Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park
Member Since: 12/26/2010
Contact: Gregory Ira
4281 State Road 20
Niceville, FL 32578
Educational Partners: The Learning in Florida's Environment (LIFE) Okaloosa County Program is a partnership between the Department of Environmental Protection, Okaloosa County School District, CAMA- Rocky Bayou State Park and Aquatic Preserve, UF-IFAS Extension Office-Okaloosa County, Florida Sea Grant and the Friends of Emerald Coast State Parks. Funding for this program comes from a grant the Dauphin Island Sea Lab received from the NOAA Coastal Services Center to achieve the federal program goals of the Gulf of Mexico Alliance.
- Big Picture
The Learning in Florida's Environment (LIFE) Okaloosa County Program involves approximately 200 seventh grade students from Destin and Shoal River Middle Schools. The students participate in a field experience to Fred Gannon Rocky Bayou State Park. They apply science concepts, methods and skills as they explore the park's unique ecosystems. Students will also participate in a long-term school-based monitoring project. Each field experience involves a number of distinct field labs led by DEP staff, volunteers and participating teachers. Field labs address priority topics that have been identified by the participating teachers and utilize the unique natural resources available at Fred Gannon-Rocky Bayou Park. Students participate in activities covering topics, including, but not limited to, salinity and water quality, wave energy and erosion and abiotic environmental factors.
Learning in Florida's Environment (LIFE) program
The property preserves beautiful old-growth longleaf pine trees, several over 300 years old, that once dominated this area of Florida.
Near the park, a portion of the bay has been designated an aquatic preserve and provides an important habitat for many rare and endangered species, such as the Okaloosa darter and Gulf sturgeon. Several varieties of rare snails, reptiles and amphibians can also be found here along with other wildlife that frequents the area, including the bald eagle, brown pelican and the tri-colored heron.
Ceded to the War Department by the U.S. Forestry Service in 1940, the 800 square miles of Gulf Coast shoreline and pine forests became a major site for gunnery and bombing practice during World War II. Remnants of test bombs from Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle's B-52 squadron following the attack on Pearl Harbor are believed to exist in the park and a concrete bomb is thought to have been one dropped by his squadron. After the war, urban development made the area unusable as a bombing range. In the late 1950s, Colonel Fred Gannon, Director of Civil Engineering at Eglin Air Force Base, proposed to convert the range into a public area. The Engineering group began the initial construction of the park under his direction following his proposed designs for the proposed park. In 1966, shortly after completion of the road and trail work, the lands became part of the Florida State Park system and was purchased by the state.
Rocky Bayou, the main feature of the park, is the trailing arm of Choctawhatchee Bay and is popular for boating and fishing. A double-lane boat ramp makes this one of the best boat launching locations on the bay, where both freshwater and saltwater fish are found. Other opportunities for fun include hiking, bicycling, picnicking and wildlife viewing. Puddin Head Lake, at the center of the park, is a great spot for freshwater fishing and canoeing. A well shaded campground is available for full-facility camping.
* Tags are significant words connected with this site's program and linkable with other HOL sites.