Emily & Silent Partner
In our continuing series on places we’ve stayed in the Airstream, I am proud to introduce Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park.
Florida’s state park system portal can be used for searching availability and making reservations here. If your duration is longer than a few days try searching only for one or two days as you may need to make several reservations at the same park across several sites. This is the unfortunate consequence of people mostly making reservations for the weekend.
*My recommendations to the park manager on how to make their software better were met with polite “aren’t you cute” smiles, and little else.
Amenities & Activities
Acreage-wise this park seemed small, likely even smaller than Florida Caverns State Park though I couldn’t prove it if so pressed. There’s essentially only one large loop through the camping portion of the park so you’re exposed to quite a bit of traffic no matter where you’re located. The pads are clean, large and thankfully covered with large aggregate so keeping things clean is a snap. We had water and power but no sewer so we had to tow to the dump station once a week. Noise was average though the near-by Air Force base sometimes created quite a bit of aircraft “booms”, maybe from a system they use to clear birds from the runway?
This entire park is very heavily wooded leading to the dreaded satellite reception problem so we had to tweak the trailer a number of times to eek out a signal. There weren’t any sites close to the water and even if there were the foliage is so thick you can barely see Rocky Bayou. Cell reception was very good.
The campsite had showers and laundry, though these services were shut down one day due to plumbing problems and then for another couple days due to a freeze warning. As with all the Florida state parks the laundry was coin operated but no change machine was available.
There were a number of trails to enjoy including the Rocky Bayou Trail and Sand Pine Trails on the east side and the Red Cedar trail on the west side by the boat ramps. These trails are very short but well groomed, I was able to make a light mountain bike ride out of these trails by stitching them together into a 1 to 1 and 1/2 hour ride.
I tried to catch the Timberlake East Loop Trail at Eglin Air Force Base while we were there but was severely punished for not bothering to read the write-up on MTB Project, as you must buy a pass – which I did not….pathos.
Anyway, there is quite a bit of Rocky Bayou access on the boat-ramp side so we used that area to launch our kayak while dodging the “don’t get eaten by an alligator” signs.
These excursions out into the bayou reminded us why kayaks are called divorce boats.
This park is near Niceville, FL which was, well – nice. We ate some very nice food on the water.
Over at Henderson Beach State Park (take care this involves a toll road) you can enjoy the utter magnificence of the panhandle’s sugar-white beaches.
Even in January it was awesome.
What Could Go Wrong?
Ticks Ticks and More Ticks
Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park hand-delivered every tick in Florida directly to our dogs and us. We think it might be because it was nymph season (aka seed tick). We already give our dogs NexGard Chewables so the ticks, if left undiscovered, did die but there’s just something indescribably creepy about finding them on you and your dogs.
We wound up shaving the pups down to a very short cut especially on the face and ears to make discovering them after every walk easier.
Satellite vs. Trees
Same issue here as Florida Caverns State Park – the foliage is so thick it took quite a bit of tweaking the trailer to get a signal. If you have internet through your cell provider, and enough data usage, coverage was excellent and we utilized Amazon Prime Video extensively.
Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park was entirely suitable as a place to stay. Services were fine, we found sustenance at local restaurants and even washed the truck a time or two. That said, there wasn’t for us any “it” factor. I would give a mild thumbs up if you find yourself staying there. Henderson Beach State Park is of course, much more glamorous but reservations extended into the next century, which drove us to this park in the first place. I also didn’t especially appreciate the toll road to get out to the beach.