Ralph E. Simmons Memorial State Forest

Ralph E. Simmons Memorial State Forest
Ralph E. Simmons Memorial State Forest

St. Mary's State Forest came into existence through a management agreement between the Florida Division of Forestry and the St. Johns River Water Management District back in 1992. In 1996, the forest was renamed for Ralph E. Simmons, a former member of the Board of Directors of St. Johns River Water Management District who was instrumental in the purchase of the property. The property was originally bought with funds from the Save Our Rivers and Preservation 2000 Programs.

The 3,638-acre forest is located in Nassau County in northeastern Florida. The western and northern boundaries of the forest are against the St. Mary's River. In that curve of the river you'll also find two oxbow lakes and numerous ponds, swamps and cypress stands. The ecological communities present in the forest include low pinelands, herb bogs, ravine communities, seepage slopes and longleaf pine/wiregrass flatwoods. Endangered plant species like purple balduina, many-flowered grasspink, Florida toothache grass and the carnivorous hooded pitcher plant also live in these woods. Among the wildlife you'll find bobcat, gopher tortoise, wild hogs, fox, white-tailed deer, otter and wild turkey.

Ralph E. Simmons State Forest offers recreational activities like hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding year round except during established hunting seasons. There are two primitive campsites on the property (first come, first served) that are also available to the public except during established hunting seasons. During established hunting seasons, virtually all recreational activities on the forest are reserved for folks with valid hunting permits.

To get there: Go 7 miles north of the town of Hilliard on US Highway 1 to Boulogne. In Boulogne, turn east on State Road 121 (aka Lake Hampton Road) and look for the signs.

Ralph E. Simmons Memorial State Forest is also managed as a Wildlife Management Area by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission. All questions about hunting and fishing are in their jurisdiction.

Map of Ralph E. Simmons Memorial State Forest