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Puddin head lake at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park

Puddin’ Head Lake at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park. Photo: Skye Marthaler, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Bordered by the tranquil Rocky Bayou and flanked by a pristine landscape, Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park has changed markedly since it operated as a practice range for World War II bombing and gunnery.

Set within 357-acres it is now a tranquil place for families to enjoy a range of outdoor recreational activities.

Whether you come for a weekend from Pensacola or Tallahassee – both of which are short drives away – or you stay for a longer period. You will be able to enjoy fantastic opportunities for hiking, paddling, kayaking, fishing, birding and camping.

As destinations go for pure rest and relaxation, this Florida state park is very hard to beat.


The park gives visitors the chance to enjoy its picturesque scenery in several ways.

Outlined below is a brief overview of some of the main things you can see and do during your time there.

Boating at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park

For those who enjoy taking to the water, the park provides plenty of opportunity to get on it.

Situated within it is a boat launching facility that has double access. This easily enables you to get into Rocky Bayou, as well as the Gulf of Mexico and Choctawhatchee Bay without any issues.

In addition to boats, many people explore these waters via kayak, SUP or canoeing.

Fishing at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park

Anglers from all over Florida come to the park for its abundance of trout, flounder and mullet.

This takes place at either the Rocky Bayou, where you can catch a range of saltwater fish or Rocky Creek which is better for freshwater fishing.

You can choose to fish on the shoreline, while standing in the water itself or via a watercraft.

Depending on what type of fishing you do, you may require a license. You will also need to conform to the rules and regulations of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Hiking at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park

Should you be more of a land lover, the park offers three hiking trails for you to explore.

These trails are the Sand Pine Trail, Red Cedar Trail and Rocky Bayou Trail, all of which showcase the park’s diverse flora and fauna.

If you choose to tackle the Sand Pine Trail you will head along the east shoreline of Lake Puddin Head. There you should see numerous aquatic plant species including the Florida Anise and pitcher plant.

On the Red Cedar Trail, you should definitely have your camera with you, as the sight of the stunning red cedar trees is very Instagram worthy. Especially when contrasted with the picturesque shrubs, plants and other types of trees.

Adjacent to the Sand Pine Trail you’ll find the Rocky Bayou Trail. This follows the bayou’s stunning shoreline and gives you the chance to see dolphins, otters, bald eagles, migrant fowl and estuarine seagrass beds.

Picnicking at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park

Shaded by stately pine, oak and hickory trees, there are several scenic spots within the park for you to enjoy a picnic.

Looking out to the stoic waters of the Rocky Bayou, tables are located in strategic spots to maximize the views.

In addition to these tables, there are also two picnic pavilions, as well as barbecue grills that will enable you to cook up burgers, sausages, steaks or fish.

You will also find a playground nearby for children to enjoy.

While picnicking, the consumption of alcoholic beverages is strictly prohibited. You will need to be respectful to other people who are there and keep noise to a minimum.

Birding at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park

For those who enjoy birding you will find several different species in the park to observe.

The likes of bald eagles and osprey regularly nest in the aquatic preserve. Osprey are often spotted by locals, kayakers and campers.

In addition, depending on what time of the year you visit the park, you might also be able to see yellow rumped warblers, northern parulas, ruby crowned kinglets and blue jays.

Before heading to the park, you should consider downloading a full birding checklist online.

Nature & Wildlife

In addition to the birds, the park supports several other species of wildlife.

Throughout your time there keep a look out for eastern grey squirrels, snakes, brown and green anoles and eastern cottontails.

Pets at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park

Pets are welcome to join you at the park, although certain conditions on their presence do apply.

This includes only remaining in areas that are specifically designated and also keeping them on a leash of no more than six feet in length.

If you want to bring your dog with you to the park, it would be a good idea to contact the main office for more information about where they are allowed to be.

Camping at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park

For those who want to stay at the park there are 38 campsites available for RV, tents and trailers.

Four of them are wheelchair accessible, while they are all equipped with hookups for water and electricity.

Amenities at this campground include restroom facilities, air conditioned and heated shower stations, fire rings and a playground for children.

The campsite provides fabulous views of the Rocky Bayou and is shaded by longleaf pines that are over 300 years old.

Please note, the collection of firewood is not permitted at the campground while all camping gear has to remain with the site’s defined boundaries. Also, quiet time is observed from 11 pm.

Park Location

Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park
4281 FL-20,
Niceville, FL 32578
Phone: 850.833.9144




Here is a short YouTube video showcasing several attractions at Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park: