Well I have come to the opinion that perhaps the Suwannee River is the best River to paddle in Florida.
Have to admit that is bold -dare I say foolish claim because Florida has so many beautiful places to paddle (including the space center's No Motor Zone of the north Banana River) which until the current and ongoing algae bloom was the best Florida location to paddle --(Okay perhaps that is also a foolish claim -well because not all paddlers enjoy the wide open water on windy days and the sudden booming of a Atlas rocket lifting a satellite into orbit)
Enjoy the quiet solitude of a Florida river sunrise...
The Suwannee River is located about three hours north of Kennedy Space Center. The tannin stained river water flows fast compared to most Florida rivers.
The River is deep but interspersed with rocky shoals that may not even be noticed during high water trips -however during low water trips, portage may be required when crossing these shoals-- depending upon the type of water craft one is paddling.
Cool autumn morning on the Suwannee
Bass like the shoals!
As do other fish....
At the base of these shoals lurk ancient armored fish that for unknown reasons love to jump straight up out the brown waters. When least expected a sturgeon longer than my kayak paddle will leap from the water creating a large and exciting splash!
Signs placed by the state of Florida abound warning water craft of all types of the jumping sturgeon; however one never knows when these "older than the dinosaurs" fish will take their bountiful jumps.
Whatever your goals in life: please take a moment to enjoy the Florida jumping sturgeon photos on the Suwanee River. (Photos by Florida Fish and Wildlife)
Does it get any better than this?
Cool and silent morning on the river. Slight fog, fish jumping or was that beaver splashing an alarm?
There is a fascinating wildness to the River. Not just the abundant deer and turkeys but that many of the River homes constructed on tall stilts, indicative of unpredictable savage flooding.
Speaking of flooding, the surprisingly abundant beavers that inhabit the Suwannee have unlike other beavers across the continent -forsworn the common (instinctive?) practice of building dams or lodges and simply adapted to the ever changing water levels. (The existence of Florida beavers was an unexpected pleasant surprise)
I will make the claim that the Suwannee has the most springs of any Florida River. I actually cannot prove that is a correct statement however it certainly seems true as you paddle past stunningly giant springs, smelly sulphur springs and hundreds of very small to medium springs. Springs everywhere!
Springs....during a paddle trip down the Suwannee River with paddle Florida -one of the evening entertainment sessions was about cave diving in the underwater rivers and springs that feed the Suwannee and it was explained that the huge, fast Suwannee River is nearly completely a spring fed River (omitting the River headwaters -the great Occanofokee swamp in Georgia and the feeder (also spring fed) Withalhoochee River.
The clear springs quickly are surrounded by the brown tannic water of the river.
To paddle the fast Suwannee and to realize most of the River water had emerged from underground caverns is rather startling!
State provided river cabin! Dowling park River Camp
I wanted to mention (and congratulate) the state of Florida for the money expended to create public "River Camps" for canoes and kayak enthusiasts.
Strategically placed; these River camps for a few dollars offer a place to camp, hot showers, picnic tables and limited screened cabins. A few of these screened cabins and bathrooms are set upon stilts-once again pointing the savage floods that sweep the River ever few years.
These River camps are accessible to paddlers only and are an treasure unknown to most of the residents of Florida -those who do not live in north Florida. (Or at least me anyway-because I was unaware of these River camps until my explorations of the Suwannee River with Paddle Florida.)
Thanks to the State of Florida and to Paddle Florida for some wonderful memories!
Sun is already way up & I'm chafing at the slow risers. My paddle and rod are ready for another twenty miles and some shoal bass.
Had to chuckle during this photo. Even though it was 42 degrees, I had taken my warm jacket OFF. (not the PDF)
My fellow paddlers were still bundled like Florida Eskimos. I knew from past experience, they would soon be dropping the heavy clothes once we began paddle journey.
Suwannee River State Park, tent set up for the cool night.
In conclusion (for now) I would be amiss to ignore that even though I truly believe this is best river to paddle and camp in all of sunny Florida. What about the fishing?
The fishing? So difficult.
Fishing for catfish? Easy and plentiful
Anything else? So difficult. The river is fast and deep interspersed with shallow rocky shoals.
I had to concentrate on the shoals and fallen trees for any bass fishing success. Had to go weedless because of the submerged trees and low hanging branches.
I watched the locals cast their soft plastic baits onto the shore and drag their bait into the water. If they did not get a hit within two feet of the bank, they pulled the line and repeated the process.
Of interest to me, when I goggled 'fish' caught on the Suwanee River, most photos are of sea trout near the mouth of the river or of course, giant jumping sturgeon.
Page under construction! -I forgot I had not finished this page. AND HAVE BEEN BACK TO THE RIVER TWICE!
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My book on Florida history:
Struggle for the northern frontier and other lost tales of old Florida