Tag Archives: Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park

Campground Review: Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park

Summary

  • Name: Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park
  • Dates of stay:  January 2 – 7, 2018
  • Location: 11016 Lillian Saunders Drive / Hwy 41, White Springs, FL 32096
  • Type of campground: State Park – Florida
  • Cost: $23.34/night for spacious pull-through site water/electric site
  • Additional fees: none
  • Stay limit: 14 days
  • Accepts mail / packages: Did not ask
  • Cell reception:  AT&T signal decent, 2 – 3 bars
  • Website: https://www.floridastateparks.org/park/Stephen-Foster
  • Pros: Sites are beautiful; large, wooded, private and cheap!
  • Cons: no sewer hookup

Full Review

After several weeks in commercial campgrounds, I’m struck once again by the natural peace and beauty of a park campground. Instead of being stacked next to another camper, we tucked into a large wooded site that felt both spacious and private. Commercial campgrounds just can’t replicate that “back in the woods” experience. And the cost effectiveness just can’t be beat.

The first night of our stay, we experienced an ice storm that nearly cleared out the campground and closed the park for several days because of downed tree limbs. Due to the conditions and cold weather, we mainly just hung out in the RV for a day or two. It gave me a chance to catch up on some work and draft several blog posts!

We had a long 100 foot curved pull through gravel site equipped with water and electric (30/50 amp) hookups, picnic table, grill and fire ring. The entire campground has only 45 sites in three loops. There is a playground, a dump station, and two bath houses, each with coin laundry facilities. The clean shower facilities offered plenty of hot water and heat lamps, which took just enough of the chill from the air to make getting out bearable. DirectTV reception was fine, but we could only get a few over-the-air TV channels, and no major networks. Our AT&T signal and hotspot worked adequately for internet access.

The park is a tribute to Stephen Foster, an early American composer who wrote such classic folk songs as  “Old Folks At Home” (Way Down Upon the Suwanee River), “Camptown Races”, “Jeannie with the Light Brown Hair”, “Beautiful Dreamer”, “Oh Susanna”, and “My Old Kentucky Home”, to name a few. The park is home to an informative Stephen Foster Museum and a huge carillon, which plays snippets of Stephen’s greatest hits. At least, when the carillon is working! The aged electrical system (1950’s era) for the carillon was damaged in a recent storm and the park is currently fund-raising to repair it. The park also hosts a gift shop and craft village, where locals provide craft demonstrations. Unfortunately, the cold weather meant no demonstrations, as these are normally done outside! There were musicians playing/singing in the carillon house and the gift shop, so the volunteers did their best despite the unusual weather conditions. The park also has multi-use trails (bike/hike/horse) that are currently closed due to limited logging operations. If you go, admission to the park is $5 / car and includes access to all of the amenities.

IMG_3485We also visited nearby Big Shoals State Park. Located on the Suwanee River, the Park boasts Florida’s only class 3 rapids — at least they’re class 3 when the river is high enough! There are two access points to the park. We attempted to enter the south end and drive the unpaved, sandy roads through the park but were thwarted due to downed trees that our little hand saw couldn’t defeat. So we went out and around to the north entrance and were able to make it to the trail head that leads to an overlook of the rapids area. We had to clamber over and around downed branches, but the trail was passable and we were rewarded by a view of the famed rapids.

The north side parking area offers restrooms, a picnic area and a bat exhibit consisting of a large bat house mounted on four high pillars. I was excited about the bat exhibit until Jeff pointed out the dozen or so bats on the ground under the bat house. Apparently they succumbed to the freezing weather, lost their grip and fell to the ground where they are currently napping. At least, that’s what I prefer to think …..

If you go, be aware that the access road is graded soft sand, passable with care. For interior roads, 4-wheel drive is advisable. There is a 3.4 mile paved walk/bike trail that extends the length of the park.  Entrance fee is $4, paid at boxes at the entrances.

Bottom Line:  The Stephen Foster campground is very nice and would have been much more enjoyable in better weather. You don’t have a sewer hookup, but the bath houses are convenient and clean. There’s more to do in the area than we were able to see given the conditions. I’d like to go back again sometime.

Ice storm drama

015After leaving Charleston, we made tracks south, aiming for warmer weather. What we got was – more cold weather! The unusually cold winter blast followed us south to our next destination just north of Lake City, Florida.

As we settled into our campsite at Stephen Foster Folk Culture Center State Park, the overnight forecast called for freezing rain. And that’s what we got – icy cold rain falling as temperatures plummeted, hitting and freezing onto every surface. Not just freezing rain – we had a full-blown ice storm!

014Our Aquahot gas heating systems along with the electric fireplace were keeping us toasty as we watched the ice build up on the trees. It created a magical fairy forest around us. It was peaceful – at least, until branches started breaking from the weight of the ice and falling around us. As the ice continued to build, we noticed several families near us beginning to break camp and move out. We could hear the crack of trees and limbs snapping and falling to the ground.  Shortly after, the park ranger stopped by and recommended evacuation, as they could not assure that trees wouldn’t fall on our rig and cause damage. Yikes! Adding to the fun, the power cut out, with no clear timetable for restoration.

010Loading up and leaving was not a trivial exercise for us. It would require driving our large Harley motorcycle up a ramp into the back of the pick-up truck –  an impossibly unsafe operation in the icy conditions. We assessed the weather forecast and the trees around/above us and decided to wait it out. The rain was due to stop any time and the weather would be dry and warming up.  There were no large branches directly above us. If the ice melted just enough to reduce the loading by the end of the day, the risk of damage would be greatly reduced.

So, we sat tight. We watched as most of the campers around us bugged out, onto the icy roads. A few more branches broke and fell but then the rain stopped, temperatures warmed and the ice started to melt away. By evening, the sun had peeked out and much of the ice had melted off. Although several large branches fell directly in front of our motorhome, nothing dropped directly on us. Our angels worked overtime that day!

Power was restored early the next morning, the sun came out, and we had the campground nearly all to ourselves. Life is good. I’d just like it to warm up a bit, please.

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