We are living in the Space Coast now and just beginning to learn the wilderness parts of this area. I was going to say we were beginning to put our big toes in the water, but HECK NO, there might be an alligator ready to dine!
The nearest wildland to us is Three Forks Marsh near Palm Bay, Florida. It is 52,000 acres of marsh, at the headwaters of the St. Johns River. This is a river we have cruised before in our C-Dory in the Palatka area, but it would be impossible for us at this end – too shallow. Definitely airboat and mudboat country!
About a month ago following a fire in the marsh and muck, it was gated for a while. Now we can actually access this conservation area and did so often by car. We passed a large levee on our right which we assumed to be full of watery marsh. When we finally got to a spot where we could see over the levee, it appeared dry for the most part, but ready to capture and impound overflow when needed.
Three Forks Marsh is said to lie between US Highway 192 and the town of Fellsmere. To get here, you exit I-95 at Malabar Road (Exit 514) and head west on Malabar Road, past Heritage High School until the road dead ends. The entrance is on the left just past the carcasses of wild boar and deer and the memorial placed by the familes of a “David and Hannah” outside the area’s gate. This park supposedly opens at 7 am and closes by 8:30 pm, but I have heard it stays open at times. I am not going to test the gate closing time! No nights with gators, boars, mosquitoes, and lord knows what for me!
There are three lakes in that area. I understand the first sign of the St. Johns River itself begins at the three prong fork south of Lake Hell ‘n Blazes (isn’t that a catchy name?). Admittedly some call it Lake Helen Blazes, but others say the name is from the words uttered by boatmen trying to navigate this remote region through “floating islands.” Why anyone would want to do an archeological dig in muck is beyond my ability to fathom, but in the 1950s stone artifacts from Paleo-Indians (further back than 8000 BC) and the Archaic Period (8000 to 1000 BC) were discovered here.
CAMPS AT THREE FORK MARSH
For brave souls with mudboats or airboats and who are slathered in bug spray, there are supposedly 4 primitive campsites in the area:
1) Bulldozer Canal Camp – Here you’ll find two rustic cabins with propane stoves, well pump water and hookups if you bring in your own electric generator. I understand one of the cabins can bunk 8 people. There also appears to be a fire ring, wooden base for a tent (maybe more than one) and a picnic table; what more could one ask for!
2) Spade Island Camp – This wilderness camp has wooded hammocks and palms, but I have not found yet what it offers the occasional camper.
3) East Union Cypress Camp – Between 1912-1932 Union Cypress RR actually did cross the St. Johns River here. Trestles and raised sites for tracks remain. So, this camp is supposed to be on top of that old railroad grade with two tent pads that beg to dare courageous boaters and hunters with the added bonus of being able to eat your own wild boar at the table overlooking Little Sawgrass Lake. (I have had wild boar…not tasty to me).
4) North Indian Field Camp – Until 1937 Pershing Platt’s family lived on this indian midden with a road to pass in and out over when it was not flooded during the summer rains and thunderstorms. The house is gone; this camp has raised sites for tents and has picnic tables and in-ground grills (but beware, hungry wild boars will enjoy and venture near for the scent of a tasty ribeye!)