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Mud Bogging

Things to do around Chiefland

For recreation, Chiefland has several fine parks and a variety of youth league sports. The recently created Strickland Park is one of the finest facilities in the state for a city of Chiefland’s size. The downtown Chief Theatre on East Park Avenue is home to the Suwannee Valley Players, a local group of thespians who put on plays for the enjoyment of local citizens. The group stages productions four to six times per year, usually for multiple showings. Chiefland is also considered the home of beautiful Manatee Springs State Park and is within easy driving distance of other natural attractions in the area. The city has two fine hotels that are often filled with tourists interested in exploring the local environment. Just outside of the city, Chiefland Golf and Country Club offers the best golfing experience in the Tri-County area. Set in a lovely landscape, club members have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in recent years to improve the greens and offer a more challenging course.

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Watermelon Festival
Held on the first Saturday in June, the Annual Watermelon Festival is perhaps the biggest event in Chiefland during the year, drawing thousands of visitors from all parts of the state. The one-day event began in 1954, as the City of Chiefland wrapped up the completion of new sidewalks and streets. The Chiefland Civic Club decided there was a definite cause to celebrate! It was summer and the watermelon season was drawing to an end, so farmers donated their last watermelons for the celebration. Today, farmers continue to donate watermelons, which are served ice cold and delicious for all visitors to enjoy.

With time, the festival has grown, and now showcases arts and crafts exhibits from around Florida and neighboring states. There are plenty of children’s activities, including a watermelon seed-spitting contest! The watermelon parade, auction, weighing-contest, and the Watermelon Queen contest are just some of the festival highlights that draw spectators from all around the area. The tradition has carried on through 65 years, maintained by the Chiefland Women’s Club.
2019 Watermelon Festival Schedule of Events
Vendor Application
Vendor Terms and Conditions
Parade Application

Watermelon Queen Contest
Girls aged 16 through 21 are eligible to compete in the annual Watermelon Queen Contest. Contestants participate in the Watermelon Parade, riding atop their sponsor’s car. Each car has a sign, made by the contestant, identifying the contestant and her sponsor. Then, following the parade and watermelon auction, contestants meet at the Women’s Clubhouse on Park Avenue for a brief interview with the judges.
Queen Pageant Form

Little Queen & King Contest
For younger children between the ages of three and five, there is the Little Queen and King Contest. Here, children ride in the Watermelon Parade, then compete for the crown following the parade. The contest, judged by individuals living outside Chiefland, is held at the Tommy Usher Community Center; children are expected to dress in their most comfortable Sunday bests. Prizes are awarded to the winners.
Childrens Pageant Form

Christmas Festival & Parade
This year’s Christmas Festival will be held on Saturday, December 14, 2019
List of events for Christmas Festival
December 14, 10:00 am – Christmas Festival, Parade & More
10:00 am – 6:00pm – Festival – food, crafts, vendors, pony rides, inflatables, rock wall, bungee jump and entertainment
6:00 pm – Christmas Parade
Free admission
Vendor Application
Parade Application
5K Rudolph Run Application

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The Arts

In a place so rich in history, the arts have also been an integral thread in the Chiefland quilt. Quilts…there are a number of quilting societies and guilds in the Chiefland area, including Springhouse Quilter’s Guild and Log Cabin Quilters.

Founded by the Log Cabin Quilters club, The Levy County Quilt Museum is the only registered quilt museum in the state of Florida. Twice each year this club organizes a Quilt Show for quilters to display their work at the museum and offer items for sale. This museum attracts many visitors during the show season and throughout the year. Be sure to visit this magnificent quilting heaven!
Springhouse Quilter’s Guild was founded in 1992 and has extended its membership to over 70 members since then. As community projects, members quilt together raffle quilts, crafts, sleeping mats, and other works of sewing wonder. The organization even teaches a 4H sewing camp for young quilting enthusiasts.

For theater buffs, visit the Chief Theater in Chiefland and watch the Suwannee Valley Players put on great community productions. This non-profit organization devotes itself to furthering interest in the arts in the Levy-Dixie-Gilchrist area. The group even has an annual summer youth production giving young people in the area a great opportunity to discover the exciting theater world.

For more information about:
Mad Hatters Quilt Guild, contact Ruth Nott at (352)490-7650
Springhouse Quilter’s Guild, write to P.O. Box 305, Trenton, FL 32693
Levy County Quilt Museum, contact Winnelle Horne at (352) 493-2801
Angel Quilts, write to 6971 N.W. 135th Lane, Chiefland, FL 32626
The Suwannee Players, call (352) 493-2787 or write to Suwannee Valley Players at the Chief Theater P.O. Box 550, Chiefland, FL 32644 OR 25 East Park Ave., Chiefland, FL 32626

Drama Free Productions – The Community Playhouse home of Drama Free Productions and Escape Adventures, is a family-friendly venue offering theatrical productions (up to 5 productions annually) and escape games via Escape Adventures. With three (soon to be 4) themed rooms, Escape Adventures is fun for families, date nights, work outings, birthdays, and even team building. We also host family-friendly game nights and karaoke nights periodically. Be sure to like our Facebook pages for both the Community Playhouse and Escape Adventures. You can also visit our websites or We are located at 220 N. Main St. in Chiefland near the Gathering Table restaurant. You can phone us at 352-221-4761

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Imagine sitting around a small fire, sticks in hand, marshmallows pierced on the ends, the smell of melting sugar permeating the cricket’s continuous song. Camping opportunities are abundant in Chiefland. From tent camping to full-facility and RV camping, this area is perfect for an outdoor adventure.

Manatee Springs State Park, with its gorgeous springs and natural scenery, has more than 94 campsites within its boundaries. These sites come fully equipped with grills, tables, and drinking water. For those looking for modern comforts, electricity is another available amenity. Visit the park concession for food, drinks, gifts, camper supplies and canoe rentals.

Manatee Springs State park offers full facility camping with electricity and water in each site. These sites are available for tent or RV use. There are comfort stations centrally located in each of the loops. Comfort stations provide hot showers, toilets and sink facilities. Sites 26-39 and site number 48 are for tent camping only. Located in the Magnolia 1 camping area, these sites allow park visitors to camp in a more rustic setting. Pets are allowed in all camping areas.

The park also offers a youth camping area, organized groups of six or more can camp in the Primitive Youth Camp Area. These facilities offer drinking water and an outdoor shower. These areas are reserved for non-profit, organized groups.

Reservations can be made up to 11 months in advance for camping by calling Reserve America at 1-800-326-3521.
For more information about the parks camping opportunities and facilities, be sure to contact Manatee Springs State Park.

For RV lovers, Breezy Acres Campground and Market Place R.V. Park offer great campgrounds.

Goethe State Forest, amidst all its lush vegetation and diverse wildlife, nature trails and creeks and lakes, offers visitors the opportunity to camp the good old-fashioned way. With a State Forest Use permit, campers can pitch the old tent and spend a night or two beneath the stars. These permits can be obtained at the Goethe State Forest office.

Wherever you decide to camp, let nature take you away from the hustle and bustle of modern city life and return you to a more tranquil state of mind.

Just remember: Certain guidelines should be followed with primitive camping to ensure camper safety and park preservation.

  • Register with the correct state agency that supervises the parks and campsites. Be sure to contact them at least two weeks before your planned trip to obtain necessary permits.
  • Always let someone know where you are going and how long you plan to be gone
  • Before starting your camping adventure, conduct a safety check of all equipment and supplies.
  • Check weather forecasts and advisories during your trip.
  • Only camp in established campsite areas. Only build fires where permitted and within pre-determined fire circles.
  • Use small branches or sticks already on the ground for kindling and instead of cutting dead or living trees. Even lightweight gas stoves could be more appropriate than a fire.
  • Dig latrines and cat-holes at least 200 feet from campsites, trails and water sources. Before breaking camp, be sure to cover these thoroughly.
  • Do not litter. Always bring a trash bag with you and pick up your garbage-NEVER bury or leave it.
  • Do not mar shrubs, trees, and other vegetation, or dig ditches around your tent.
  • To sum up, primitive campers, LEAVE NO TRACE.

For more information about:
Manatee Springs State Park, call (352) 493-6072
Goethe State Forest, call (352) 465-8585
Yellow Jacket Campground, call (352) 542-8365
Chiefland RV Park, call (352) 493-1493
Shell Mound, call (352) 493-0238
Breezy Acres Campground, call (352) 493-7602
Market Place R.V. Park, call (352) 317-0968
Southern Leisure RV Resort 352-284-9900
Strawberry Fields RV’ERS 352-507-7035

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Many of Levy County’s cities closely identify with some sort of natural attraction or history that draws many visitors every year. This area depends economically, in part, to these parks and historic places. Visiting the area is not only a trip back into nature, but also a walk back in time. Chiefland is considered the home of Manatee Springs State Park, one of the best natural parks in the state. The park draws numerous visitors and local residents to its tranquil springs and riverbanks. Tourists can dive in the crystal clear springs, canoe or boat down the Suwannee River, hike through its shaded natural trails, and observe wildlife including manatees, deer, and a variety of wading and song birds. For just a nominal fee, spend a wonderful day with Mother Nature.

Just a short drive away is Fanning Springs State Park. Located in northern Levy County, this park attracts many visitors a year, who journey from far and wide to bask in the cool clear springs and picnic on the shores while observing manatees, woodpeckers, and wading birds. Admission is only six dollars, so be sure to make Fanning Springs a stop in your visit to the Chiefland area.

To the west of Chiefland is the Lower Suwannee Wildlife Refuge. The park, encompassing 52,935 acres of land from both Levy and Dixie counties, is a perfect place to spend a lazy, peaceful morning or afternoon. Float up the Suwannee River, taking in all of nature’s beautiful vegetation and wildlife. Both saltwater and freshwater fishermen can appreciate the river with its freshwater and salt marshes and tidal flats. Boaters can appreciate the river’s gentle current. Wildlife enthusiasts can relish in the bald eagles, swallow-tailed kites, turtles, alligators and occasional bottlenose dolphin around Suwannee Sound. Here, there is something for everyone to enjoy. From the refuge, make your way over to Cedar Key. Cedar Key is one of the last surviving “frontier villages.” Rich in history and natural splendor, Cedar Key is a prime tourist spot. The area’s delectable seafood and shellfish are world-renowned, as are the historic shops and the 81,000 acres of wildlife refuge surrounding the town. Wetlands extend along the Suwannee River banks and out into the Gulf of Mexico. Guided nature tours are available, so don’t forget the camera! Glimpse frigate birds and ospreys, spoonbills, and perhaps even a flock of the rare white pelicans.

Seahorse Key is a unique island that comprises Cedar Key. A huge sand dune left by retreating glaciers, this island boasts the highest point on the Gulf coast at 52 feet above sea level. One can still see shell middens left by those occupying the island more than 2,000 years ago. There are many such islands to explore in the Cedar Key area that provide equally magnificent natural and historical experiences for tourists to discover.

For more information about:
Manatee Springs State Park, call (352) 493-6072
Fanning Springs State Park, call (352) 463-4520
Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, call (352) 493-0238
Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge, call (352) 493-0238
Nature Coast Coalition

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The Chiefland Star Party Group was founded to promote astronomy at the Chiefland Astronomy Village and to bring back the Fall Star Party that had not been held in Chiefland for several years. The Chiefland Star Party Group is open on the rear observing fields to all members just south of Chiefland, off of US 19/98. The address is: 5310 NW 52ND Court, Chiefland, FL 32626. For information on membership visit

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Golf courses are located just about anywhere in Florida and the Chiefland area is no exception. Just a few minutes from the city is Chiefland Golf and Country Club. Recently, the club’s members have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars renovating and improving the course, from fairway to green, to challenge any golfer’s ability. The course has a driving range, pro shop, and lounge. Lessons are also available. Golfers may walk this course on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Wednesdays. This course is truly one of the best in the Tri-County area. Don’t forget to visit the Williston Highlands Golf and Country Club. One of the Tri-county area’s best golf courses featuring 18 holes, par 72, no water hazards, occasional sand traps, driving range, pro shop, and lounge. There are a many golf courses within a short driving distance of Chiefland and Levy County. Minutes away are Rainbow Springs Golf & Country Club in nearby Dunnellon. This picturesque course has towering oak trees throughout the course. There are no in-play water hazards; however, there is a nice sprinkling of sand traps. Greens are medium-speed, and fairways are lush and full.

For more information about:
Chiefland Golf & Country Club, call (352) 493-2375
Williston Highlands Golf & Country Club, call (352) 528-2520

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Horse trails abound in the Greater Chiefland Area. One of the best trails is the Nature Coast State Trail. Equestrian trails parallel some portions of the paved trail and will eventually run its entire length. Currently, parking for equestrians can be found at the Fanning Springs and Old Town trailheads. (The rest of the paragraph is fine, as follows) Goethe State Forest also provides equestrians with the opportunity to enjoy the park by designating many beautiful natural trails for this purpose. Cedar Key Scrub Wildlife Management Area and Waccasassa Bay, also offer great horseback riding opportunities. Goethe State Forest also provides equestrians with the opportunity to enjoy the park by designating many beautiful natural trails for this purpose. Cedar Key Scrub Wildlife Management Area and Waccasassa Bay, also offer great horseback riding opportunities.

The Royal Riding Academy Association provides a wonderful chance for mentally and physically handicapped individuals, children’s programs, camps, and beginning equestrians to interact with horses and learn riding techniques. We use rescued and retired horses for most of our riding, and volunteers to assist riders and care for the horses. We are looking for professionals in learning, mental health, social and physcial therapies, as well as groups such as churches, children’s programs, and mentally or physically handicapped programs and interested individuals to help with or receive our services. For more information contact the program director at (352) 463-0047.

Nestled in the heart of the 53,000-acre Goethe State Forest, Black Prong Equestrian Center is a unique 200-acre facility meticulously developed for the sport and art of combined carriage driving. Come experience the convenience and camaraderie of riding, driving & training among champions!

Explore at your own pace or in the company of fellow driving enthusiasts – and discover for yourself why guests call Black Prong “A Driver’s Heaven”.

For more information about:
The Nature Coast Trail State Park, call (352) 493-6072
Andrews Wildlife Management Area, call (352) 493-6020 or (386) 758-0525
Goethe State Forest, call (352) 465-8585
Royal Riding Academy Association, call (352) 463-0047

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Birding enthusiasts, be sure to observe the many magnificent and unique species that live in Chiefland (See our list of State Bird Trails below). Perhaps the best way to truly fulfill your hobby is to plan a trip on foot through established hiking trails and wildlife refuges within the area.

Visit Manatee Springs State Park, located in Chiefland, to glimpse wading birds like herons, egrets, and ibis, sunbathing on the banks of the pristine Main Spring and the peaceful Suwannee River. If hiking is not your preferred transportation method, canoeing down the river will provide a quiet ride into nature. From this vantage point, closely observe an assortment of birds and other animals in their most comfortable environment. Lose yourself in Nature’s splendor, in the colors and sounds of Chiefland’s diverse bird population.

After you visit Manatee Springs, skip up to Fanning Springs State Park. Here, watch for red-shouldered hawks, pileated woodpeckers, and barred owls on the beautiful nature trails, or by boat or canoe.At the small spring, make your way to the dive and observation platform for one of the best birding opportunities in the area.

At Goethe State Forest, view eleven (11) natural communities abounding with bird life. You might spot a bald eagle, southeastern American kestrel, or some red-cockaded woodpeckers.

Specific guidelines should be followed to make the most out of your birding experience.

Birding Guidelines

  • Avoid pollution of the habitat, plan restroom stops and do not litter. Also, bring a trash bag with you and recycle when possible.
  • Keep motor vehicles on designated roadways and parking areas.
  • Observe all speed limits when boating. Keep to established channels when possible. Be sure to watch your depth and adhere to speed signs to protect the manatee and other marine animals. Avoid prop dredging and/or sea grass damage.
  • Take care when approaching spoil islands-do so quietly and do not attempt to walk on them. This may result in the abandonment of eggs or young chicks, or expose any nests to predation.
  • Stay on designated pathways and trails. Do not trample or disturb fragile habitats, including marshes, wild flowers, and tangles.
  • Avoid excessive and unnecessary use of squeakers, tape recorders, and “pishing”.
  • Respect property and privacy. Request permission when needed and keep noise to a minimum. Avoid quick movements and dissonant noises.
  • If photographing, be sure to leave the habitat as you found it, especially around nests. Tie branches or grass back if you need to move it-do not cut it.

For more information:
Manatee Springs State Park, call (352) 493-6072
Goethe State Forest, call (352) 465-8585
Or visit

The Great Florida Birding Trail:
Greater Chiefland Birding Trails

Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge (North end)
Shired Island Beach access offers trails through coastal hammock past mudflats and open beach good for everything from wintering shorebirds to songbird migrants making landfall in spring. Dixie Mainline is a 9 mi.-driving/biking/walking road through pine flat woods, bottomland hardwoods and marsh. Gorgeous birding, but be aware that hunting use is intense on this area Oct./Nov., when biking/ hiking are not advised. Fishbone Creek offers a platform vantage of saltmarsh. Salt Creek has an ADA-accessible boardwalk to the marsh where bald eagles frequently nest. There is always something to see here year-round, but be prepared for biting insects in warm weather.

DIRECTIONS: Shired Island Beach (a): Follow CR 351 from Cross City to CR 357. Turn SW and follow it all the way to the Gulf. Dixie Mainline Termini (b) are on CR 357 (5 miles from the Gulf) and CR 349 (3 miles from the Gulf). Fishbone Creek (c): Entrance is on the N side of CR 357 1 mi. SW of the entrance for Dixie Mainline. Salt Creek (d): From the CR 349 terminus of Dixie Mainline, go north 0.5 mi. and turn left (W); park at end of road (do not block gate).
Open 24 hours/day. (352) 493-0238 Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge

Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge (Headquarters)
Trail is a brief lowland walk through a cypress and maple swamp to a boardwalk at the water’s edge. For driving access, visit the Loop Road through dark, cool lowlands good for songbirds. Tram roads off into the swamp offer the opportunity to get out and hike. Part of this area is open to hunting, so check seasons before you arrive. Shell Mound Trail winds around a Native American midden, and can be good for songbirds while affording excellent views of the salt marsh.

DIRECTIONS: Headquarters Trail (a): From Chiefland, take SR 19 S to CR 347. Drive W on CR 347 12 mi. Here, CR 347 meets CR 330 at a stop sign. Continue to the left on CR 347. Five miles ahead on the right, follow signs to the nature trail at the Refuge Headquarters. Loop Road (b, c): one mile further on the right (W) side of CR 347 is the entrance to the Refuge Loop Road. This driving trail returns to CR 347 approx. 4.0 mi. further south. Shell Mound (d): From Cedar Key, take CR 24 N to CR 347 and turn left (N). Follow CR 347 approx. 3 mi. to CR 326. Turn left (W) and follow the signs to the Shell Mound trail at the end.
Open 24 hours a day. (352) 493-0238; Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge

Hart Springs Park
This small county park is mostly used for swimming in warm weather, but offers a nice boardwalk through bald cypress along the Suwannee River. Wood storks and pileated woodpeckers, prothonotary warblers and bald eagles are all possible. Trails through thick xeric hammock lead to some open areas for meadowlarks and bobwhites.

DIRECTIONS: From Fanning Springs, travel 2 mi. E on SR 26.
Turn left (N) on CR 232, and go to CR 344. Turn left (W), the road dead ends at the park.
Open 9:00 a.m. to sunset. (352) 463-3444

Fanning Springs State Park
This small park known for its swimming hosts a birding festival each spring. A boardwalk through cypress down to the spring returns through mesic hammock. Eastern phoebes snatch insects in open areas and a brief nature trail behind the bath house runs through broadleaf forest nice for migrants in season, Mississippi kites in summer.

DIRECTIONS: On the W side of US 19 in Fanning Springs, 0.5 mi. S of the Suwannee River bridge.
Open 8:00 a.m. to dusk. (352) 463-3420;

Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve
The east end of this site features upland sand hills and scrubs, home to the elusive Florida scrub-jay and short-tailed hawks. The W end slopes down through Black Point Swamp to tidal creeks and salt marsh. This is a beautiful, rustic preserve. Come with water; prepare to hike. Limited hunting on-site Sept. – Nov. Call for dates.

DIRECTIONS: From Cedar Key, follow CR 24 out of town, and veer left onto CR 347. Entrance is one mile ahead from this intersection, on the left (W) side of the road. Open dawn to dusk. (352) 543-5567; Cedar Key Scrub Wildlife Management Area

Andrews Wildlife Management Area
This area’s old-growth hardwoods and open understory are good for turkey and migrants like worm-eating warblers and Eastern wood-pewees. Suwannee River frontage offers water birds, and there is an extensive system of roads passable to 2WD. Intimate hiking trails access more remote areas with state champion trees. Hunting closes area to birding 10 weekends from Sept. to Apr. Call for dates.

DIRECTIONS: From Fanning Springs, travel 2.5 mi. S on US 19 to NW 160th St. Turn right (W) and follow the road to the site at the end.
Open dawn to dusk. (352) 493-6020.

Manatee Springs State Park
A boardwalk meanders from the spring along the run to the Suwannee River, through a cypress stand good for migrants. Watch the far shore for cryptic limpkins. At the river, there is a large vulture roost, as well as an opportunity to view waders and ducks on the river. Spring is popular with swimmers. River offers more birding opportunities than upland nature trails.
DIRECTIONS: From US 19 in Chiefland, turn W onto SR 320 and follow it to the park at the end.

Open 8:00 a.m. to dusk, 365 days/year. (352) 493-6072;
Manatee Springs State Park

Number 4 Bridge and Fishing Pier
In late fall and winter, flats in the channels between the islands of Cedar Key host a tremendous diversity of shorebirds, and can be viewed from vantages like this one. Kayak concessions offer a unique access to the surrounding waters, where peregrines stoop on clusters of sandpipers and kettles of white pelicans soar on thermals. Roseate Spoonbills are summer treats.

DIRECTIONS: Take SR 24 towards Cedar Key. After crossing the first bridge to the keys, take the first left (E) onto SW 153rd Ct. Follow the road to the fishing pier/overlook at the end. Open sunrise to sunset.

Cedar Key City Park, Marina & Fishing Pier
As long as you’re in Cedar Key, you might as well check the waterfront for lingering night herons on pilings in the marina or spotted sandpipers bobbing on the rocky shore. Sandy spits off the city park are teeming with peeps in winter.

DIRECTIONS: Drive SR 24 into Cedar Key and turn left at the first stop sign onto 2nd St. Go 3 blocks to A St. Park is on the corner of 2nd and A; A St. becomes Dock St. at Waterfront. Open dawn to dusk.

Goethe State Forest
Get a map at Forest HQ or at trailheads. Most open forest roads are accessible to 2WD vehicles. Hunting pressure is very heavy Nov.-Dec.; wear blaze orange. Drive North Prong Rd. E to Gas Line Rd. and follow Gas Line NE through longleaf pines. Red cockaded woodpecker (RCW) cavity trees are ringed with white paint; one cluster is on the W side of Gas Line just before Apex Rd. North-south Cow Creek and Black Prong roads also offer nice flat woods, cypress domes and freshwater creeks. Another RCW cluster is located on the W side of Cow Creek Rd. 2.5 miles S of CR 326. Extensive, rustic hiking/ horseback riding trails are available.

DIRECTIONS: From Inglis, drive 10 mi. N on US 19 to its intersection with CR 121 and CR 336. Gas Line Rd. (a): Bear right (N) onto CR 121 and make another quick right (SE) onto CR 336. After approx. 0.9 mi. turn left (N) onto North Prong Rd. Follow this road to its end at the intersection with Gas Line Rd. and turn left. Cow Creek Rd. (b): Bear right (N) onto CR 121, cross CR 336 and continue approx. 1.2 mi. N. Turn left onto Cow Creek Rd. HQ is located on the E side of the forest at 9110 SE CR 337.
Open dawn to dusk. (352) 465-8585;

Goethe State Forest
Goethe Wildlife Management Area

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Levy County has one of the richest and fullest histories in this area of the state. Initially, several Native American tribes, including the Timucuan Indians, settled in the area to farm the land. One minor chief ruled each individual tribe; these minor chiefs then answered to the head chief. The head chief, as it turned out, possessed all the land where the city of Chiefland stands today.

In 1539, it is believed that Hernando de Soto, the great Spanish conquistador, and his men, passed through the area, killing many of the Timucuan people. As Europeans settled into the area, the Timucuan people dwindled from disease, migration, or being sold into slavery. By the late 19th century, the area was predominantly composed of white farmers and plantation owners and their Negro slaves.

The year 1913 brought Chiefland’s incorporation and by the 1930s, the population had risen to 421. Today, more than 2,000 people reside within Chiefland. Farming was an integral factor in the area’s success. Today, agriculture still remains one of the most prevalent driving forces in the modern Chiefland economy. Both family farms and conglomerate agri-businesses coexist in the area, along with cattle and horse ranches. Chiefland farms produce a variety of crops, including timber, cotton, hay, silage, corn, soybeans, peanuts, and watermelon. Watermelon is so popular, in fact, Chiefland hosts county-wide festival in its honor! The Watermelon Festival is held annually and coordinated by the Chiefland Women’s Club.

Chiefland is also rich in natural history. Ancient trees tower in the numerous wildlife preserves and state parks in the area. Beautifully clear springs bubble in nearly every part of Levy County, from Manatee Springs in Chiefland, to Fanning Springs just a few minutes’ drive away. The Suwannee River, made famous by composer, Stephen Foster, meanders its way through the Chiefland area, eventually emptying into the Gulf of Mexico. Cedar Key, on the western side of the county, offers visitors excellent fishing and wildlife watching opportunities. Levy County is ideal for nature lovers and historians-some of the same environments and wildlife that existed thousands of years ago still remain today.

Cedar Keys Lighthouse was built in 1854 on a small island named Seahorse Key. The lighthouse is only 30 feet tall, but it is located on a sandy peak that is 42 feet high, bringing the total height of the light to a respectable 72 feet. Like others in the South, the light was extinguished at the start of the Civil War. Union ships attacked the island in 1862, capturing two unmounted cannon. After the war, a new keeper was hired and soon after, a new kitchen building was built. In 1891, the dwelling was overhauled and a new brick oil house was built. Large additions were built to both the east and west sides of the building around 1905, tripling the floor space of the dwelling. Trees growing up on the island and the presence of smaller post lights in the surrounding area made the lighthouse less effective. In 1915, the lighthouse was discontinued and turned over to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The entire island was made part of the Cedar Keys National Wildlife Refuge in 1936, making it one of the largest bird nesting areas in Florida.

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Hunting is a popular pastime in this part of the state. There are five management areas near Chiefland, including Andrews Wildlife Management Area, Cedar Key Scrub Wildlife Management Area, Goethe Wildlife Management area, Gulf Hammock Wildlife Management Area, and the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge.

At Andrews Wildlife Management Area, enjoy hunting both large and small game, turkey, and migratory bird hunting during the designated muzzle loading gun, archery, and general gun seasons. Cedar Key Scrub Wildlife Management Area is nestled within the Cedar Key Scrub State Reserve. Hunters can partake in deer, gray squirrel, and wild hog hunting during the muzzle loading gun, general gun, and archery seasons. Frogging and fishing are regulated by the Department of Environmental Protection. Camping, trapping, and hunting with dogs are all banned.

Goethe Wildlife Management Area is located within Levy County sector of the beautiful Goethe State Forest. Hunting with dogs is allowed here, however, trapping and camping are not. Additionally, some areas of the forest remain closed to hunting. Enjoy the large and small game during muzzle loading gun, general gun, and archery seasons.

Public access to Gulf Hammock Wildlife Management Area is allowed only during hunting seasons. However, hunters may choose to camp at selected spots within the area. Frogging and fishing are allowed while the area is open for hunting, during the archery, general gun, and spring turkey seasons.

Hunt squirrel, turkey, raccoon, hog, deer, and waterfowl at the exquisite Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge during appropriate seasons. Be sure to visit their office to pick up a brochure and permit.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission directs all fishing and hunting within the area. For more information, contact RT. 7. Box 440, Lake City, FL 32055 or call (386) 758-0525.

For more information about:
Andrews Wildlife Management Area, call (352) 493-6020 or (386) 758-0525
Cedar Key Scrub Wildlife Management Area, call (352) 493-0238
Goethe Wildlife Management Area, call (352) 447-2202
Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge, call (352) 493-0238

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Hiking Trails

Many visitors to Florida’s Nature Coast decide to utilize alternative modes of transportation and take to the many state trails that offer hiking and bike opportunities. From the St. Marks State Trail in the northern region of the Nature Coast to the newly opened hiking and biking trail that parallels the Suncoast parkway in Pasco and Hernando Counties, there are plenty of places to get off the highway and take to the trails. Below are four areas of interest.

  1. St. Mark State Trail – This 16-mile stretch of trail runs from Tallahassee to St. Marks in Wakulla County. This was the first designated state trail in Florida. For more information call 850-922-6007.
  2. Nature Coast State Trail – Recovered from old railroad right-of-way, this trail parallels U.S. 19 and State Road 26 in Dixie, Levy and Gilchrist Counties. While paving of this trail is continuing, all trail corridors are open for use. This 32 acre linear park, links diverse wildlife viewing areas, a natural swimming spring and the historic Suwannee River. Trailheads are in Cross City, Old Town, Fanning Springs, Trenton and Chiefland. For more information call 352-493-6073.
  3. Withlacoochee State Trail – This 46-mile paved trail runs from Trilby in Pasco county north through Hernando County to just south of Dunnellon. The trail goes through Floral City, Inverness and Citrus Springs. It also takes users through the Withlacoochee State Forest. Trailheads are in Trilby, Ridge Manor, Silver Lake Campground, Floral City, Inverness and Citrus Springs. For more information call 352-394-2280.
  4. Suncoast Parkway Bike Trail – This 29-mile trail follows along the route of the Suncoast Parkway from State Road 50 near Brooksville to the southern border of Pasco and into northern Hillsborough County. The trail is separated from the highway by fencing and landscaping. It crosses through several rivers and wildlife areas. Areas to access the trail in the Nature Coast are at State Road 50 in Hernando County, Grove Road in Hernando County and at State Road 52 in Pasco County. For more information call 727-856-4488.

For more information about:
Cedar Key National Wildlife Refuge, call (352) 493-0238
The Nature Coast Trail State Park, call (352) 493-6072
Manatee Springs State Park, call (352) 493-6072
Fanning Springs State Park, call (352) 463-4520

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Racing/Mud Bogging

Looking for something to do on Saturday night? Why not head out to the Bronson Motor Speedway? The track is a new American Speed Association (ASA) member, owned by ASA National Tour competitor, Mike Cope. The 1/4- mile long, high-banked asphalt track is just a short drive from Chiefland and offers events like street stocks, mini stocks, pure stocks, late models, and modifies. Visitors, so long as they are 18 or older (or have a signed release, indemnity, and waiver agreement) can even enter the pits! While special events and races are to-be-announced, ordinary scheduled events are held at 7:30 p.m. every Saturday night, weather permitting.

The Hitching Post on Highway 26 between Gainesville and Trenton holds races on the 1st and 3rd Saturday nights from February through October. For more information call (352) 472-9326

For more information about:
Bronson Motor Speedway
The Hitching Post, call (352) 472-9326