Yellow River

Picture of Garnier Landing on Yellow River © Lee Anne Winchester - Garnier Landing is a private landholding on Yellow River in Santa Rosa County, Florida.  Historically, landings along the Yellow River were places where passengers and cargo could embark or come ashore as the most common way of travel was by boat.

Garnier  Landing - Yellow River

Picture of American alligator on Yellow River © Lee Anne Winchester - Yellow River in Santa Rosa County, Florida, is an ideal habitat for the Federally protected American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) where numbers have stabilized through long term recovery efforts.

Yellow River is a spectacular sand-bottom wilderness river flowing for 110 miles from its head waters in Alabama to its mouth in Blackwater Bay.  As part of the Pensacola Bay Estuarine System, Yellow River provides a rich and diverse habitat for flora and fauna and is a major contributor of fresh water for the Bay system.

(Left)  Yellow River is an ideal habitat for the Federally protected American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) where numbers have stabilized through long term recovery efforts.

As one of Florida’s freshwater resources, Yellow River’s water supply and water quality are continuously monitored.  Through the protection and management of its floodplains and natural systems, a large portion of Yellow River is shielded from the impacts of development and further habitat destruction. 

Picture of baby Cottonmouth © Lee Anne Winchester - Commonly known as a water moccasin, a baby Cotton-mouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti) can be mistaken for a Southern Copperhead.  While both have bright, sulfur-yellow tails in their juvenile stage, a Cottonmouth's eye is obscured by a dark facial band.

Click here

to identify Florida's six venomous snakes

Picture of a Great Egret © Lee Anne Winchester - The Great Egret (Ardea alba) is one of Yellow River's largest wading birds.  In Santa Rosa County, Florida, conservation efforts provide for a rich wetland habitat where this bird can feed on fish, amphibians, invertebrates and small mammals.  Reptiles such as snakes and juvenile alligators are also on the Great Egret’s diet.

(Above)  The Great Egret (Ardea alba) is one of Yellow River's largest wading birds.  Conservation efforts provide for a rich wetland habitat where this bird can feed on fish, amphibians, invertebrates and small mammals.  Reptiles such as snakes and juvenile alligators are also on its diet.   

Yellow River is unique in that it drains the state’s highest elevation.  Its drainage basin is made up of approximately 1,365 square miles.  Another 499 square miles are drained by the Shoal River, its main tributary.  The combination of both rivers has an impressive discharge averaging 2,289 cubic feet per second. 

(Above)  Commonly known as a water moccasin, a baby Cotton-mouth (Agkistrodon piscivorus conanti) can be mistaken for a Southern Copperhead.  While both have bright, sulfur-yellow tails in their juvenile stage, a Cottonmouth's eye is obscured by a dark facial band.

(Right)  Yellow River is unique in that it drains the state's highest elevation.  Locals refer to the area as the 'Yellow River Valley'.

Picture of scenic high point above Yellow River © Lee Anne Winchester – Florida’s Yellow River is unique in that it drains the state's highest elevation.  Locals refer to the area as the 'Yellow River Valley'.

The majority of the land surrounding Yellow River has been  acquired  by  the  state  for  water  management purposes.  Boundaries within the Yellow River Water Management Area are defined with signage from the corresponding agencies. 

Picture of Yellow River Wildlife Management Area sign © Lee Anne Winchester – The majority of the land surrounding Yellow River has been acquired by the state of Florida for water management purposes.  Boundaries within the Yellow River Water Management Area are defined with signage from the corresponding agencies.

(Left; Right)  Boundaries within the Yellow River Water Management Area are defined with signage from the corresponding agencies.

Picture of posted boundaries on Yellow River © Lee Anne Winchester – The majority of the land surrounding Yellow River has been acquired by the state of Florida for water management purposes.  Boundaries within the Yellow River Water Management Area are defined with signage from the corresponding agencies.

On the lower reach of Yellow River, eleven thousand acres have been set aside as the Yellow River Marsh Aquatic Preserve.  The preserve includes portions of Blackwater Bay and East Bay, and is recognized as some of the most pristine waters in the state.  

(Right)  This aerial photo, taken by Rick Pascal, encompasses a large portion of the Yellow River Marsh Aquatic Preserve.  The eleven-thousand acre preserve includes por-tions of Blackwater Bay, East Bay, and the lower reach of Yellow River, and is recog-nized as some of the most pristine waters in the state of Florida.

Aerial picture of Yellow River Marsh Aquatic Preserve - © Rick Pascal – This aerial photo, taken by Rick Pascal, encompasses a large portion of the Yellow River Marsh Aquatic Preserve.  The eleven-thousand-acre preserve includes portions of Blackwater Bay, East Bay, and the lower reach of Yellow River, and is recognized as some of the most pristine waters in the state of Florida.

Yellow River Marsh  

 Aquatic Preserve  

Picture of the Hwy 90 Bridge over Yellow River © Lee Anne Winchester – Before constructing the new US 90 (SR 10) bridge over Yellow River, a plan for relocating three species of freshwater mussels was devised along with measures to protect the Gulf Sturgeon during its migration season.  The state of Florida has designated Yellow River as a critical habitat for these and many other threatened species.

(Left)  Before constructing the new US 90 (SR 10) bridge over Yellow River, a plan for relocating three species of freshwater mussels was devised along with measures to protect the Gulf Sturgeon during its migration season.  The state of Florida has designated Yellow River as a critical habitat for these and many other threatened species.

Link – Learn more about the Florida Greenways & Trails website and its interactive maps https://floridadep.gov/parks/ogt/content/florida-greenways-and-trails-system-plan-and-maps-update

Click on the logo above to link to Florida's Designated Paddling Trails

Yellow River is part of the real Florida experience where residents and visitors are impacted by the ever-changing scenery and profound sense of the wild.  Recreational opportunities range from hunting, fishing, and wildlife observation to other types of nature appreciation as well as most     forms     of    boating.

As part of the statewide Green-ways and Trails System, 54 miles (86.9 km) of the upper Yellow River is a Florida Designated Paddling Trail

(Right)  Milligan Park Boat Ramp provides boat access to the Yellow River just south of Hwy 90 on Ellis Rd.  It is one of seven access points along the Yellow River Paddling Trail.

(Below)  A father and son sport their fishing hats at Duck Pond on Eglin Air Force Base Reservation.

Picture of Milligan Park Boat Ramp Yellow River © Lee Anne Winchester – Milligan Park Boat Ramp in Okaloosa County, Florida, provides boat access to the Yellow River just south of Hwy 90 on Ellis Rd.  It is one of seven access points along the Yellow River Paddling Trail.

Milligan Park Boat Ramp

Picture of Boiling Creek on Eglin Reservation © Lee Anne Winchester – Known for its beautifully clear water and sandy white bottom, the lower reach of Boiling Creek is one of nine Paddle Trails found on the Eglin Reservation.  A permit allows conditional use of the reservation for a wide range of recreational activities including access to Eglin's Paddle Trails.
USDA Logo.png
Florida National Scenic Trail Logo - Link to the Florida National Scenic Trail -  https://www.fs.usda.gov/fnst
Picture of Duck Pond on Eglin Air Force Base Reservation © Lee Anne Winchester – A father and son sport their fishing hats at Duck Pond on Eglin Air Force Base Reservation in Okaloosa County, Florida. A permit allows conditional use of the reservation for a wide range of recreational activities including access to Eglin's ponds.

One of the most explored areas of Yellow River is the undeveloped wetlands and upland forests of Eglin Air Force Base Reservation.  A total of 250,000 acres have been set aside as the Eglin Air Force Base Wildlife Management  Area. 

(Right)  Known for its beautifully clear water and sandy white bottom, the lower reach of Boiling Creek is one of nine Paddle Trails found on the Eglin Reservation.  A permit allows conditional use of the reservation for a wide range of recreational activities including access to Eglin's Paddle Trails.

An Eglin Reservation permit allows conditional use of the reservation for fishing, hunting, biking, and primitive camping as well as hiking the Florida National Scenic Trail. The permit also allows access to Eglin's Paddle Trails.

Picture of the Florida National Scenic Trail on Eglin Reservation © Lee Anne Winchester – The Florida National Scenic Trail meanders through some of Eglin Reservation’s most beautiful, unique landscapes which include old-growth longleaf pine forests, sandhill uplands, and steep-head ravines.  The visibly marked trail gives hikers a chance to see wildlife and camp in designated areas.

(Right)  The Florida National Scenic Trail meanders through some of Eglin Reservation's most beautiful, unique landscapes which include old-growth longleaf pine forests, sandhill uplands, and steep-head ravines.  The visibly marked trail gives hikers a chance to see wildlife and camp in designated areas.

Hiking icon - Learn more about hiking the Florida National Scenic Trail:  https://www.fs.usda.gov/fnst

More than 106 Federally Listed Plant and Animal Species are found on the Eglin reservation where sixty-three of these are consider globally rare.  Eglin’s Natural Resources Management Plan provides for the long-term protection of sensitive species through habitat restoration and preservation practices.        

Click on the logo above to link to

Florida National Scenic Trail

Picture of Crimson pitcherplant flower © Lee Anne Winchester – Springing from a dense clump of rhizomes, the slightly fragrant flower of the Crimson pitcherplant appears just before or along with the forming pitchers between March and April.

(Above)  Springing from a dense clump of rhizomes, the slightly fragrant flower of the Crimson pitcherplant appears just before or along with the forming pitchers between March and April.  

(Below) The Crimson pitcherplant (Sarracenia leucophylla Raf.) is a native carnivorous plant scattered amongst Eglin reservation's various wetlands including upland seepage bogs, wet meadows, and moist flats in pine savannas.  It is a listed vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to lack of natural wildfires and loss of its unique wetland habitat.     

Picture of Crimson pitcherplant © Lee Anne Winchester – The Crimson pitcherplant (Sarracenia leucophylla Raf.) is a native carnivorous plant scattered amongst Eglin reservation's various wetlands including upland seepage bogs, wet meadows, and moist flats in pine savannas.  It is a listed vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species due to lack of natural wildfires and loss of its unique wetland habitat.

One of the threatened species that benefits from conservation efforts on Yellow River is the Gulf sturgeon.  This subspecies of sturgeon returns from the Gulf of Mexico each year to its natal stream for spawning. Yellow River is cited as a Critical Habitat for this species which relies on healthy water conditions to exist.

Picture of Gulf sturgeon courtesy of Ryan Hagerty, USFWS – The Gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi) is listed as a threatened species by the federal government and a species of special concern by the state of Florida.  Yellow River is one of the three last high-quality spawning areas in Florida for the Gulf sturgeon.

Photo courtesy Ryan Hagerty, USFWS 

Picture of biologists monitoring Gulf sturgeon, courtesy of USFWS – The Gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi) is listed as a threatened species by the federal government and a species of special concern by the state of Florida.  Yellow River is one of the three last high-quality spawning areas in Florida for the Gulf sturgeon.

 Still-image courtesy of US Fish & Wildlife Service 

(Above)  The Gulf sturgeon (Acipenser oxyrinchus desotoi) is listed as a threatened species by the federal government and a species of special concern by the state  of  Florida.  Yellow  River  is one of the three last high-quality spawning areas in Florida for the Gulf sturgeon.

(Left)  Biologists monitor Gulf sturgeon on Yellow River by using a safe catch-and-release method for collecting data. This prehistoric fish can reach up to nine feet long and weigh as much as 300 pounds.  Click here to watch video.

Preservation of the habitat surrounding Yellow River ensures that threaten and endangered species have the best chance of survival.  Many species that reside in or migrate through the Eglin reservation corridor are protected by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and have well-developed programs designed for their conservation, management, or recovery. 

Map of Northwest Florida Wildlife Corridor System – Eglin Air Force Base, Blackwater River State Forest, and the Conecuh National Forest make up the largest contiguous acreage of old-growth longleaf pine/wiregrass ecosystem left in the world.  As a whole, they provide for the movement of wildlife in the Northwest region of Florida through the Florida Wildlife Corridor system.  http://floridawildlifecorridor.org/about/explore-the-corridor/

(Above)  Eglin Air Force Base, Blackwater River State Forest, and the Conecuh National Forest make up the largest contiguous acreage of old-growth longleaf pine/wiregrass ecosystem left in the world.  As a whole, they provide for the movement of wildlife in the Northwest region of Florida through the Florida Wildlife Corridor system.  

Picture of Florida black bear, courtesy of FWC - GFBWT – The Florida black bear (Ursus americanus floridanus) has increased in numbers through extensive protection and conservation measures. While numbers are up, only about 120 bears live in the panhandle west of the Choctawhatchee River. Fruits, nuts, and berries amount to 80 percent of their diet; another 15 percent comes from insects such as termites, ants, and yellow jackets.  The remaining 5 percent consists of meat from animals such as opossums, armadillos, and carrion.

Photo courtesy of FWC - GFBWT

The Florida black bear and the American alligator  are perhaps the most desired of these protected species to see.  Yellow River is an ideal habitat for the Alligator where numbers have stabilized through long term recovery efforts.

(Left)  The Florida black bear (Ursus americanus floridanus) has increased in numbers through extensive protection and conservation measures. While numbers are up, only about 120 bears live in the panhandle west of the Choctawhatchee River. Fruits, nuts, and berries amount to 80 percent of their diet; another 15 percent comes from insects such as termites, ants, and yellow jackets.  The remaining 5 percent consists of meat from animals such as opossums, armadillos, and carrion.

For   the   Florida   black bear, habitat preservation is   crucial    for    recovery.

Black bear paw print illustration – Learn more about living with Florida black bears. https://myfwc.com/wildlifehabitats/wildlife/bear/living/

Additional Strategic Habitat Conservation Areas (SHCAs) are needed to increase their security and range. Sighting either one of these species while exploring is a highlight for residents and visitors alike.

Picture of baby Florida banded water snake © Lee Anne Winchester – The Florida banded water snake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris) is a nonvenomous snake often mistaken for the venomous Cottonmouth.  This brightly colored newborn will turn darker with age where its markings will appear more subdued. https://www.floridamuseum.ufl.edu/herpetology/fl-snakes/list/nerodia-fasciata-pictiventris
Picture of Great Blue Heron, courtesy of © Paula J. Griffin – The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) depends on wetlands for feeding and on relatively undisturbed sites for breeding.  Like many other species, they are vulnerable to habitat loss and to impacts such as logging, motorboats, and other human intrusions that can disrupt nesting colonies. https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Great_Blue_Heron

(Above)  The Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias) depends on wetlands for feeding and on relatively undisturbed sites for breeding.  Like many other species, they are vulnerable to habitat loss and to impacts such as logging, motorboats, and other human intrusions that can disrupt nesting colonies. 

(Left)  The Florida banded water snake (Nerodia fasciata pictiventris) is a nonvenomous snake often mistaken for the venomous Cottonmouth.  This brightly colored newborn will turn darker with age where its markings will appear more subdued.

Historically, the Lower Creeks were the original occupants of this area.  As part of the Muscogee Creek nation, they were a highly civilized people engaged in agriculture and grazing. Seasonal migrations down Yellow River were common for them to harvest fish and a variety of shellfish.

Picture of stone tools and points © Lee Anne Winchester – The Lower Creeks were a highly civilized people engaged in agriculture and grazing.  Tools and points made of stone were thought to have been brought with them during their seasonal migrations to the coast.  The sample shown here could facilitate the need for piercing, scraping, cutting, and pounding.
Picture of Leanne Bennett and Regina Fowler on Yellow River © Lee Anne Winchester – Fishing on the Yellow River is a way of life for many local residents.  Leanne Bennett holds up a fine bass caught by lifelong resident, Regina Fowler (seated).

(Above)  Fishing on the Yellow River is a way of life for many local residents.  Leanne Bennett holds up a fine bass caught by lifelong resident, Regina Fowler (seated).

(Left)  The Lower Creeks were a highly civilized people engaged in agriculture and grazing.  Tools and points made of stone were thought to have been brought with them during their seasonal migrations to the coast.  The sample shown here could facilitate the need for piercing, scraping, cutting, and pounding.  

Picture of Jonah Bennett with nice bream © Lee Anne Winchester – Jonah Bennett holds up a nice bream from his fishing hole on Yellow River in Santa Rosa County, Florida, where he pulled in an assortment of fish including a Florida gar.

(Above)      Jonah Bennett holds up a nice bream from his fishing hole on Yellow River where he pulled in an assortment of fish including a Florida gar.

Fishing icon – Learn more about FWC fishing rules and regulations at following link:  https://myfwc.com/about/rules-regulations/

In later years, European migration brought about many changes to the landscape and to the economy as progress pushed forward.  A rippling impact would soon follow once the lumber industry was introduced to the area.  As a result, many small communities, camps, and mills sprang up along Yellow River.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission logo – Click here for FWC Fishing Regulations and License Information:  https://myfwc.com/fishing/freshwater/

Click here for

FWC Fishing Regulations

and License Information

(Right)  River's Edge Campground is located off Log Lake Road where logging activity associated with the silviculture industry still exists. A lacy canopy of Cypress and Juniper over-hang a nearby slough creating a serene place to explore.

(Below)  This cabin dates back to the original owners of Garnier Landing. Landings along the Yellow River were places where passengers and cargo could embark or come ashore as the most common way of travel was by boat.  Other landings along Yellow River include Gin Hole Landing, Carr Landing, Mason Landing, Sweetgum Landing, Flowers Field Landing, and Faulks Ferry Landing.

Picture of Yellow River at River’s Edge Campground © Lee Anne Winchester – River's Edge Campground is located on Yellow River in Okaloosa County, Florida, where logging activity associated with the silviculture industry still exists today.  A lacy canopy of Cypress and Juniper over-hang a nearby slough creating a serene place to explore.

River's Edge Campground

Picture of cabin at Garnier Landing © Lee Anne Winchester – This cabin dates back to the original owners of Garnier Landing in Santa Rosa County, Florida. Landings along the Yellow River were places where passengers and cargo could embark or come ashore as the most common way of travel was by boat.  Other landings along Yellow River include Gin Hole Landing, Carr Landing, Mason Landing, Sweetgum Landing, Flowers Field Landing, and Faulks Ferry Landing.
Picture of Fisher Old Mill Boat Ramp © Lee Anne Winchester – The shallows of an oxbow on Yellow River at Fisher Old Mill Boat Ramp highlight the river's namesake.  A slough towards the west of the ramp could easily have facilitated a small mill operation at this location.

Fisher Old Mill Boat Ramp

(Below Left; Below Right)  The shallows of an oxbow on Yellow River at Fisher Old Mill Boat Ramp highlight the river's namesake.  A slough towards the west of the ramp might have facilitated a small mill operation at this location.

The river was vital for these sites as the most common way to reach them was by boat.  It also facilitated the transporta-tion of the area's natural resources which included the prized Longleaf yellow pine as well as Live oak, Cypress, and Juniper.

Picture of Slough at Fisher Old Mill Boat Ramp © Lee Anne Winchester – The shallows of an oxbow on Yellow River at Fisher Old Mill Boat Ramp highlight the river's namesake.  A slough towards the west of the ramp could easily have facilitated a small mill operation at this location.

Some of the other valued resources were sedimentary clays used for brick making and fish harvested from the river itself.  Towns and communities were built upon the abundance of these resources; their fate would inevitably depend on how long the supplies would last.

(Right)  Efforts to control erosion on Eglin Reservation have significantly improved water quality entering Yellow River from runoff.  Benefits are wide-spread as many endemic species depend on Yellow River's pristine water conditions to survive.

(Below)  Pine Bluff Lake is situated in a beautiful sweeping bend of Yellow River. Nearby are some of the area's highest bluffs where dramatic changes in topography occur.  Other bluffs along the river are Wilkinson Bluff, Metts Bluff, and Miller Bluff.

Picture of Erosion Control Project Area on Eglin Reservation © Lee Anne Winchester – Efforts to control erosion on Eglin Reservation have significantly improved water quality entering Yellow River from runoff.  Benefits are wide-spread as many endemic species depend on Yellow River's pristine water conditions to survive.
Picture of Pine Bluff Lake on Yellow River © Lee Anne Winchester – Pine Bluff Lake is situated in a beautiful sweeping bend of Yellow River. Nearby are some of the area's highest bluffs where dramatic changes in topography occur.  Other bluffs along the river are Wilkinson Bluff, Metts Bluff, and Miller Bluff.

Pine  Bluff  Lake

Unfortunately, the striping and depletion of timber from the land proved to be detrimental for the economy as well as the environment.  Besides the loss of habitat, vast areas of erosion negatively affected the water conditions of Yellow River.  This left a once-thriving ecosystem in a fragile state with many of its species imperiled or on the brink of extinction. 

Today, the State of Florida and the Federal Government are continuing to work towards the protection and restoration of Yellow River as one of our most important ecosystems.

(Right)  Miller Bluff was once the site of a thriving community dating back to the 1800s.  Today, the privately owned riverfront is bordered on three sides by the Yellow River Wildlife Management Area.  Across the Yellow River are the Federally protected lands of Eglin Reservation.

Picture of Miller Bluff overlooking Yellow River © Lee Anne Winchester – Miller Bluff was once the site of a thriving community in Santa Rosa County, Florida, dating back to the 1800s.  Today, the privately owned riverfront is bordered on three sides by the Yellow River Wildlife Management Area.  Across the Yellow River are the Federally protected lands of Eglin Reservation.

Miller  Bluff

By reflecting on our past, we can appreciate efforts to restore and manage our natural resources responsibly as all living organisms depend on each other and on their environments to meet their needs for survival.

(Right)  The Highway 87 Bridge spans for almost a mile over Yellow River where a vast expanse of wetlands and sloughs occur.  This is the end-point for both the Yellow River Paddle Trail and the Boiling Creek Paddle Trail.

Picture of Hwy 87 Bridge over Yellow River © Lee Anne Winchester – The Highway 87 Bridge in Santa Rosa County, Florida, spans for almost a mile over Yellow River where a vast expanse of wetlands and sloughs occur.  This is the end-point for both the Yellow River Paddle Trail and the Boiling Creek Paddle Trail.

Yellow River Bridge - Hwy 87

Picture of flora in Yellow River Marsh Aquatic Preserve © Lee Anne Winchester –The eleven-thousand-acre Yellow River Marsh Aquatic Preserve includes portions of Blackwater Bay, East Bay, and the lower reach of Yellow River.  It is recognized as some of the most pristine waters in the state of Florida and supports a beautiful ecosystem of flora and fauna.

Yellow  River  Marsh  Aquatic  Preserve

Picture of Mouth of Yellow River at Blackwater Bay © Lee Anne Winchester – The mouth of Yellow River is located in Santa Rosa County, Florida where the river empties into Blackwater Bay.  This area is part of the Yellow River Marsh Aquatic Preserve which includes portions of Blackwater Bay, East Bay, and the lower reach of Yellow River.  It is recognized as some of the most pristine waters in the state of Florida and supports a beautiful ecosystem of flora and fauna.

Mouth  of  Yellow  River

As always, use care on the waterways.  Be aware of weather, and river conditions before you launch.  Adhere to FWC Regulations and Boating Safety Requirements.

boat symbol a.jpg
Picture of American Alligator © Lee Anne Winchester – Yellow River is an ideal habitat for the Federally protected American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) where numbers have stabilized through long term recovery efforts.

Understand that most of Yellow River is remote wilderness where you are in control of your own personal safety.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission logo – Click here for FWC Boating Safety link:  https://myfwc.com/boating/

Click on the FWC logo above

for Boating Safety link

Have a float plan and let someone know where you are going and when you are due back.  By following these suggestions, one can expect to have a memorable experience exploring the unique wilderness of the Yellow River.  

On behalf of BWFP and FPAN, we hope you visit the Historic Village of Bagdad.  From our shores, you are welcome to launch into your own adventure on the beautiful Blackwater River and use the Blackwater Maritime Heritage Trail to enrich your experience.

Welcome to the Village of Bagdad, Santa Rosa County, Florida; established in 1840

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