Wild Florida: Ocheesee Pond
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Wild Florida: Ocheesee Pond

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Nestled in the farmland near Grand Ridge (Marianna), Ocheesee Pond rests in quiet isolation.  At 2,225 acres, the pond is more of a tannic-colored lake with 90% of its surface area covered in a majestic stand of cypress. From the launch at the southern end, there is an expanse of open water, lined with cypress.

Following the left side north, we skirt the trees to reach the upper pond and the coordinates for the circular paddling trail. We find ourselves in a maze of cypresses towering above us like a sacred cathedral. I am not able to plot the paddling route in ViewRanger, my navigation app, for even on the satellite view, the circular trail through the pond is indistinguishable. We start out, agreeing that if we lose the markings, we will turn back.

The trail, loosely marked on the trees with paint, reflectors, and arrows, wanders through a vast cypress swamp. PVC pipes mark shallow stumps, but they are for fishermen, not trail markers. At times the cypress are so thick you can’t see through them. But, with watchful eyes and a little gut instinct, we circumnavigate the upper pond as planned, meeting a world of lily pads and daisy islands amidst the stately cypress. With their lacy branches barely rippling in the breeze, they stand, peaceful, silent and beautiful in their fall foliage.

We see a fishing boat or two, silently moving between the distant trees, and I am reminded of the isolation of this place, and who or what it may harbor. The wild man of Ocheesee Pond, a sort of a Bigfoot or Sasquatch naked and covered in thick hair, was captured here in 1884 after some nearby farm gardens had been raided. Unidentifiable and thought to be insane, he was eventually sent to the state asylum at Chattahoochee. No further record, after his initial capture, has ever been found. His legend still haunts these mysterious waters. We also read about big gators inhabiting Ocheesee Pond and saw several during our paddle.

Launch point: Ocheesee Pond Landing, Grand Ridge, FL

Distance: Approximately 5 miles round trip

Level of difficulty: Moderate

Insider tips: There is a marked trail at the north end of the pond which can be hard to find. Look for painted marks, reflectors and arrows on the cypress trees and follow the trail. The trees are so thick at certain points that it can be hard to find the markings. We strongly recommend bringing a GPS device as a backup in case you get lost.

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Other Places to Visit

Marianna

There is a self-guided walking tour of this historic town.

Florida Caverns State Park

Directly in the path of Hurricane Michael, Florida Caverns State Park was devastated, its forest canopy destroyed. But here, the beauty lies underground. Step inside these cool caverns to experience a magical underground world of beautifully lit stalactites, stalagmites, flowstones and draperies. This is another Florida State Park expanded and enhanced in the 1930s by the CCC, Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps. Before you go, be sure to check the website for the availability of guided tours, the only way to see the caverns themselves.  

https://www.floridastateparks.org/parks-and-trails/florida-caverns-state-park

Good Eats in Marianna:

The Wharf Casual Seafood

Not much atmosphere, but here we were able to eat outside and found the seafood dishes fresh and creatively prepared.

The Oak

This is a more traditional dine-in restaurant with steaks, seafood, and southern homestyle cooking.

Suggest a Story: FCL is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so when you or someone you know deserves recognition please let us know here.

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