Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park

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6239 State Rd 21, Keystone Heights, FL 32656, United States

Opening Hours

8:00 AM to 8:00 PM


$5 per vehicle (two to eight people)
$4 single-occupant vehicle and motorcycles
$2 pedestrian, bicyclist, additional passengers


Introduction of Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park

The Civilian Conservation Corps created one of Florida’s original state parks on a 600-acre location in the 1930s. Even now, the CCC’s remarkable craftsmanship is still visible.
One of the few remaining instances of an old growth stand of longleaf pines may be seen at Gold Head, which is situated on undulating sandhills on Florida’s North Central Ridge. The park is divided in half by Gold Head Branch, a high head ravine with seepage springs. Numerous species of wildlife have habitats in marshes, lakes, and bushes.

Along the park’s nature paths and a 5.44-mile section of the Florida National Scenic Trail, visitors may go trekking and see animals.

Visitors may enjoy a leisurely afternoon canoeing or swimming on Little Lake Johnson. Visitors may take use of a playground, shelters, and a sizable picnic area with tables and grills. Three campsites with water and power are tucked away among the woods. For small or big parties, there are rustic campsites accessible, as well as fully furnished lakeside holiday cottages, some of which were constructed by the CCC.

watwerside Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park
CC: Social Channel of park

Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park History

Gold Head Branch joined the Florida state park system in 1935 and was one of the state of Florida’s initial state parks. Martin J. “Mike” Roess (pronounced “Race”) gave the original property, which the Civilian Conservation Corps later developed (CCC). To address unemployment during the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the CCC in 1933.

25 skilled artisans from Company 2444 were dispatched to the Gold Head location in 1935, where they joined forces with hundreds of CCC kids to create Camp SP-5. Together, they planted trees, cleared land for campgrounds, built roads, and erected many of the park’s structures that are still in use today.

On April 15, 1939, the state park had its official dedication. Before 1966, when the Florida Board of Parks and Historical Monuments changed the park’s name in memory of the late Mike Roess, it was simply known as Gold Head Branch. 1952 saw his passing.

CCC Camp

President Franklin D. Roosevelt established the CCC in 1933 to assist young men who were jobless during the Great Depression.

In Florida, CCC participants helped create the first eight parks that now up the Florida Park Service. One of those first eight parks was Gold Head Branch State Park, where several CCC structures can still be seen welcoming tourists more than seventy years later.

Project Plan

Observing Gold Head Branch State Park, one can quickly identify the CCC-built structures because to their sturdy architecture. These buildings are still in use today and have withstood the test of time.

The nine primitive cottages overlooking Lake Johnson are still used by visitors to sleep, and the historic bathhouse is still used for getting ready for a swim. The ranger station continues to invite people to stop by and take in Florida’s natural splendour more than 70 years later.

Picnic Pavilion, 1939

On April 15, 1939, Gold Head Branch State Park received hundreds of curious visitors for its formal opening. Parks became a sought-after amenity for locals and out-of-town visitors as a result of the rising affordability of automobiles in the late 1920s and early 1930s and the rising popularity of Florida as a vacation destination.

Bathhouse Terrace

The CCC workers not only constructed a number of the park’s outstanding structures but also created roads and paths, cleared land, and manicured a number of the park’s regions. This labour was physically taxing and occasionally technically challenging, as was the case while building the terraces that support various park buildings.


Experiences & Amenities


The more than three kilometres of paved park road are open to bikers. Off-road biking trails are absent.

A paved, 6-mile connection path connects State Road 21’s major Gold Head entry to the Palatka-to-Lake Butler State Trail.


The park provides several chances for birdwatching in a range of environments. The ravine’s luxuriant hardwood forest draws a large number of warblers, thrushes, and other songbirds throughout the spring and fall migrations.

Take the Fern Loop Trail or the Ridge Trail beginning at the ravine stairway. You can also begin at the Mill Site Parking Lot and travel the Loblolly Loop Trail as an alternative.

Pass through the longleaf pine forest on the Florida National Scenic Trail to see Bachman’s sparrows and other sandhill fauna. Many migratory bird species can be seen throughout the winter. You could spot wild turkey, bobwhite quail, or raptors like the American kestrel if you travel carefully along the park’s main road.

Along the park’s lake’s borders, wading birds and bald eagles, which have long nested there, may be seen. Raptors like the Northern harrier and the swallow-tailed kite are among the birds soaring above the lakes and marsh.

Waterfowl frequent Little Lake Johnson in the winter. Visitors who stay the night can listen for the spooky Eastern screech owl or great horned owl calls.

The unusual call of the Chuck-Will’s-Widow can be heard at night. The Great Florida Birding & Wildlife Trail passes via Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park.

sandshills Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park
CC: Social Channel of park


Three campsite loops are available at Gold Head: Sandhill, Turkey Oak, and Lakeview. Tents, trailers, and powered campers are all permitted at the park’s 73 campsites. A picnic table, a fire ring or grill, and potable water are provided at each site.

All campsites, with the exception of sites 57 and 60–67 in the Lakeview campground circle, have 20 and 30 amp electrical power available. A centralised disposal station is also accessible. In addition to 20 and 30 amp service, sites 16–18, 58, and 59 also have 50 amp service.

Every campsite offers a private bathroom with hot showers. Sites 58 and 59 are the closest to the Lakeview Bathhouse, which is completely accessible. Paved paths connect the sites to the bathhouse.

Domestic animals that are well-behaved are welcome in the campgrounds but not in the restrooms.

view Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park
CC: Social Channel of park


It is legal to fish at Little Lake Johnson. Panfish, catfish, and bass populations are supported by the lake’s current level, although giant bass are doubtful because the lake’s depth has decreased over time. You may go canoeing or fishing from a small non-motorized boat or from the beach.


Discover the park in a fresh and difficult manner. Experienced geocachers have asked for permission to bury caches around the park that contain items, riches, or information.


There are several hiking and wildlife routes in Gold Head.

Between the stairs and the Mill Site, the Ridge Trail (1.1 km) meanders around the higher ridge of the ravine. Hikers may view the differences between the sandhill and ravine natural groups from the ridge.
The Loblolly Loop, a one-mile path that starts and finishes at the mill site, passes by some of the park’s biggest loblolly pine trees. The Fern Loop nature route, which is 0.8 miles long and goes past the headsprings of Gold Head Branch, starts at the bottom of the ravine stairs.
From the side of the road, a short nature walk (0.1 miles) leads to Sheeler Lake, one of Florida’s oldest lakes.
Through 5.4 miles of the park, the Florida National Scenic Trail links to other public areas.

hike trails Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park
CC: Social Channel of park


By kayak or canoe, take in Little Lake Johnson’s splendour. Seven days a week, beginning at 8 a.m. and finishing two hours before sunset, eight canoes are available for hire. Pick up the paddles, life jackets, and canoe unlocking keys at the ranger station (which are already at the beach).

The lake is far down the hill from the parking lot, however you are allowed to bring your own boat or kayak.


Main picnic area
The expansive picnic area has plenty of parking, potable water, accessible restrooms, eight covered picnic pavilions, stone picnic tables, a playground, and shaded areas. It also overlooks Little Lake Johnson and Pebble Lake.
There is a charcoal barbecue inside each pavilion, and there are more grills dotted about the picnic area.
A view of a ravine
There is only one picnic table tucked away in the shade at the ravine view location.
At this area, there are no water, barbecues, or restrooms.
Horseback riding trailhead
At the trailhead, picnic tables are available for horse trail riders.
The equestrian trailhead is devoid of restrooms, water, and barbecues. There is a rest area with a picnic table and hitching post about 3.5 miles from the trailhead.
The only way to reserve a picnic pavilion is on a first-come, first-served basis.

Reunions and Gatherings

Family gatherings of all sizes may be accommodated in the expansive picnic area at Gold Head. There is lots of parking available, and there are several facility rental possibilities.

Any size party up to 100 people can book an outside, covered picnic pavilion. The enclosed, accessible leisure hall with a kitchen is also available for rental. Up to 75 people can be seated at tables and chairs at once.

The kitchen is equipped with a stove, oven, coffee maker, microwave, toaster, refrigerator, and standard equipment for cooking and dining. A serving or buffet counter, ceiling fans, a video screen, and a rear patio with four picnic tables are all included in the central heating and conditioning system.

Star Gazing

Campers who stay overnight can benefit from the park’s lack of light pollution to see the night sky. Visit the ball field or boat ramp near the picnic area for the finest astronomy experiences. Don’t forget to give your eyes time to acclimate to the darkness.


In Little Lake Johnson, swimming is popular throughout the warmer months. The Gold Head Branch flows down the valley and finally reaches the lake, feeding this freshwater lake. From the picnic area, there is a broad, sandy beach that is downward.

The swimming area is conveniently close to the cottages, although a lengthier walk separates it from the campers. Because there are no lifeguards on duty, please supervise youngsters and non-swimmers closely.
Pets are not permitted in the swimming area or on the beach.
Only in the specified swimming area is swimming permitted.
Although there are restrooms close to the swimming area, they are without power or showers.


For your ideal wedding, Gold Head offers stunning natural and historic surroundings. Overlooking Little Lake Johnson’s white sand beach is a sizable picnic area.

There are several pavilions of all sizes nearby, as well as an indoor leisure facility with space for up to 75 people and a full kitchen for caterers.

There is enough for up to 100 guests in the sizable outside pavilion.
Visitors to the wedding may stay in one of sixteen holiday cottages.

Accessible Amenities

We are dedicated to making a range of facilities at Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park available to all of our guests. These facilities consist of:

picnic areas with grills and tables.
Sites for camping that have a concrete pad, a picnic table, a ground grill, and close by bathrooms.
upscale cabins.


16 vacation cottages at Gold Head provide stunning views of Little Lake Johnson. Towels and linens are offered when you arrive for your stay. Please bring more towels if you intend to remain a while. Beach towels are not offered by us.

A picnic table, a barbecue on the ground, an air conditioner and heater, and a fully functional kitchen are all included in each cabin.
Each kitchen has a refrigerator/freezer, stove, and standard equipment for cooking and dining.
The ranger station offers ice and firewood for a donation to the park’s volunteer organisations.
Televisions, phones, and internet are not offered for our visitors’ comfort.
Cabins need a minimum two-night stay.

Authentic Cabins (Cabins 101 – 109)

In the 1930s, the Civilian Conservation Corps constructed nine cottages (CCC). There is enough for up to four persons in each cabin. The cabins contain a combination living area and bedroom, a private bathroom, a private fully furnished kitchen, and a screened porch. Two individuals can sleep on a full-size bed or a futon/couch. Hot water showers and flush toilets are provided in the bathrooms.

Standard-size baths with showers are available in two CCC cottages (numbers 101 and 109) Please be sure you request one of these cabins when making reservations. There are ceiling fans and wood-burning fireplaces in addition to air conditioning and heat.


The fireplaces are used from October 1 to April 30.

There is an outside barbeque and fire ring.

In cabins, a minimum two-night stay is needed.

Animals are not allowed in the cabins or the cabin area.

$65 + tax each night.

Block huts (Cabins 110 – 114)

There are five 1950s-era block cottages that can each hold up to six guests. The cabins come complete with a screened porch, a living room/dining room, a bathroom, and a kitchen. The full-size bed in the bedroom sleeps two people, while the bunk bed and one futon/couch in the living room each sleep two people. The bathroom features a bathtub and shower that are typical sizes.


These cottages lack fireplaces but have central heating and conditioning.

There is an outside barbeque and fire ring.

In cabins, a minimum two-night stay is needed.

The cottages and cabin areas are not pet-friendly.

$75 + tax each night.

Stylish Cabins (Cabins 115 – 116)

In the 2000s, two completely ADA compliant cabins with a maximum occupancy of six persons were constructed. The living room/dining room, bathroom, two bedrooms, fully furnished kitchen, and screened porch are all included in these roomy cabins.

The main bedroom in each cabin has a king-sized bed, the second bedroom has two twin beds, and the living area has a pull-out couch.

The cabins offer a gas fireplace, ceiling fans, and central heating and conditioning. The fireplace in Cabin 115 is not working at the moment. October 1 through April 30: Available dates for gas fireplace.
A minimum of two nights must be booked.
Animals are not allowed in the cabins or the cabin area.
$100 per night, VAT included.

Equestrian Trail

A picnic place with a view of Big Lake Johnson is reached after a 7-mile horseback trail ride through a longleaf pine and scrub oak forest. To pay the entrance fee and obtain the combination to the locked gate at the start of the equestrian route, visitors must first stop at the ranger station.

Because of the soft sand on the path, this route is classified as intermediate. At the parking area, there are picnic tables available.

There is a different route that reduces the length of the trail ride from seven miles to about five miles. The Florida National Scenic Trail and other authorised park paths are not allowed to be used by horseback riders.

Every horse rider must carry or keep a copy of their Coggins test results in their saddlebag.
Visitors are required to provide their own equine and riding equipment. At the state park, horses cannot be rented.

lake view Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park
CC: Social Channel of park

Meetings and Retreats

Meetings and retreats of all sizes may be held at Gold Head’s expansive picnic area.

There is lots of parking available, and there are several facility rental possibilities. You may hire a covered outdoor picnic pavilion to fit any size gathering of up to 100 people. The enclosed, accessible leisure hall with a kitchen is also available for rental. Up to 75 people can be seated at tables and chairs at once.

The kitchen is equipped with a stove, oven, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, and other basic culinary tools. There are four picnic tables on the back porch, central heating and cooling, a serving or buffet counter, ceiling fans, and a media screen.

Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park Photos

Mike Roess Gold Head Branch State Park Map