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Home2018 April - Suwanee River

Suwannee River Trip

A 7 Day North Florida Self Supported Paddling Experience
Submitted by Ben Quaintance


The Suwannee river trip went very well. Eight Paddlers, Richard, Jeff and David Sojourner, Paul Beebe, Jim Gafford, Sandy Stacks, Chris Hugo and myself enjoyed a week of paddling with good weather. We stayed at five Suwannee River Florida state canoe camps (free with reservations) and one Florida state park cabin. We slept under a solid roof with a ceiling fan every night and had showers and flush toilets available every day. The river was easy paddling and ever changing, including large clear water springs, several small shoals, high ragged limestone bluffs and white sand beaches around many bends. A luxury version of a self supported canoe trip.

Sunday 3/19: Everyone met at Suwannee Outpost, our shuttle service, at 9:30 to load our canoes on their trailer, load the van and head to Steven Foster state park for our put-in. The group set off for Woods Ferry canoe camp at around noon. We paddled about 10 miles to the camp located high on the river bluff. We worked together to haul all our gear up a long zigzag catwalk using the camp’s four-wheel carts. The canoes were secured on wooden racks at rivers edge. (Two large screened sleeping platforms were reserved for the group at each canoe camp). Large volumes of wine were consumed that evening to celebrate the trips start.

Monday 3/20: A 34-degree morning started the day. Everyone managed to stay warm in spite of the unexpectedly cold night. By our 10:30 departure the temperature had become quite comfortable. This section of the Suwannee was lined with 30-foot limestone ledges around many bends. The day’s first stop was at Mattair Springs where water gushed across a rocky shore into the river. We lunched on a large white sand beach in the early afternoon and arrived at the beach landing for Holton Creek canoe camp in the late afternoon after 19 miles of paddling.

Tuesday 3/21: The morning wakeup at Holton Creek was comfortably cool. The group was on the river at 10:00 for a 14-mile trip to Suwannee River state park cabins. Everyone stopped and paddled up the 100 yards of strong current to the Alapaha river rise. This is a small box canyon with 20-foot limestone walls where the underground portion of the Alapaha River gushes forth. We stopped at the sandy mouth of the main Alapaha River for lunch where everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to Richard’s wife over his cell phone. The party arrived at Suwannee River state park cabins by late afternoon. We shared two very nice cabins. Richard Sojourner created a potluck dinner from our supplies that was consumed with large volumes of wine.

Wednesday 3/22: The paddling day started by passing the Withlacoochee river mouth just down river from the state park and running the modest Ellaville shoals. Everyone easily managed the Ellaville shoals. The Suwannee had now doubled in size with the joining of the Alapha and Withlacoochee rivers. After the shoals we began dealing with a steady head wind and warm temperatures. The group arrived at the Dowling Park river camp by mid afternoon after 15 miles of paddling. Sandy Stacks said her goodbyes and departed for a weekend wedding. Several of us hiked up the highway to a local convenience store, bought sandwiches for an easy dinner and rode back with a local driver that David Sojourner arranged as an impromptu “Uber” driver.

Thursday 3/23: Paddling got underway at 9:30 for an 18-mile trip to Peacock Slough river camp. The group stopped at three large clear water springs, Charles Spring in the morning, Lafayette Springs for lunch and Telford Springs in the afternoon. The bright blue Hal Adams Bridge, the first suspension bridge in Florida, was passed under by midafternoon. The day started overcast with a tailwind in the morning, but cleared midday with the wind turning into a headwind.

Friday 3/24: The 10 mile paddle to Adams Tract canoe camp started at 9:45 into a steady headwind. During the morning we paddled around the derelict central column of the abandoned Drew Bridge, stopped at Running Springs and then ran a strong shoal before having a big lunch and ice cream at Grandma Susie’s Kitchen at Convict Springs. After lunch Richard Sojourner found a shaded porch swing and had a sound but short nap that was interrupted by our noisy bunch. The headwind continued during the afternoon as we ran two more shoals and stopped at Mearson Springs arriving at the camp by midafternoon. The take-out at Adams Tract was a challenge. The landing spots were minimal and a group effort was required to move everyone’s gear and boats off the water. Everyone celebrated our last night on the river by consuming the last of the wine supplies.

Saturday 3/25: The group’s last day on the Suwannee started at 9:00 with calm winds for the 10-mile trip to Branford and the take-out, but by 10:00 the headwind was back. At Troy Springs we stopped to look for the remains of a pre-Civil War steamboat but did not find it. Little River Springs was the next stop. Here cave divers were preparing for a 100-foot decent into a mile of underwater caves. The Branford landing was reached by noon to end the seven-day trip. The shuttle van and trailer arrived at 1:00 and we were off to our cars at Suwannee Outpost near Live Oak, FL.

Our 96-mile trip was blessed with great weather. Everyone enjoyed each other’s company and the group consumed at least 20 liters of boxed wine over six evenings. Twelve large springs were explored and the Suwannee tripled in size over the course of our travels.

This was a very good paddling trip!

See the photos here!


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