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Suwannee River Mileage – Trip Agenda; Ideas

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Suwannee River Wilderness Trail

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Topside of The Suwannee

Fargo Ga. to the Gulf

Fargo to Live Oak

Live Oak to the Gulf

The Suwannee River begins it’s journey as marsh-water within the Okefenokee Swamp of Georgia.  Then as a creek the tea-colored (tannic) water creeps across two states continuing to grow as numerous high-magnitude springs increase it’s flow into a respectable river.  The distance from the swamps of Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico at the small town of Suwannee, Fl is about 240 miles.

Springs along the Suwannee.

It’s all paddl’able, and whether paddling sections of the river or the distance, you’ll find the effort supported by local businesses and the State of Florida alike – its good air.

Big Shoals above hwy 41 (White Springs) is Florida’s only natural class-III rapid and a @1000′ portage for flat-water paddlers.

For those that seek the distance; the most practical starting point in Georgia is at Fargo (Hwy 441, this leaves a 9 or 10-day paddle 225-miles to the Gulf –BUT – there are multiple shorter options; for a ‘feel’ of the Suwannee, the Holton Creek area is an ez two day one night acclimation for future ventures (put-in at Spirit of Suwannee Music Park (Canoe Outpost) – paddle upstream for a couple miles to Suwanee springs – then paddle back for a night at Holton Creek river camp.  Next day; paddle and take-out at the Suwannee River State Park).

Further points North and added days could begin at Fargo, Cone Bridge, or the Hwy-6 (above Big Shoals), or the hwy-41 bridge (below Big Shoals) in White Springs, Fl.  Those points could add up to three nights on the river (one at Woods Ferry r/c) ending at the Canoe OutpostCanoe Outpost (Live Oak)…..(good place to get out, or restock from your vehicle and move on towards to the gulf).

CAMPING;  Plan and pack for primitive camping.

From Fargo to the Gulf; nights 1,2,7,8, and nine are primitive, other nights are much better with elevated screened rooms and hot showers provided by The Suwannee Wilderness Trail river camps.  These camps are free of charge for paddlers or hikers only (you just have to call ahead).  If by chance the elevated platforms are full, primitive spaces remain available at the river camps – with use of hot showers.

FOOD;  Have your own.  A foot-long subway usually provides me with a full day’s start; then its trail mix and MRE’s unless something better comes along – most of the time I find myself more absorbed with the setting than that of being ‘hungry. Yet there are several points along the way where ‘land-food’ (ballast) is possible;

  • mm 168 – at White Springs ( .8 walk, pass – shoot for day 4) Day 3 from Fargo
  • mm 148 – at store/cafe within the Music park (.8 drive up if parked there) Day 4 from Fargo
  • mm 76 – at Branford, Ivy Park – good ‘ballast-buffet’ restaurants (.2 ez walk) Day 7 from Fargo
  • mm 65.5 – ONE mile up the Sante Fe river – awesome bar/campground/rv park – Ellie Rays ,could easily work as a ‘take-out’ point.
  • mm 56 – top of hwy 340 bridge landing before Gornto, Rock Bluff store deli sandwiches, hamburgers, cold beverages…(.2 ez walk) Day 8 from Fargo
  • mm34 – at Fanning Springs – the lighthouse restaurant immediately adjacent the Park, others too (.3 ez walk) Day 9 from Fargo
  • mm 16 – at Fowlers Bluff – the Treasure Camp restaurant – camp there; live music at times (riverside) Day 10 from Fargo
  • mm 1 – Salt Creek and Marker 29 Restaurant in Suwannee (.8 walk) day 11 from Fargo

WATER; In the kayak we maintained a gallon of fresh water (you can refill at any river camp; also at the granite steps below White Springs) – a canoe could of course be outfitted with an ice chest (and beverages) if that was your plan.  Trash cans are available at the river-camps.

The paddle is a great opportunity to observe the changes where this simple flow of water has carved a niche through the Florida landscape – along the way you’ll find the shorelines of eon’s past plus those of recent articulation.  Most of all paddling the Suwannee is about doing yourself a favor and simply ‘unplugging‘ from the ‘rat-race’ of society.  A dedicated Suwannee river paddle is a great place to begin ‘this cleansing’ – try it with your phone ‘Off!‘ or at minimum ‘airplane-mode’ while paddling  (ps; electronics can be ‘charged-up’ at the river camps).

  • As for river-speed, just estimate a casual paddling rate of 2.5 to 3 mph (a solid mph greater with high water)

Oh yeah, be on the water before 8:30 – mornings are simply ‘the best’ of paddle time – and sure, the complete Suwannee can be paddled faster than 10-days; but the best advice is to take your time, savor the experience while you are there.

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Upper River Map – PDF  –  –  –  Lower River Map – PDF.

Suwannee River Mile References 

Note; the Suwannee river’s mile references are correct – yet there are no physical markers (signs) along the river to help with ‘exact’ orientation. Markers on any river are not absolutely necessary but after a career of emergency service – having a ‘mark’ here-and-there seems prudent.  

Maybe I was a little spoiled from 1800 miles of occasional ‘mile-markers’ along the Mississippi where these ‘benchmarks’ provided a measure of entertainment on long hot days.  The Current river is another exceptional river to paddle (with crystal clear water) which would benefit with certain informational benchmark’s along the way (my 2-cents).

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240.o The Okefenokee Swamp – a tricky section with several short portages

235  Suwannee Sill

221.0   Hwy 41 at Fargo, Ga from here it’s a nine day paddle to the Gulf.

NOTE:

CHECK this WATER DEPTH gauge (link here) refer to the WHITE SPRINGS reading!

  • below 51′ – from Fargo to White Springs; frequent shoaling, slow pools
  • at 51 feet (less water) = slow water, keep the paddle moving
  • at 53 feet – great water speed and level for the ‘topside’ section
  • Silhouette of a man paddling a canoe on a lake – best in between –
  • 61′ reading (more water) = nice movement, but less riverside available downstream
  • When over 66 feet – the river’s outfitters discourage paddling
150 mm Suwannee Springs at 53'

Suwannee Springs with reading of 66′ at White Springs’

I’ve been asked about paddling the Suwannee when the reading at White Springs is over the 60′ level; having done it – it’s a more fluid ride with fewer noticeable shoals; you’ll get there easier/faster, but miss alot of the rivers true shoreline character. 

150mm Suwannee Springs

Suwannee Springs with reading of 60′ at White Springs

Above 60′ camping will be less available as the river/camps sometimes close with high waters – Public springs on the lower part close (tannic water/gators creep in), and it won’t be as good a time to play along the way.  No matter when/if you do it, the river will always be interesting in-your-own-way.  

Our ‘high-water’ paddle at 60’+ was just fine – still, have a ‘plan-b’ in the worst of combined conditions (active weather + depth).  As stated; the areas outfitters discourage paddling when over the 66′ reading at White Springs.

  • being ‘hard-headed’ myself; I take ‘opinions’ for what they are (esp from a non-paddler) and on more than one occasion have made the final decision at ‘waters-edge‘ – odds are if I’m there – I’ll ‘go.’
150mm Suwannee Springs (reating at White Springs 52

Suwannee Springs with reading of 52′ at White Springs

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206      Georgia/Fla line

1304-IMG_6498(night-1 from Fargo, wilderness camp)

202.0 – Roline Ramp

197.7 – Turner Bridge ramp

195.7   Highway-6; some start here; its three days two nights to SR Outpost – Big Shoals portage ahead

185  –  ‘Limpdick’ bend

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186.5 – Cone Bridge ramp – Camping spot, but it can also be a zoo on the weekends; ‘locals,’ litter.

180     Night 2 from Fargo; primitive camp – sandbar in river (low water), or higher water you should make Big Shoals portage/camp

177.2   Big Shoals State Park – uphill to right, difficult to access

Big Shoals Camp

Big Shoals camp

Half-way camp on Big Shoals

Half-way camp on Big Shoals portage

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Guy rowing in kayak animated gif

177   Big Shoals portage (camp) – to left, 1000′ PORTAGE.  sign, great primitive campsite – Fla’s only natural class III rapid –  N 30 21.19, W 82 41.24

171     Highway-41 at White SpringsGreat starting point for 2-day one night paddle to SR Outpost, ‘playful section’

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168.3   Hwy 135   Stephen Foster State Park White Springs – (Hub)

  • Hubs are towns or parks  ‘ A wide range of goods and services are provided to meet visitors’ needs. Visitors can enjoy special events, shopping and other activities.

163.2 – Interstate 75 – Blue Sink Launch/ramp

(night 3 from Fargo – Woods Ferry camp)

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159.3   Woods Ferry River Camp  

  • River camps are located a day’s paddle between hubs. Accessible only from the river, the camps provide covered camping platforms, primitive camping and restrooms with hot showers – reservations; (800) 868 – 9914

158.0 – Woods Ferry Launch

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150mm Suwannee Springs (reating at White Springs 52

150.0 – Suwannee Springs launch (history)

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148.5  Suwannee Canoe Outpost located at rear of Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park – place to leave vehicle – Great starting point to Gulf or for shorter paddles

(GPS – 2461 95th Dr, Live Oak, FL)

  • “Hubs” a town or park – A variety of goods and services are provided to meet visitors’ needs. Visitors can enjoy special events, shopping and other activities.

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Our canoe start – Live Oak to GulfSpirit of the Suwannee Music Park ramp (8-days to the Gulf) “Topside of the Suwannee 2017”

140.9   Holton Creek River Camp  FREE to hikers and paddlers

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  • River Camps are located a day’s paddle between hubs. Accessible only from the river, the camps provide covered camping platforms, primitive camping and restrooms with hot showers – reservations; (800) 868 – 9914
  • 1st night from Live Oak, (night 4 from Fargo) On the river by 830, 20+ mile paddle/day. A couple light shoals below SR State Park, neat Geological layers along shore, exposed fossils – Stay at SR State park or Dowling Park river camp (it’s all “candy” after that)

135.6   Shelley Run (Alapia Rise) night camp option – private

135.4   ALAPIA RIVER Gibson Park ramp

130.4 – BRIDGE – Road 141 ramp

1104-IMG_8122

127.7   Suwannee River State Park, camping/hot showers – fee – (Hub)

  • “Hubs” a town or park – A variety of goods and services are provided to meet visitors’ needs. Visitors can enjoy special events, shopping and other activities.

127.8   Withlacoochee River

Silhouette of man rowing canoe animation

113.0   Dowling Park River Camp       N 30 14.81, W 83 14.87   

  • River Camps are located a day’s paddle between hubs. Accessible only from the river, the camps provide covered camping platforms, primitive camping and restrooms with hot showers – reservations; (800) 868 – 9914
  • Day-3 from Live Oak (Wednesday), 29-mile paddle/day with stay at Adams Tract (85.5), or option of easier 19-mile Paddle day staying at Peacock Slough (95.8).- neat Springs along the way, laid back paddle rate – crystal clear springs, nice area.

106.5 – Charles Spring ramp

103.3   Lafayette Blue Springs State Park (Hub)

  • “Hubs” a town or park – A variety of goods and services are provided to meet visitors’ needs. Visitors can enjoy special events, shopping and other activities.

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97.4 – Telford Springs ramp

95.8    Peacock Slough river campRiver Camps are located a day’s paddle between hubs. Accessible only from the river, the camps provide covered camping platforms, primitive camping and restrooms with hot showers – reservations; (800) 868 – 9914  (Night 3 from Live Oak)

  • Day-4 from Live Oak, More Springs, City-restaurant food ahead in Branford, paddle rate determines stop for the night with the Santa-Fe river as an Objective – Ivy Park at Branford has primitive/tent camp area – no showers

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85.5     Adams Tract River Camp; River Camps are located a day’s paddle between hubs. Accessible only from the river, the camps provide covered camping platforms, primitive camping and restrooms with hot showers – reservations; (800) 868 – 9914   (night 6 from Fargo)

82.0 – Ruth Springs ramp

– Troy Springs – Little River Springs

Two little portholes; Thomas G Haynie and ‘Traveller

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76        Ivey Memorial Park/ramp – Branford ; Just after bridge, Night 4 camp from Live Oak, primitive camp with land-food, sheltered pavilion if needed

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65.5   Weekend awareness area; 

 Animated speedboat in the water

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65.5 The Sante Fe River  (Ichetucknee Springs) depending on water level, beach to camp on.  FYI; One mile up the Sante Fe = FOOD/BAR/Campground (nice!) possible ‘take-out’ point

56.6     Highway 340 bridge, ramp – FOOD/COLD BEVERAGE STORE at top of ramp Rocky Bluff Store – (secure camp spot with picnic table – water, power) ‘take-out’ point for Sante Fe river

55        Gornto Spring County Park ; Night 6 from live Oak, primitive camp at Park, fee – cold shower – (this place can be a ‘zoo’ on the weekends, b.y.o.b. (‘locals’))

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43.1     Hart Spring County Park /ramp            N 29 40.46, W 82 57.26

Silhouette of man rowing canoe animation

35.8     Highway 98  Suwannee Gables Ramp

34.2     Fanning Springs State Park Camping, The Spring, COLD water shower – use of wagon to haul kayak to camp – Seafood, etc restaurant – convenience stores across street –

  • “Hubs” a town or park – A variety of goods and services are provided to meet visitors’ needs. Visitors can enjoy special events, shopping and other activities.
  • (Night 6 from Live Oak, night 8 from Fargo)

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25.1     Manatee Springs State Park; camping, but sites are a long way from ramp.  Canoe/kayak friendly (paddle in) April 1 to Nov 1 – More about the Spring    N 29 29.34, W 82 58.67

22.7 – Yellow Jacket Campground – ramp

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16.8 – Fowlers Bluff Ramp   primitive camp at Treasure Cove restaurant, land-food, live music, cold beverage.  natural-water (garden-hose) shower (Day 7 camp from Live Oak)

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3.9   Anderson Landing River Camp (Bill’s Fish Camp) Camping (room or tent – no credit cards), hot-water showers, good food walking distance (Hub) –  Salt Creek and Marker 29 Restaurant in Suwannee (.8 walk)

(GPS – 18 SE 225 St, Old Town, FL)

  • “Hubs” a town or park – A variety of goods and services are provided to meet visitors’ needs. Visitors can enjoy special events, shopping and other activities.  

(address)

Note; Live Oak to the Gulf trip with ‘green’ canoeists limited mileage to twenty a day – kayaks alone may average 25 to thirty miles a day – but hey, sometimes its good to slow down and appreciate the setting…..

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PAST SUWANEE TRIP REPORTS

Fargo to the Gulf – kayak (225 miles) High water

  • Post 1 of 3 – Days 1 – 4, Fargo to Dowling Park river camp
  • Post 2 of 3 – Days 5 – 8, Dowling Park river camp to Gornto Park
  • Post 3 of 3 – Days 9 – 11, Gornto Park (‘belly-button’ of the Suwannee) to Suwannee, Fl

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Live Oak to the Gulf – canoe (150 mile)

Suwannee River Grin – 4 posts

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Fargo to the Gulf – kayak (225 miles) Low water

A River of Time – 8 posts

  • Days 1 and 2 Fargo Ga, to riverside camp to just above Big Shoals (178rm)
  • Day 3 Big Shoals to Woods Ferry River Camp (159rm)
  • Days 4 and 5 – Woods Ferry to riverside camp (136rm) to Dowling Park River Camp (113 rm)
  • Day 6 – to Adams Tract River Camp (85 rm)
  • Day 7 – to riverside (56rm) just above Gornto Springs (56rm)
  • Day 8 – to Fanning Springs (34 rm)
  • Day 9 – to Anderson River Camp
  • Day 10 – Suwannee, Fl (03rm, Gulf)

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3 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Suwanee River: Skip the song; but go for kayaking & camping | Florida Rambler
    May 26, 2015 @ 07:25:05

  2. David
    Jan 18, 2017 @ 18:18:37

    How many hours did it take you from Fowlers Bluff to Suwanne?

    Like

    Reply

    • Tom Haynie (bacshortly)
      Jan 21, 2017 @ 09:02:06

      It was @ 18 miles David, a good three to four hours – wind and tide could affect – give yourself plenty of time, few if any places to camp on that stretch.

      Like

      Reply

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