We outdoor junkies know the true secret to Vitamin N.  It's NATURE, NATURE, NATURE in large doses!  Time spent in nature is one of the best, and most natural stress busters any one can find.  Documented benefits of Vitamin N to our mind and body are enhanced use of the senses, higher work productivity, increased memory performance, improved attention span, a huge boost in creativity,and the improved ability to relax.  Not bad for just going outside, sitting and relaxing, breathing in some fresh air, taking a hike, riding a bike, or just chilling out.

In our area, our local parks provide us with tons of Vitamin N.  Our near-by state parks provide us with new vistas, and opportunities to explore other facets of this incredible area we live in.

Florida State Parks leave you with a greater appreciation for the people, places and events that have shaped our state and our region.  Floridas ecosystem is prevalent thru out all our parks, and evolved through natural processes like fire, flood, glaciers, etc.  Our parks offer differing approaches to our heritage.  Through state historic sites, museums, preserves and reserves which protect natural Florida; beaches, recreation areas that assist nature study, along with gardens and botanical sites, geological and archaeological sites, we acquire the knowledge and wonder at this treasure trove of our unique Vitamin N .Make sure you visit the web site. www.floridastateparks.org  You need to explore all of the topics listed in the sidebar.  If you click on Northwest Parks, you'll get tons of information, including maps, and driving directions.  Going to the Greenways and trails section will direct you to so many areas that don't require park entrance, and are out there for all of us to enjoy.  Make sure you click on their heading Get A Little Park On Ya!!   It suggests 50 ways to enjoy our parks and have fun.

During the greatest industrial depression in our country, the "New Deal" was born.  This was an unprecedented number of social programs designed to put people to work and to stimulate economic recovery.  Perhaps the most successful was the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  This program put to work nearly three million young men in our forests and parks during its nine year history (1933-42).  For a salary of thirty dollars a month, these young men left behind what we today embrace within our forests and state parks.  They planted trees, protected them from erosion or flood and created hundreds of parks and recreation areas.  The CCC was the first New Deal agency to begin operations in Florida.  The first camp opened in 1933 in Duval County.  Between 1933-38 some 31,000 Floridians served in the program.  Because of them, our state parks were created and expanded.  There are eight parks around our state developed by the CCC.  They are:FLORIDA CAVERNS STATE PARK,  FORT CLINCH STATE PARK in Fernandina Beach, MIKE ROESS GOLD HEAD BRANCH STATE PARK, in Keystone Heights, HIGHLANDS HAMMOCK STATE PARK, in Sebring, HILLSBOROUGH RIVER STATE PARK, in Thonotossa, MYAKKA RIVER STATE PARK, in Sarasota, O'LENO STATE PARK, in High Springs, RAVINE STATE GARDENS, in Palataka,  TORREYA STATE PARK, In Bristol.  Even though the CCC was disbanded in 1942, its spirit lives on in programs like AmeriCorps.  There members earn a living allowance and an educational award to pay back student loans, or finance college.

Most of our state parks have camping facilities ranging from cabins, RV sites, tent and backpack sites, and primitive camping.  Reserve your site by calling 1-800-326-3521, or go online to www.ReserveAmerica.com

An Annual Pass is available and allows you to discover, experience and enjoy the beauty of the parks for just pennies a day.  You can purchase one at any state park

The Florida State Parks Passport is designed as a travel aid to help you discover the real Florida.  Purchase the passport at a ranger station.And, 61 of Florida's State Parks will be participating in the First Day Hikes initative.  This event will occur on January 1st of the New Year.  Two parks in our area are gearing up and hoping for lots of outdoor enthusiaists.  Maclay will have a ranger led hike around Lake Overstreet, following the Woodland Trail.  Marianna Caverns State Park is hosting nature walks between the hours of 10 and 2 pm. 

Alfred Maclay Gardens were first planted in 1923, and feature a picturesque brick walkway, a secret garden, and beautiful camellias and azaleas.  The home is open for tours.  Lake Hall has swimming, fishing, boating.  Located one-half mile north of I-10 on US 319

Camp Helen is bordered on three sides by the Gulf of Mexico and Lake Powell, which is one of the largest coastal dune lakes in FLorida.  Coastal dune lakes are rare worldwide and in the US they occur only along the Gulf Coast .Located west of Panama City Beach, on US 98 at the west end of the Lake Powell bridge.

Constitution Convention Center.  Back in the early 1800's, St. Joseph competed with Apalachicola as a trading post.  During its short life, the city hosted Florida's first State Constitution Convention.  56 territorial delegates drafted our first constitiution in 1838.  Located in Port St. Joe, off US 98.  850-229-8029

DeSoto Site is the only location in North America know to have been occupied by Spanish explorer Hernando deSoto. In 1539, de Soto landed in the Tampa Bay area and led a 4000 mile expedition north through central Florida and the panhandle to Mexico.  The expedition spent the winter of 1539-1540 in Tallahassee.  A historic marker is located east of the Capitol off Lafayette St.  850-922-6007

Ecofina River wanders through pine flatwoods and oak-palm forests, salt marsh.  The river empties in the Gulf of Mexico 2.2 miles south of the park's boat ramp.  Located in Taylor County at the end of State Road 14, south of US 98  850-922-600

Leon Sinks Geological Area has trails wandering through forests, along with sinkholes, and even grottos filled with water.  Wildlife photograpy is best in the morning.  850-926-3561

Wakulla Springs is home to one of the largest and deepest freshwater springs in the world.  Boat tours, swimming, hiking, along with the historic Lodge are amenities.  The Lodge and Park are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, and are a National Natural landmark.  Located 14 miles south of Tallahassee on SR 267.850-224-5950

Falling Waters.  Huge trees and fern-covered sinkholes line Sink Hole Trail that leads to Floridas highest waterfall.  The sink is a 100 foot deep, 20 foot wide pit, into which flows a small stream that drops 73 feet to the bottome of the sink.  Located 3 miles south of Chipley, off SR 77, on SR 77A.  850-638-6130

Florida Caverns.  This is one of the few state parks with "dry" (air filled) caves.  Only state park in Florida to offer cave tours to the public.  Also features a nine-hole New Deal era golf course.The CCC built the combination visitor's center and gift shop of hand-cut limestone and created a classic CCC rustic style building.  Located 3 miles north of Marianna on ST 166.  850-482-9598

John Gorrie Museum.  Back in the early 1800's a physician (Gorrie) moved to Apalachicola, and developed a concern for his yellow fever patients, which motivated him to invent a method for cooling their room.  His was the first attempt to create what we now call air conditioning.  Located on Sixth Street in Apalachicola.  850-653-9347

Lake Jackson Mounds.  More than eight centuries ago, Native Americans inhabited the area around Lake Jackson.  The park site is part of what we know as the Southeastern Ceremonial Complex.  It holds 6 earthen temple mounds and one possible burial mound.  Located off US 27, two miles north of I-10 in Tallahassee.  850-922-6007

Lake Talquin.  In 1927 the Jacskon Bluff Dam was built on the Ochlockonee River to develop hydroelectric power.  The waters held back formed Lake Talquin.  Fishing is excellent, as is picnicking, boating, hiking. Vitamin N lovers enjoy the hills, ravines and steepheads.  Located 15 miles west of Tallahassee off SR 20.850-922-6007

Letchworth-Love Moundsl  This archaeological site has Florida's tallest Native American ceremonial mound.  At 46 feet tall, and built between 1100 and 1800 years ago it is impressive.  Located 15 miles east of Tallahassee, off US 90 at the end of Sunray Road South. 850-922-6007

Natural Bridge Battlefield is the site of the second largest Civil War battle in Florida, and is where the St. Marks River drops into a sinkhole and flows underground for about a fourth of a mile before reemerging.  The Confederate troops won the day,and Tallahassee was the only Confederate capital east of the Mississippi not captured by the Union.The Battle of Natural Bridge is re-enacted every year in March.  Make sure you get a brochure when you visit the park.  It describes the battle, and has a map locating the sinkhole.  Do walk out on the Natural Bridge to get your fill of beautiful landscape and the St. Marks River.  Located on Natural Bridge Road, six miles east of Woodville, off SR 363. 850-922-6007

Ochlockonee River Park is located near the scenic point where the Ochlocknee and Dead rivers intersect.  The word Ochlocknee means "yellow waters", and the river empties into the Gulf of Mexico.  Located four miles south of Sopchoppy on US 319. 850-962-2771

Orman House was built in 1838 by Thomas Orman.  It overlooks the Apalachicola River. Orman was a cotton merchant and conducted business in Apalachicola until the 1870s.  Located in Apalachicola, off US 98 in the downtown historical section.850-653-1209

St. George Island has miles of undeveloped beaches.  Two boat ramps provide access to Apalachee Bay for salt water fishing.  Shelling, along with all water sports is popular here. Good hiking trails and good camping.  Located on St. Geolrge Island, 10 miles southeast of Eastpoint, off US 98.

St. Joseph Peninsula  Park has one of the top-rated beaches in the US.  Lies between the Gulf of Mexico and St. Joseph Bay.  As a coastal barrier peninsula, St. Joseph provides unique opportunities for bird-watching.  Located between Port St. Joe and Apalachicola on Cape San Blas Road, off SR 30A.  Watch for their Low Country Boil, usually in Feb.  850-227-1327

St. Marks River Park is being developed as a multi-use recreational area.  The existing road network in the park wanders thru upland pine forests, hardwood thickets, all along the banks of the river.  Located east of Tallahassee, just past W.W.Kelly Road on Tram Road.   850-922-6007

St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge, even though it's not a state or local park, it needs inclusion on this page.  Situated along the Gulf of Mexico, it contains 68,000 acres of various habitats, such as coastal marshes, islands, tidal creeks, and the estuaries for seven of our rivers, where they merge, flow, and empty into the Gulf.  Florida Trail has several portions of the Refuge blazed.  Even more trails are available. Rangers lead monthly hikes.    Check at the Visitors Center for conditions, and maps.  The whopping crane recovery program is located here.  The monarch butterflies stop and feed and rest for their long trip across the Gulf to Mexico.  And, don't forget the historic lighthouse.  850-925-6121    www.fws.gov/saintmarks

San Marcos de Apalache has many different flags at the site to demonstrate the colorful history of the area.  The park is a National Historic Landmark, begun in 1528 when Panfilo de Narvaez arrived with 300 men.  Located in St. Marks, off SR 363. on Old Fort Road. 850-925-6216

Three Rivers Park is located where Florida meets the sw corner of Georgia, and where the Chattahoochee and Flint rivers converge to form Lake Seminole.  The lake forms the headwaters of the Apalachicola River which flows to the Gulf of Mexico.  Located two miles north of Sneads on SR 271.

Torreya State Park's high bluffs overlooking the Apalachicola River makes Torreya one of Florida's most scenic places.  The park is named for a rare species of Torreya tree that only grows on the bluffs along the river.  This is another park that was developed by the CCC boys. They dismantled and relocated the 1849 Gregory House from across the river to its present location.  They also built a barracks building, and an arched stone bridge on the park's original entrance drive, as well as other structures and trails through out the park.  Located west on county road 1641 off SR 12, 13 miles north of Bristol.  850-643-2674

Heading east of Tallahasse are several more parks worth a visit.

Fanning Springs is located on the Suwannee River.  It produces 65 million gallons of water daily.  The park can be entered by boat or by car.  To reserve a canoe/kakyak, call Suwannee river tours at 352-490-9797. Located on US 19/98 in the town of Fanning Springs.   352-463-3420

Forest Capital Museum celebrates the heritage of Florida's forest industry.  In addition to the museum, walking trails, there is an authentic 19th century Cracker homestead.  Located south of Perry on US 19.  Watch for their annual celebration in the fall featuring a great fish fry.  850-584-3227

Ichetucknee Springs flows six miles through shaded forests and wetlands before it joins the Santa Fe River.  The head spring of the river was declared a National Natural Landmark by the US Dep't of Interior in 1972. Tubes, plus snorkeling and diving equipment can be rented from private vendors outside the park.  Located four miles NW of Fort White, off SR 47 and 238.

Lafayette Blue Springs, has a natural limestone bridge that crosses the spring run flowing into the Suwannee River.  The park is located off US 27, NW of Mayo on CR 292.  3886-294-3667

Madison Blue Spring is about 82 feet wide, and 25 feet deep.  It bubbles up from a limestone basin on the west bank of the Withlacoochee RIver.   Is about 10 miles east of Madison, Go east on SR 6 to the River,

Peacock Springs has two major springs, a spring run and six sinkholes.  Cave divers have explored and surveyed almost 3300 feet of underwater passages at the springs.  It has one of the longest underwater cave systems in the continental US.  Located 16 miles SW of Live Oak on SR 51, two miles east of Luraville on Peacock Springs Road.  386-776-2194

Geocaching in Florida State Parks:  Geocaching is an outdoor treasure hunt where you need to find a hidden object. It requires a GPS, or smart phones have the app that helps you find the longitude and latitude of the hidden object.  Park folks call it geo-seeking.  The nine state parks built by the Civilian Conservation Corps joined the geo-seeking ranksl. If you can find the caches in all nine parks, you recieve a commemorative geo-coin upon completion. 

Go to www.floridastateparks.org  to learn more about geocaching in state parks.  850-245-2157.

A Park that is not owned by our state or local municipalities that might interest you is the FSU Reservation. This is a 73 acre facility with 10 active acres located on Lake Bradford.   You can swim, sail, canoe, kayak, picnic, play beach volleyball, and the recreation hall has game tables,  They are located 1/4 mile from the airport.  There are also cabins, 3 pavilions, and a Conference Center. The Climbing Tower will certainly challenge you.  There is a low and a high challenge course.  You can call 644-6124 for more information     850-644-6892 will be the number for more general information. 

Other pages on WIKI with extra information include Pump It Up!, Paddling Trails, Forests, Parks and Trails

Annual events that celebrate the outdoors include June as Outdoors Month.  Go to the website": www.getoutdoorsflorida.com  This group actively creates programs to get we Floridians back to nature.  Their efforts include 1/2 day to full day programs, along with week-end camps and summer camps.  Click on their event calendar to help you plan outdoor activities  The link to Rediscover Florida-100 Ways in 100 Days  is  well worth studying.     .  Other interesting sites include, but are not limited to:

www.u.s.fishandwildlife.com  Let's Go Outside,   be sure to check their events calendar, also

www.nationalwildlifefederation.com  Has some excellent family friendly activities

www.stopextinction.org  Is the website for Endangered Species Day, which is the third Friday in May.  The site gives you the opportunity to learn about the importance of protecting endangered species.  It is celebrated at parks, wildlife refuges, aquariums, gardens, libraries, etc.  It even has a page that lets you send postcards!  Check out their find an event section also.

Their is a new, FREE smartphone app, available for download that gives you access to Florida's 171 state parks, trails, and historic sites, complete with detailed information about campgrounds, amenities, maps, directions, and much more.  This app allows you to plan an outdoor trip by searching for a park by GPS location.  You can track and record trails, mark waypoints, and locate friends within the park.  The FLORIDA STATE PARKS POCKET RANGER app is available now on iTunes and Android Market by searching "Offical Florida State Parks" and is identified under ParksbyNatureNetwork.  It is also available on PocketRanger.com and is formatted as a mobile website: fl.pocketranger.com