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Goethe State Forest features tranquil backcountry

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By Special to the Chronicle

By Joe Kornecki III
Special to the Chronicle
Dunnellon-Goethe State Forest has everything to offer for the nature enthusiast: bird watching, hiking, horseback riding, wildlife viewing and biking can be enjoyed in this placid, extensive old-growth state forest that is home to 53,587 acres of prime Florida backcountry in southeast Levy County near the Gulf of Mexico.

There are four different trail systems — Tidewater, Black Prong, Buck Island Pond and Apex — and boast many miles of trails to be explored. The forest is home to one of the largest red-cockaded woodpecker populations in the state. Other species include: black bear, Sherman fox squirrel, gopher tortoise and the bald eagle.

The terrain consists of scrubby flatwoods, dome cypress, sandhill and basin swamp. Goethe contains some of the most — if not the most — old-growth pine flatwoods in Florida.

Goethe has a gem in the “Great Goethe,” which is a huge cypress tree that has been around since 1105, more than 400 years before the Spanish first stepped foot in Florida. This tree can be found in the heart of Goethe State Forest. Camping is allowed by permit only; hunting is permitted during certain time periods. The best time to go is mid fall through early spring.

IF YOU GO

+ Goethe State Forest can be accessed about 10 miles north of Inglis on U.S. 19/98 at the junction of County Road 121 and County Road 336 in Lebanon. Head east for a few miles on C.R. 336 to County Road 337 north, which has access to the four trail systems starting with Tidewater as you head north. You can also access the trails by county roads 121 and 326.

www.floridaforestservice.com or keyword Goethe State Forest.