Gold Head Branch State Park

6239 State Road 21, Keystone Heights, Florida, US, 32656 | Directions

One of Florida's first state parks, Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park was developed on a 2,000-acre site by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) during the 1930s. The extraordinary craftsmanship of the CCC is still evident today. Located on rolling sandhills in an area known as the central ridge of Florida, a deep ravine with springs issuing from its side bisects the area and forms Gold Head Branch. Marshes, lakes and scrub provide a habitat for a wide variety of wildlife.

Visitors to the park can enjoy hiking and wildlife viewing along the park?s nature trails and a three-mile stretch of the Florida Trail. For aquatic recreation, visitors can swim or fish in the lake, or spend a lazy afternoon canoeing. A large picnic area, with tables and grills, overlooks Little Lake Johnson. Nestled under the trees is a full-facility campground. Group and primitive campsites are available as are fully equipped lakefront cabins, some of which were built by the CCC.

Wildlife at Gold Head Branch State Park is abundant. The park serves as home for white-tailed deer, turkey, gopher tortoise, fox squirrels, pocket gophers, red tailed hawk, bald eagles, fox, and various water and wading birds.

Acquisition began in 1936 with an unknown funding source. Subsequent acquisitions were funded by the Park Board, LATF and CARL/P2000.

Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park is significant in the twentieth century history of Florida as one of nine elements of the New Deal-inspired Florida state park system and as one of the physical expressions of early- twentieth century recreation planning. In 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was the first New Deal agency to begin operations in Florida. From 1933 to 1942, the CCC and the Works Progress Administration (WPA) programs constructed an impressive collection of facilities throughout Florida. A considerable portion of the public recreation facilities created by these programs is preserved in the state park system?s New Deal era parks: Florida Caverns State Park, Torreya State Park, Fort Clinch State Park, O?Leno State Park, Gold Head Branch State Park, Ravine State Gardens, Hillsborough River State Park, Highlands Hammock State Park and Myakka River State Park.

Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park was added to the state park system in 1935. CCC camp SP-5 was installed in July of 1935 at the southern end of the park. The official dedication of the park took place on April 15, 1939, and the CCC camp was deactivated in March 1940 (Historic Property Associates 1989).

There are 74 individual campsites available within our 3 campgrounds. These campsites will accommodate tents, trailers and motorized campers up to 40ft in length. Each site includes a picnic table, grill and water. Lakeview sites 57 through 67 do not have electric hook up.

Group Camping

There are 3 group campsites available for organized groups such as churches, scouts, family reunions and civic clubs. Each site has shared access to water, an outside cold water shower and restroom with flush toilets. No electric is available. Also provided are picnic tables and a ground fire ring. Each site will accommodate 25 people. Group campsites are equipped for tent camping only.

Primitive Camping

Two primitive campsites are located within the southern end of the park just off the Florida Trail. These sites include a picnic table, fire ring and a pavilion. There is no water or electricity in the primitive campground.

The primitive camping area is unable to be accessed by vehicle. You will have to hike approximately one half mile from the picnic area to the campsites.

To help keep our park clean for you and other visitors, campers are required to pack all supplies in and out of the area.


Our RV campsites offer water, electricity, and a ground grill and picnic table. A dump station is in close proximity for your use. The Sandhill and Lakeview camps can accommodate RV's up to 45' in length.

There is a designated swimming area that is located adjacent to the picnic area and within easy walking distance from the cabins. Please be prepared to monitor children and non-swimmers; no lifeguard is on duty.

Our beach is on fresh water Little Lake Johnson. The swimming area is located in the main use area of the park and there are plenty of tables in the adjacent area for visitor enjoyment. The lake is fed from a seepage spring that travels through a ravine and eventually making its way to the lake.

Enjoy the beauty of Little Lake Johnson by canoe. Canoe rentals are available.

Fishing is permitted at Gold Head. Little Lake Johnson has a population of pan fish, catfish and bass. The lake levels are low currently and fishing is not as good as it can be. Licenses are required.

The Park has a large picnic area overlooking "Little Lake Johnson". The area contains many tables and grills as well as an athletic field, volleyball net and horseshoe pits.

There are eight (8)-covered shelters available. They vary in size and can accommodate 16 to 100 people. All picnic pavilions have tables and grills. They are available on a first come first served basis or can be reserved up to 11 months in advance by calling the park or in person.

A children's playground is centrally located in the picnic area.

There are 4 marked trails within Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park. These trails vary in length from a short 10-minute walk to a full 2-hour hike that we recommend for the experienced hiker. The Ravine Ridge meanders along the upper ridge of the ravine between the ravine stairway and the mill site. Hikers can see the contrasts between the sandhill and ravine communities. The Loblolly Trail loop begins and ends at the mill site and winds through the largest loblolly pines in the park. The shortest trail is Fern Loop, which begins at the ravine stairway and passes by the headsprings of Gold Head Branch.

The Florida Trail traverses the park and is 3 miles in length. It begins at the entrance gate and covers some of the park's high country. We recommend this for the experienced hiker.

While walking any of these trails you will have the opportunity to see such wildlife as Sherman fox squirrels, southeastern kestrel, red tailed hawk, bald eagles, fox, deer and various water and wading birds.

Well-behaved dogs are welcome at Gold Head Branch State Park. They must be kept on a 6-foot leash at all times and can not be left unattended for more than a half-hour. Dogs are not permitted in our cabins, cabin area, group camping area, swimming area or beach.

Pets must be confined, leashed (not to exceed six feet in length) or otherwise under the physical control of a person at all times. Tethered pets must not be left unattended for more than 30 minutes. Quiet hours must be observed from 11:00 p.m. - 8:00 a.m. Pet owners must pick up after their pets and properly dispose of all pet droppings in trash receptacles. Florida law requires that pets be vaccinated against rabies. Any pet that is noisy, dangerous, intimidating or destructive will not be allowed to remain in the park. Non-furbearing pets, such as reptiles, birds, or fish must be confined or under the physical control of the owner. Some animals may be prohibited on park property. Failure to abide by these rules may result in the camper being asked to board the pet outside the park or to leave the campground.

Gold Head is located in northeast Florida midway between Gainesville and Jacksonville, 6 miles north of Keystone Heights on S.R. 21.