numerous alligators, egrets, herons, ospreys, and songbirds.

Rules Regarding Dogs

  • For purposes other than hunting, dogs are allowed, but must be kept under physical restraint at all times. Dogs are prohibited in areas posted as "Closed to Public Access" by FWC administrative action. No person shall allow any dog to pursue or molest any wildlife during any period in which the taking of wildlife by the use of dogs is prohibited.
  • Hunting deer or wild hog with dogs is prohibited. Dogs are prohibited in areas posted as "Closed to Public Access" by FWC administrative action. No person shall allow any dog to pursue or molest any wildlife during any period in which the taking of wildlife by the use of dogs is prohibited. Dogs on leashes may be used for trailing wounded game.



FWC Facts:
The Wall Street Journal has ranked the Space Coast Birding & Wildlife Festival of Brevard County as the third-best birding festival in the United States.

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