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Way Down Upon the Suwannee River
Story and photos by Kathleen Walls

Kayaking on the river

There is nothing quite like floating down a peaceful river on a sunny afternoon. It you are sitting in a kayak that is even better. A kayak trip down the Suwannee River or one of its tributaries is an experience everyone should have at least once in a lifetime.

If you put in at Stephen Foster and kayaked to Woods Ferry or even did an overnight trip and went on to Spirit of the Suwaannee Music Park, you can really get the feeling of the river. The river is clean and you do not even see many houses. You drift on a moderate current; This is Florida, there is very little fast water here and only Big Shoals near the Georgia line has any whitewater. The aim is peace and tranquility not excitement.

 

Looking down the Suwanee


A pair of turtles bask on a limb

Wild life is abundant. Especially water birds and turtles. Often you can spot deer, otter, beaver and raccoon on the banks. The sound of silence is a balm for the urban soul. There are no traffic sounds here. No impatient horn honkers. No bird-flipping drivers scooting past you at breakneck speed. The occasional boat is moving at reasonable speeds and usually is courteous. Because of the current, most others are going in the same direction.

 

A comorant perches high above the river

You don't need to do much paddling if you don't want. Mostly go with the flow and use you paddles to keep straight. The scenery changes from low sandy banks to higher limestone cliffs. You can pull in and banks when you see a spot you like. Swimming is fine in the water. It is dark but that is from the tannin in leaves not pollution. This is a very clean river.

If you don't live really close to the area, you will need a base as most trips will take anywhere between four to six hours and with loading up and shuttling you will probably not want to be driving back home afterwards. There are lots of choices depending on your budget. For simple comfort at a reasonable price, I suggest the Super 8 Motel at exit 423 off I 75. I have stayed there many times and been very happy with it. You are close to both Suwannee River access and Ichetucknee Springs and State Park. Rooms are clean and comfortable, you get free WIFi, free breakfast, including waffles and free ice cream.

Cabin living room at Stephen Foster SP

Another good choice is the cabins at Stephen Foster State Park. They are a bit more expensive but they are spacious and can accommodate a large family or group. Also they are just steps away from a launching point for the river. If you plan on camping, They have a nice campground which offers electric and water for both RVs and tents. Another good camping choice is Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park. They offer full service camping for RV or tents and have some cabins for rent. They have an full service outfitter on site. The launch is located in the back of the park on the Suwannee River.

River Camp at Woods Ferry

You can camp for free at one of the river camps. Presently there are five of these. Woods Ferry, Holton Creek, Dowling Park, Peacock Slough and Adams Tract river camps. Each river camp has five raised, screened sleeping platforms, hot showers and restrooms. They make primitive camping comfortable while you enjoy the Suwannee. You must call and make a reservation. You can also camp at many areas along the river by obtaining a free permit from The Suwannee River Management District at   386.362.1001    It is a good idea if you are doing any overnight kayaking to leave a travel plan with a friend or relative should you have difficulties.    

So get into your kayak and just drift along with the current. It's one of life's great pleasures.

For more information:

Super 8 Lake City
http://www.super8.com/Super8/control/Booking/property_info?propertyId=03379
3954 S.W. State Road 47
I-75 Exit 423
Lake City, FL 32024
386-752-6450

Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park & Campground
3076 95th Drive,
Live Oak, Florida 32060
http://www.musicliveshere.com/content/index.php
Main Office        386-364-1683        
Canoe Outpost 386-364-4991

Stephen Foster State Park
U.S. 41 North
White Springs, Florida 32096
http://www.floridastateparks.org/stephenfoster/default.cfm
(386) 397-2733

Suwannee Wilderness Trail
http://www.floridastateparks.org/wilderness/
800-868-9914        

Provided by American Roads Travel Magazine - Visit American Roads Travel Magazine website.

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