Timberlake Pond, closed on Eglin since 2012, is open for camping; road also open to vehicles

Devon Ravine
Northwest Florida Daily News

EGLIN AFB — It’s been a long wait, but people looking for camping opportunities now have one more option. The campground at Timberlake Pond, which has been closed since 2012, reopened in November.

Located just a few minutes north of Fort Walton Beach, Timberlake Pond is one of many man-made lakes created on the Eglin Air Force Base reservation for recreation in the 1950s, said Justin Davis, wildlife biologist with Eglin’s Jackson Guard. The pond and the recreation area surrounding it were named after past Eglin commander Lt. Gen. Patrick W. Timberlake.

Camping is now available at Timberlake Pond on the Eglin Air Force Base reservation. A camping permit is needed.

Davis, who is the coordinator for Eglin’s outdoor recreation program, said that over the years many of the lakes, or impoundments as they were called, were decommissioned, but Timberlake Pond was kept open.

“It’s been a part of the community for so long,” Davis said. “And it’s popular.”

2018:$25,000 fish habitat improvement project at Timberlake Pond

2017:Ride, walk, explore Timberlake trails

The campground has seven primitive camping sites nestled beneath the trees next to the water.

In 2012, a pipe that drained the water from the 10-acre pond into the nearby Lightwood Knot Creek failed, and the earthen dam that held the water in place gave way. Lightwood Knot Creek passes beneath Lewis Turner Boulevard before draining into Garnier Bayou.

Without the dam in place, a heavy rain event had the potential to flood Lewis Turner Boulevard.

So Jackson Guard, working with state and federal regulators, drained Timberlake Pond and began rebuilding the dam and pond's water control system. They also fortified the earthen dam with vegetation, which needed some time to grow and take hold.

At that time, the camping area and access road to Timberlake Pond were closed to the public, although the recreation area’s approximately 20 miles of trails remained open for hikers and bicyclists.

“The plan was to reopen in 2016,” said Davis. “But the main road that accesses the pond was not in the shape we wanted in.” 

The Timberlake Recreation Area has about 20 miles of trails for hikers and bicyclists.

By 2016, erosion on the main access road was so bad that it was accessible only by 4-wheel-drive vehicles. The decision was made to keep the camping area closed while the staff repaired the road. The pond also was stocked with bluegill and largemouth bass. 

“After we did that work we wanted to give it a little time,” for the vegetation to grow and the fish to take hold,” said Davis. 

By 2018, the road was in good shape and the fish seemed to be doing well, but Jackson Guard found that algae was taking over the pond.

“It's not good for fisheries,” said Davis. “And it’s not good for aquatic habitats.”

A pine tree along one of the trails at the Timberlake Recreation Area bears a series of V-shaped cuts called "catfaces," a testament to an earlier time when the forest was used to harvest pine resin for turpentine.

So the park remained closed, while workers used an excavator to dig out accumulated muck from the bottom of the pond and increase its depth to prevent future algae growth. In the process the vegetation that covers the earthen dam was damaged and needed more time to recover.

“Things just came up and we had to deal with them as they did,” said Davis. “But we wanted to do it right before opening up.”

Now it’s back open, and at a time when people definitely seem to be looking for outdoor recreation opportunities.

"We’ve sold the most recreational permits that we’ve ever sold during fiscal year 2020,” said Davis.


Day use of the Timberlake Recreation Area requires an Eglin recreation permit, which is $5 daily or $20 annually. Recreation permits can be purchased online at https://eglin.isportsman.net/.  Campsite permits cost $5 per night with a maximum stay of 14 days, and must be obtained from the Jackson Guard office at 107 State Road 85 in Niceville. Jackson Guard's hours are 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 a.m. Monday through Friday. For more information, call 882-4164.