Visiting Florida's state parks and beyond in our Roadtrek. This is how we saw it all. Hopefully, the posts will give you some useful information. Questions and comments are welcome.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

A Week at Florida's Rodman Reservoir Campground

Another choice campground that for some reason is not listed as a state park.  But, no matter, a great place to stay.  Just south of Palatka it is very well maintained and has a friendly staff.  We found it to be a quiet, relaxing atmosphere with excellent paved roads for biking and bordering is the Cross Florida Trail for easy to moderate hiking.  If you like fishing or kayaking there is a lake, river, and canal to partake.  There are two loops and primitive camping.  Primitive only in that there is no water or electric hookup.  The sites are awesome, though.

Rodman Dam Rd. leading into the reserve area.  About two miles plus and straight as an arrow.  Nice paved road, though, as are all the campground roads. 

We were in #59, on a corner of Phase II, half of which parallels the defunct Cross Florida Canal. The gravel sites are all pretty level from what I observed. 50/30/20 amp electric, water, fire pit, picnic table.  These sites are separated from the other side of the loop, which includes the shower/restroom building, by about a 40 foot high berm created from the canal dredgingFunny, each site has an "unofficial" path over the berm to the restroom/showers building.  Saves a walk around the road.  On top of the berm is a hiking path.  There are no pull-throughs on this side of the loop and only two on the loop entrance side.

Plenty of shade on this side of the loop.  The trees are just putting on some growth, while old leaves are still falling.  Want to return in the spring or summer to see what it looks like in "full bloom".   All the sites are on the left side, nicely spaced and angled for some privacy without shrubbery.  The other side of the berm is more typical campground layout as is the Phase I loop.


Our front yard for the duration.  Imagine the trees full of leaves in summer.  The other side of the tree has exposed roots as its a sheer drop off into the canal. 

There is signage along the canal road telling all to stay on the road level.  Couldn't stand it. I had to get some water level shots of the canal.  This is looking east at sunrise.

Looking west.

This is about all that uses the canal today.  We saw a small bass boat and kayak or two, also. Twice there was a movement to cut a canal across Florida for ships to take goods to the gulf and to bring Texas's oil and gas east to the Atlantic.  Twice environmental activists were able to stop the project.  The final write-off was by Pres. Nixon.   The first project envisioned large ships.  The second limited the depth for barges only.  The activists fought to preserve Florida aquifer and the St. Johns, Oklawaha and Withlacoochee Rivers....and won. 


Where the loop road cuts through the berm behind us erosion has formed some interesting features.  Thought the cave in the middle may house a varmint, but was too shallow for permanent living space.

Leaving the loop and heading to the ranger station there is a meadow that glows in the morning sun.

Biking in the park is easy going on smooth level asphalt roads.  The road to the ranger station is bordered by a picturesque pine tree stand. 

Phase I loop. Smaller, only 13 sites, 6 are pull-through. All are partially shaded, gravel and grass level sites.  This loop is about a good part of a mile from Phase II.

Near the entrance to Phase I loop is the entrance to the primitive camping loop which contains 39 sites.  

 Primitive meaning no electricity or running water.  But, these are nice sites. Plenty of privacy.  When I was a Boy Scout we didn't have primitive camping like this.  The sites are large, grassy and level with fire pit, picnic table and a pole to hang your food from instead of in the tent.  (There are black bears in this park.  Small, but hungry.)

Adjacent to the camping loop is a recreation area for day purposes.  There is one open picnic table and 5 covered areas, a small field for games, etc, and a boat ramp into Rodman Reservoir.

Important signage at the rec area boat ramp.  

 An easy 2 mile bike ride from the ranger station and you are at the reservoir dam recreation area.  A nice park with two fishing piers, pavilions, picnic tables, and restrooms.  Well maintained area.

The dam on the Oklawaha River creates the reservoir and maintains the level of the canal.  A scheduled drawdown is complete and the reservoir and canal are about 8 feet low, but it will be back to normal by April 16 by mandate.  Excellent bass fishing in the river, reservoir and canal.

The lineup.  Several cormorants catch the breeze on the guard cable. Others float around occasionally diving for a meal.  A lot of shouting matches break out between the floaters and the sitters as the floaters decide they want to sit on the occupied wire.

An Osprey makes contact with the water and grabs a fish.

A couple of turtles warm themselves on the hot concrete.  Saw a pit viper in the water, but missed the shot.

It's fun to watch cormorants take off.  Wings flapping, legs paddling.  Landing is just as funny.  They come in like a floatplane. Long glide, feet down and skim across the water to a stop.

Patiently waiting for the right meal.

Could this be it?

The defeat of the canal gave birth to the Cross Florida Greenway Trail named for Marjorie Harris Carr who was the major activist to defeat the canal project for the final time.  The land designated for the canal became this trail.  We encountered another part of this trail in our visit to Santos Campground west of here.

There is an entrance to the trail across Rodman Dam Rd. from the campground entrance.  At each entrance is a sign in box.  Brochure about the trail and wildlife warnings accompany a sign in book.  Browsing the list of names is interesting to see the many far away places that people are from that traverse the trail.  The trail is generally easy to moderate the whole length with variations in the path and general scenery as it passes through wooded areas, marshes, meadows, etc.  A few elevation changes, mostly crossing the canal berm.

  This section parallels Rodman Dam Rd. to the dam area, then turns south.

This is a section of the trail that parallels the canal. Entry is across the street from our campsite.  Would have been a service road for the canal.  It is a 3.3 mile hike from the site to the Buckman Lock east of the campground. 

We heard there are black bears and deer in the park and along the trail, but this gopher tortoise was all we sawAnd, one squirrel with half a bagel in its mouth scurrying into the woods along the loop road.

Flora along the trail.

 The lock can be accessed by walking the trail or the entrance on Hwy 19.  The park area, with a few pavilions, grills and rest rooms is maintained for hikers and picnickers, but the visitor center is no longer open.

The lock is fenced in for safety and are no longer an on-going operation.  Getting a close-up view is impossible. 

But, it is still an interesting stop for the history.  The level on this side is higher than the other on this day.