Suwannee river trips;
ONE MORE, ..GIN.
Fargo to Live Oak
@77 miles – 4 days
February 2017; winter in the foothills of SC hasn’t been much more than a refrigerator door left open; other than that – I’ve slowed from paddlin trips. Maybe its a ‘cycle’ of sorts but from the moving streams and lakes that I’ve meandered – but it’s more like I’ve “stopped to feel the bottom of ‘wherest I stand.” What kind of rhythm is this ‘life-at-60‘ in?
At the same time, paddlin friend Gordy was hunting a way to ‘unplug’ and had planned a Suwannee trip of his own, – I pondered whether to paddle along.
Having just returned home after already a pretty good couple of weeks at Fisheating Creek in South Florida; rv style, ‘feet-up,’ ridin old folks bikes, and visiting with old friends. I was pretty satisfied.
On the drive back from that trip, I did stop at the Suwannee river as it crosses under hwy441 at Fargo. With no plans of paddling at the time, the creek was swollen with water; it beckoned. I walked down the ramp in my chaco’s, into the water. Standing in the tannic waters, I said hello, it felt good. These thoughts followed me home.
The river at the time was over the 55 foot reading for White Springs (a common gauge for paddlin the Suwannee); the water in Fargo was moving along really good. I’ve paddled the river at 51 feet and at 61 feet (lower and higher) so it wasn’t hard to imagine a few days atop the Suwanee’s current – along with the warmer weather – it was inviting.
I pondered what else, if anything I had going on. It was true My Dad’s estate still lingered and I really did need to travel to the Sanford area and touch some bases there. Maybe a trip to touch those estate bases could include a 4-day, @77 mile paddle, cool – thanks Dad..
The next thing I knew; I drove down and met Gordy at Cone Bridge landing off 441. It was a new and improved landing from the past. Cone Bridge landing is not far from the Georgia line on the topside of the Suwannee. Having a couple days to kill we made the most of the time drinking waggitt-adder‘s and slowly sorting through our ‘paddle gear.’ The river for our paddle would be running at/about 53-feet – using the White Springs reading.
Options for the night before a Suwanee river paddle include the Suwannee river state park or a hotel at the next exit south on I-75. After a couple nights at Cone bridge we stopped by the Music Park (where Suwannee Canoe Outpost folks are located) – BINGO! they were happy to shuttle us to Fargo right then, a day earlier than planned.
and there we were; back on the river again……..
There was a soft current to the Suwannee; smooooth on the topside. I was sitting in something as comfortable as your favorite lawn chair; paddling with the least amount of effort or turbulence, peering out of these two little portholes…
In its own way yes, better’n home.
I noticed trees doing the river dance,
The topside of the Suwannee is where generations of tree’s have danced (and/or “twerked”) their own two-step for thousands of years. It’s a gnarly place. It’s a moments pass, through where one might sense the roots of these trees finding kindred ground within the stoic nature of time ….
A day early and after an ez three hour paddle we found us a primitive campsite, it was three oclock in the afternoon, early, but why not? This trip is not about mileage, it’s a 4 day pleasure paddle….
Don’t get me wrong, I do/can cover mileage, but today my reason is different….
We had passed and spoken to this fisherman earlier in the day, as the evening neared he came buzzing through the stillness, headed home… river life to home life.
After a long paddle day (mileage) a good paddler goes down with the sun and rises with the morning light. Of course when you’re off the river early, sitting around a campfire for a while is good too.
I’ve learned that with flatwater paddlin; in grasping the most of a river’s ambiance; start early (on the water by 8am), the only noise is what you make. To savor being there; stop early (campsite picked by 3pm) – set up camp; and be part of the rivers nature for a little while (and have a great evening).
OBTW; my interest leans toward ‘places and things;’ and not so much toward people.
“Tom, party of one”…. 🙂
In the mornings a good cup of river-jolt (coffee) hits the spot,
One of our factors in choosing a campsite was firewood; it was a good thing – because this night was a cool 42 degrees (and the fire had to be ‘stoked several times through the night).
A mechanical type of waking, hot water for coffee, MRE, stowing the gear. There was a ‘nip in the morning air as we started out; mornings are absolutely the best part of the day. Its a muffled quiet in the haze, misty spider webs are throughout the trees, it’s all there for you to absorb. Once again; for the most part – the only noise out there is the noise that you make.
Night two was just before Cone Bridge landing.
As the Suwannee turns from a creek to more of a river there are simple changes that take place with the shoreline. On the topside of the Suwannee those changes remain predominately natural
like the Suwannee riverdances
In the miles before limestone rift of Big Shoals the movement of the Suwannee is slowed, more soft paddling.
The slow water of the elongated pools create more stable habitat for wildlife. Paddling through the still tannic waters of the mornings; both physical and mental reflections move about freely. Simple complexity.
Big Shoals was the target for Tuesday in our original paddle plan, but leaving Sunday we were a day early. Making it early to the portage of Big Shoals left us with the possibility of hanging out for the afternoon – which it would put us back on our original schedule. A great camping place; so we did.
Looking at the water flow at 53-feet over the shoals there appeared to be a paddlable ‘line’ on the far side – but, no takers.. camp was set
Under this paddle rate I appreciate having stowed a real chair, even though its just a folding one – it worked well; ‘feet up.’
Putting in below Big Shoals the following morning was uneventful (it can be a challenge), the few miles before White Springs we were accompanied by the sud’s from the churning waters of Big Shoals. A byproduct of the vegetation which gives the Suwannee its darkish colors, the suds disappear with time. It can be a little surreal moving along with/in it at times.
Whats below or along the Suwannee shorelines dictate the direction and movement of the water by altering its perpetual current. Where its possible to imagine those obstacles with the turbulence of the surface – the suds provide a more visible definition to the maze of resistance beneath.
I felt that a kayaks negative contrail would look pretty neat if filmed or photographed by a drone while moving through this sudsy mass…..
Musses. At White Springs the suds disappeared; a comfortable mornings paddle while enjoying yesterdays cold coffee (I sure like those Yeti-type cups).
We had each started out with a gallon of water, but with the more frequent stopping – making it to Woods Ferry would be close; we needed to refill. There is water available for paddlers (spigot or fountain) at the granite steps of the Stephen Foster state park, just past White Springs and that is where we filled our jugs
an hour or so later we could hear the traffic of Interstate 75
It was a simple morning paddle, no outstanding changes from years past. Soon we passed under the interstate-75 bridge
another hour and we were pulling up at Woods Ferry river camp,
A roof and heck yes, a hot shower! Woods Ferry is the first of six river camps available free to paddlers and hikers (Woods Ferry, Holton Creek, Dowling Park, Peacock Slough, Adams Tract, Anderson River camp) all part of the State of Florida’s Suwannee river wilderness trail, great job folks – thank-you.
It was all coming together…..
Moving along a peaceful river helps….
and the Suwannee is a special one. Here we passed Suwannee Springs, where years ago health was thought to be perpetuated with the Suwannee’s water
Maybe there’s some truth to it, just from a different stand point
– anothers view
On the fifth day, we made it back to the Suwannee Canoe Outpost, easily done in 4 – but with the early start, well… I was on my scheudle
We went for a burger and a beer up at their cafe – good stuff
after the land food and restocking from his truck Gordy headed back out for more of the river…
and I moved on down the highway to complete my business