Editor’s Note: The campground at Faver-Dykes State Park will be closed from February 1 until June 30, 2018, for improvements. For updates, visit Faver-Dykes State Park
Driving south on I-95, our travel trailer in tow, we were caught in a torrential downpour, and it would not let up. Â As dusk fell and the highway started disappearing, we decided to hop off at the next exit (298) and sit out the night in the Faver-Dykes State Park campground.
The park gate was wide open, no ranger station, so we kept driving, knowing that eventually weâ€™d find the campground.
The park roads were unpaved, and the deeper into the park we went, the worse the flooding.
I couldnâ€™t find the campground, and the water was sloshing around the wheels of my pickup and travel trailer.
The park road was sloppy with mud. Â No place to turn around. Â The forest enveloped us. Â It kept getting darker.
The Return to Faver-Dykes State Park
On a sunny and mild day this spring, I returned to Faver-Dykes State Park for a day visit, determined to see what we missed and report on what I found.
To reach the park, you have to drive through a nondescript residential area. The road dead ends at the park entrance. Once inside, thereâ€™s an honor box where you deposit your $5 admission.
Following the park road, this time in daylight, I found myself engaged by the dense forest and sweeping grass marshes of Pellicer Creek, instantly reminding me of the Carolina Low Country, where forested islands and marshy grasslands co-mingle.
After taking a short hike on the nature trail, a picturesque trek through flatwoods and scrub that loosely follows the creek, I moved down to the boat ramp, where I met a couple from North Carolina who spend their winters paddling Floridaâ€™s waterways.
Jack and Nanci LaMarre are on a mission to chart as many paddle trails in Florida as they can find.Â â€œYou really have a beautiful state for kayaking,â€ Jack told me. â€œWe love it here.â€
Jack and Nanci are serious kayakers. Their primary paddle destinations are in the Florida Keys, bouncing their travel trailer from state park to state park all winter. But they take their time on their way down and back to visit other Florida paddle trails.
Today, they were in Faver-Dykes on the northeast Florida coast.
Paddling Pellicer Creek
Jack and Nanci embarked on two 10-mile paddles from the boat launch at Faver-Dykes, where visitors can also rent kayaks and canoes from a park concession.
In the account on their web site, which they graciously agreed to share with you, the Lamarres said the first three miles were uninteresting with continuous bends through salt-marsh grass (Sounds like a great place to fish, though!).
The creek narrowed with hardwood swamps on both sides, mixed with tropical vegetation and cypress trees, as tidal saltwater gave way to freshwater.
Although they encountered little wildlife, they did find â€œbeautiful white swamp lilies scattered among the cypress knees.â€
For GPS coordinates and more details, visit their web site.
Their second paddle took them east, towards the Intracoastal Waterway, to explore the expansive Pellicer Creek Aquatic Preserve.
From the launch at Faver-Dykes, they paddled a mile on a wider Pellicer Creek lined by marsh grass, reaching a large bay. Following a shoreline thick with hardwoods and semi-tropical vegetation, they eventually came to a scattering of small mangrove islands and more marsh grass.
Here, they encountered bald eagles and dolphin. They warn of oyster bars at low tide. (That means the redfish are likely in the neighborhood, too!)
For a detailed description, visit their web page about the trip.
Camping at Faver-Dykes State Park
In daylight, the campground was really not hard to find, although itâ€™s deep in the woods at the end of the park road.
While most sites are on hard ground, a couple have concrete pads designed for campers with disabilities. The rest rooms and (hot) showers are also ADA accessible.
All of the sites are well-shaded with thick undergrowth providing privacy, I found that most of the sites were quite small, narrow and not very deep. The maximum RV length is 30 feet, but only a handful can even accommodate that length.
On most sites, rolling out the RV awning would be a challenge, requiring precision maneuvers backing into the site on your first day. You definitely want to think ahead.
On the other hand, these sites are ideal for tenters (except in summer, when you are sure to encounter swarms of noseeums and mosquitos.)
Like all of Floridaâ€™s State Parks, you can book a campsite up to 11 months in advance through ReserveAmerica. The nightly rate is $18, including water and electric. Florida residents 65 and older, or those with certified disabilities, receive a 50% discount. You need proof.
In March, a busy travel season for snowbirds heading north along I-95, almost half of the campsites were empty, strongly suggesting that this is not a hard park to book a reservation at any time of year.
Other Recreation Activities at Faver-Dykes State Park
Fishing is the main course, either from a boat or an expansive dock in the picnic area along Pellicer Creek.
The creek is brackish and tidal, delivering both saltwater and freshwater species to anglers. Catches at the fishing dock include redfish, black drum, sheepshead, spotted seatrout and snook. Â Freshwater species such as largemouth bass and bream can be found farther upstream, accessible only by boat.
There are two nature trails for hiking, each about a half-mile long. The first, which I mentioned earlier, follows the creek. Look for the odd-shaped and scraggly Turkey Oaks that are common along this trail.
The second trail leads out of the campground into hardwood hammocks.
The park also has several miles of boundary and backwoods roads that are restricted, but they are generally open for hiking.
There is a childrenâ€™s playground near the picnic pavilions along Pellicer Creek.
For more information about Faver-Dykes State Park, visit their web site.
Odds and Ends
So you want to know how the first trip ended up? Remember the driving rain and the flooding?
Well, I did find a place to turn around (which I later determined was where the park road splits to the picnic area and fishing dock.) Â Still don’t know how I managed it.
If I had gone another 300 yards, I would have found the entrance to the campground.
Anyway, I eventually got back onto I-95, which was still in the throes of the downpour, and moved down to the next exit, where I easily found a 24-hour Wal-Mart to park my rig.
We spent the night there, waking up the next morning to the sweet sound of tweeting birds and sunlight. Looking out the window, we were looking out on a beautiful pond filled with tropical vegetation and surrounded by thick stands of palm trees.
Things to Do and See near Faver-Dykes State Park