History and Culture
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.
Park Staff, 1976
Park Manager Cecil Dykes is shown with Eugene Hagen, District Supervisor for District 1, at Rocky Bayou State Recreation area. Rocky Bayou was established on July 1, 1966 after serving as a training area for the United States Air Force. In 1950 Colonel Fred Gannon, Director of Civil Engineering at Eglin Air Force Base, converted the area from a practice range to a public use area. In 1966, shortly after the completion of the road and trail work, the lands became part of the Florida State Park system, which was leased from the U.S. Forest Service. In 2005, the state assumed ownership of the property through a State-Federal land exchange.
The shoreline of the park has always been a popular place for local residents to fish and hike.
WW II Test Bomb
This concrete bomb is believed to have been one dropped by Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle's squadron while training during World War II.
The shore of the bay is a perfect place to spend a day kayaking, jet or water skiing, or just enjoy watching dolphins swim by. 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.
Picnicking along the shoreline provides visitors a scenic view of the water while relaxing in the shade of oak, hickory and pine trees. The area includes picnic pavilions, a playground, boat ramp and several nature trails. This viewpoint from the park looks much the same today as it did when the park first opened.