Black Bear ChapterServing Flagler, Putnam, and Volusia counties
Originally founded as the Bellamy Chapter, named after Bellamy Road, the first major US federal highway in early territorial Florida. Then for a number of years the chapter was named the Halifax-St. Johns Chapter (named after the two rivers on the east and west sides of the Chapter), the Black Bear Chapter was renamed to it’s current name in 2015 to better identify it with the large population of wilderness inhabitants in the natural environment that the trail traverses.
The Black Bear Chapter maintains about 100 miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail in northern Ocala National Forest north of SR 40, including both the Eastern and Western Corridors, plus the Florida Trail over Rodman Dam and continuing over and north of Buckman Lock, through Rice Creek Conservation Area and Etoniah Creek State Forest. The Black Bear Chapter also maintains loop trails, including the Rice Creek Loop section, the Bella Vista Trail at Washington Oaks Gardens State Park and the St. Francis Hiking Trail in southeastern Ocala National Forest.
The Black Bear Chapter is continuing to add more recreational opportunities and improve Chapter meetings. One of the Chapter’s popular annual events is the St. Francis weekend trail backpack camping and mayoral election in February around Valentine’s Day.
Rice Creek: A natural haven with a touch of history, the Florida Trail along Rice Creek traverses land that was once a British rice and indigo plantation in the 1700s. Along the creek, ancient cypresses tower above the forest canopy, sentinels watching over the tannic flow. The floodplain forest along the creek is lush and green, with many bromeliads in the trees and many boardwalks and bridges to cross. The Rice Creek section can be accessed from a trailhead on SR 100, several miles west of Palatka.
Ocala Forest North: One of the most popular destinations for backpackers on the Florida Trail, the northern portion of the Ocala National Forest winds through a wilderness of open prairies, shady oak hammocks, desert-like scrub, and vast forests of longleaf pine where the understory view goes on forever. There is approximately nine miles of the Florida National Scenic Trail through the designated wilderness at Juniper Prairie Wilderness Area, a unique and popular camping, hiking and wildlife viewing wilderness environment, including the well known Hidden Pond. Juniper Prairie Wilderness offers a perfect habitat for the Florida scrub jay, the only species of bird endemic to Florida. Access the trail via some of the trailheads, including Juniper Springs Recreation Area, Pat’s Island, Hopkins Prairie, Grassy Pond, Lake Delancy, Rodman Campground, and Buckman Lock.