Along the 52 lower miles of the Apalachicola River, the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve is one of three federal reserves in Florida devoted to the study and interpretation of our biggest estuaries.
Jointly managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, this marine reserve includes vast landscapes only accessible by boat.
But there are land-based tracts as well, most notably in Eastpoint, where the Nature Center provides an in-depth overview of the reserve, from its aquatic life to its rich cultural history.
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Headquarters: 29.728904, -84.887821
Address: 108 Island Drive, Eastpoint FL
Restroom: At the nature center
Land manager: Apalachicola NERR
Nature Center open Tue-Sat 9 AM to 4 PM. Leashed dogs welcome, but not inside buildings.
Approaching Eastpoint from either Carrabelle or Apalachicola along US 98, keep alert for the intersection with Island Drive, which leads to the bridge to St. George Island. The entrance to the Apalachicola NERR parking area is on the left just after you pass Patton Drive and before you reach the bridge.
About the Reserve
One of the wildest swaths of the Florida Panhandle is, ironically, home to one of its earliest settlements, Apalachicola.
Steamboats plied the Apalachicola River for commerce starting in 1827, taking loads of cotton to Europe and freight and passengers as far as Columbus, Georgia.
The river is a very different place today, having been constrained in its flow first by construction of the Woodruff Dam in 1947.
In more modern times, the estuary has been heavily affected by the diversion of a significant amount of its waters for the Atlanta metro.
That diversion, in turn, has negatively affected the once-rich oyster beds that Apalachicola Bay has historically been known for.
Research is a key reason that the reserve exists: to monitor water quality and its affect on the fisheries and their web of interconnections, from oysters to migratory shorebirds to sea turtles.
To share that research, public education includes hands-on courses for students, including field trips, and the in-depth immersion provided to visitors to the Nature Center.
Don’t miss the movie offered at their theater for a good way to get your head around how large and complex and rich in biodiversity this little-traveled region is.
The reserve has 9 primitive campsites. Six are on Little St. George Island, including one close to the original location of the Cape St. George Island Lighthouse.
One is along St. George Sound on St. George Island, and the others are for paddlers along the estuary and the Apalachicola River south of Smith Creek Landing.
All campsites on the reserve are free and first-come, first serve. While it’s a good idea to call in to let them know you’re there, no reservations are required.
There are presently hiking trails in four different locations within the reserve.
There are two short nature trails in Eastpoint, flanking the Nature Center property, and two nature trails in the city of Apalachicola.
On St. George Island, East Hole has a trail system along St. George Sound stretching from 6th Street East to 9th Street East off Pine Stree East.
While it can only be reached by boat, Little St. George Island has trails accessible from three different landing points. All of these have primitive campsites along them.
The trails below are the ones we have details for. Check the Trail Map link at the bottom of this page to learn more about the other ones.
Just a short walk from the Apalachicola National Estuarine Research Reserve Visitor Center, this half-mile loop meanders coastal habitats in Eastpoint
A delightful destination for learning about Apalachicola Bay, the headquarters of Apalachicola NERR boasts a nature center and more than a half mile of gentle interpretive trails
A sweeping view of the Apalachicola River estuary waits like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow on this beautiful nature trail and boardwalk
Since this is an aquatic preserve, paddlers have many more miles of trails to choose from, including the opportunity for multi-day expeditions.
The easiest place to launch is at Millender Park, just north of the reserve headquarters. From here, you can explore the bayfront along Eastpoint down around Cat Point.
More remote launch points and paddling routes are shown on the Trail Map. Several of the launches are along SR 65 north of Eastpoint at Cash Creek, Whiskey George, and Graham Creek.
Paddlers on the Florida Circumnavigational Saltwater Paddling Trail traverse Segment 4, Forgotten Coast, through this region.
The 34-mile route extends east from the tip of Cape San Blas around the cape to Indian Pass, around St. Vincent Island to Cape St. George, and along St. George Island through Apalachicola Bay.
Location of trails inside the reserve that we have details for on this website.
More worth exploring while you’re in this area.
Noted for its botanical beauty, the Apalachicola National Forest is the largest National Forest in Florida, sweeping south and west of Tallahassee.
One of Florida’s most unusual and beautiful places to paddle, the Dead Lakes include 6,700 acres of mazy cypress and tupelo swamps in the Chipola River floodplain.
Blessed with brilliant white quartz sand, St. George Island State Park is a sparkling, quiet getaway protecting nearly 2,000 acres of coastal habitats on a barrier island between Apalachicola Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.