Yes, the lakes have all dried up with the exception of Sheeler Lake. It's crystal clear and stocked with small fish. However, just like in what used to be the other water filled lakes, there is no swimming or canoeing allowed at the time of this writing. They are currently trying to refurbish the lake. Although the printed literature suggest that you can do all of these things, you definitely can't. It's best to call ahead and confirm this info, as a few big tropical storms or hurricanes could change all that. Regardless of the lack of water, it was still a great weekend get away with the family!
I visited this camp as a small child in the mid-late 60's and remember vividly swimming in the lakes and sitting on the beach among crowds of people. I have to admit, it's beyond depressing to realize that my children will most likely never share those memories. However, I think it is SO important for them to hear my stories and see first hand, the results that over development, lack of government funding, drought, pollution, etc. has on our ecosystem.
In regards to the facilities, this is not Trump Towers! It's camping people! You're supposed to rough it a little bit, commune with nature and all that stuff! We stayed in a one bedroom (full bed) cabin with twin beds and a futon located in the main room. We didn't feel like we were roughing it at all. There was no fireplace in this unit, but there was a pit (no Bar-be-Que) outside, where we roasted hot dogs and marsh mellows. (Bring wire hangers or skewers for this). Our friends stayed in the cabin next door and we made a rule from the get-go that all meals would be shared and eaten outside with the exception of breakfast (bring folding chairs). We stayed outside most of the night and took moon light strolls through the camp grounds, (fun but a little creepy if you fear snakes like I do!). We shared jokes and scary stories in the amphitheater by flashlight. We also took long hiking trips and a picnic during the day. WE HAD A GREAT TIME, that my kids will remember forever, despite the lack of water in the lakes!
I would definitely bring your own towels, as theirs are more like dish towels. I'd also bring plenty of bottled water and other typical items that you'd bring camping (flash lights, bug spray, sun screen, hat, etc). I suggest wearing pants or high socks as the brush can tend to scrape your legs when walking off trail (I don't really think you're supposed to do that, but we did it anyway, under a little protest on my part with my Yankee friends). If your not from the south, you have to understand that there are poisonous snakes in Florida (big ones!). I've seen Rattlers and Moccasins as big as my legs in Florida woods. Thankfully, we didn't see any this trip and I didn't see any warnings around the campsite, but I'd be on the look out all the same. Someone did spot a brown bear, which is for the most part harmless I'm told, if you back away and leave it alone. We also had visitors at our picnic table at night who apparently enjoy a little Merlot on occasion. Someone accidentally left a cup on the table and all that was left the next day was an empty cup and deep red paw prints. We didn't see any Raccoons swinging upside down from the trees, so we assume they survived with only a slight hang over. I was kind of disgusted to see that people had thrown trash a long some of the trails. I mean, really? As if the dried up lakes weren't depressing enough...
The only time we saw a park ranger was when we checked in and when we called someone to check our refrigerator, which they did promptly. He was extremely friendly and helpful. I have T-mobile and had no reception. My husband had bell-south with limited reception. I would suggest bringing crafts, board games and such if you plan to stay in at night. We met up with campers on one of our moonlit strolls who hung a sheet and used a projector to play movies. That was a pretty cool idea, (if you absolutely can't separate you self from technology for one weekend! )
We had a great time and would definitely go again!
- Also Known As:
- Gold Head Branch State Park Hotel Keystone Heights