Way Down Upon the Suwannee River….

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Way Down Upon the Suwannee River….

by | Aug 18, 2016

If you have any inkling for enjoying the outdoors and especially canoeing or kayaking, this trip is for you.   For the second summer in a row, I took a three day canoe/kayak trip down the gorgeously remote Suwannee River with my kids and another family.  It takes some decent planning for meals, equipment and overnight camping supplies.  In three days, we covered about 27 miles of the river averaging about nine miles a day.  During the trip, we saw maybe 4-5 boats or a jet ski but for the most part, for a few random vacation homes along the river, it is still how Botanist William Bartram may have seen the river during his travels there in the late 1770s.  The most fun is the numerous absolutely stunning natural springs that flow into the river where you can pull in, snorkel, rope swing or jump into the cool 72 degree water. There are usually some very interesting and colorful local folks that make the experience even more unique. 

Depending on the section of the river, there are several named river camps established by the Forest Service that offer screen enclosed cabins with electricity, covered pavilions with tables, lights and even ceiling fans and for the city slickers, even air conditioned bathrooms! You do have to be prepared for elements as one afternoon we paddled in the rain for about three hours but it was actually refreshing and no lightening to worry about.  This was the first type of “roughing it” trip for my 13 year old daughter but she had a new best friend her age that was quite the experienced canoer who set a good pace and rowing work ethic.   Along the way, you can take in the vista views of impressive trees and numerous birds of many species, deer, turtles etc.

In order to keep perishable food cooled and stored for the extent of the trip, we used dry ice in the bottom of the cooler with some regular ice on top separated by a towel.  So, we could enjoy nice meals like steak fajitas, beef vegetable soup, bacons and eggs, fresh fruit, chocolate for the s’mores, the works!  Dad could even enjoy an adult beverage with ice on the third evening! 

Before you go, knowing the level of the river is important and it can change very quickly, we started with the river rather low and in some sections, there were faster flowing, level one rapids among some rocks that could hang you up if not carefully navigated.  One night a significant low front came through with a deluge of rain and thunder and lightning that brought the river up two full feet overnight!   It’s a good idea to always store the kayak or canoes on racks upside down high up on the bank.   If the river is too high, it can completely overrun the springs and make them hard to detect and not clear to snorkel or swim in.  

Coincidentally, for the alligator phobics, the banks are made of primarily white sand or hard limestone rock, not the muddy, marshy habitat gators prefer for nesting and sunning.  You do have to watch out for the massive sized sturgeon jump completely out of the water, can reach 4-5 feet in length and have actually killed unfortunate boaters moving at a rapid speed down the river.

Before you go, the Park Service can provide a free and very detailed (water proof) map book of each section of the river, indicating where the springs, boat ramps and camps are, distances with nice descriptions of each spring and campsite facilities etc. The adventure begins when you load in and never stops and hope you can experience it too sometime.


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