Post 3 of 8

A RIVER OF TIME

Georgia to the Gulf, 225 river miles, 10 paddle days

Woods Ferry to Dowling Park River Camp

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Day 4 (Thursday)

Woods Ferry River Camp (159rm) to just before Gibson Park (136rm), 23-river miles

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Another overcast start with a lingering mist – we hadn’t seen the sun in more than three days – plus yesterdays drenching had us moving a little slower this morning, still we were back on the river by 830.  Gordy hadn’t slept that well, I think the first three days of climbing in and out of his kayak was ‘the nail’ – the pounding rain over the last few days was looking more and more like ‘the hammer’….

What else could we do but move on down the river? – Once paddling the saturation was apparent, lots of water flowing from the woods – which was pretty neat in itself while complimenting the distinct setting.  On this day we spotted several turkey, an eagle, those ever present kingfishers – and of course our diligent osprey.

The scenery had made another change too, the limestone cliffs were now more steep and abrupt – beautiful.  It’s a sight that makes it easy to comprehend how over eons the river has carved this niche through this land.  The picture above shows two trees sharing the same root, a single root supplying nutrients to each.  The haze in the pic also reflects the mist and dampness remaining in the heavy morning air – at three and a half days, still no sun.

Suwannee Springs

It was about lunch when we passed Suwannee Springs ( in the Holton Creek post), besides hunger I sensed something else going on with Gordy.  After climbing in and out below Fargo his back became more of a issue to him, he expressed concern that it might hinder our trip down the river.  Gordy paddled on hoping the ache would subside.

Again, this is an area that conveys the ancient river ‘feel’ of the Suwannee, the limestone banks stood tall along the banks; the still darkness of the tannick water making it all the more pronounced.

The morning of Day 4  was better, but still overcast – with our vehicles a third of the way down the river and just a couple miles further we made plans for some land food at the cafe within the Suwannee River Music Park (a big juicy cheeseburger).  Our vehicles were located near the cafe also, a planned point to ‘regroup.’

Lunch came at the right time – we made landfall and each had one of those big mmmmeat patties; not really sure if it was good or bad but I don’t think Gordy even chewed his – it was gone before the waitress could ask if we needed anything else!

– and then Gordy made the call.

Doggone it, Gordy was a solid paddlin buddy and great at having boiling water ready for our food or coffee-like sustenance – but I respect and understand his decision, sometimes we have to listen to our bodies.  I also understood that Gordy had a new kayak, a perception with a small cockpit.  Gordy also had a touch of RA, climbing in and out under less than ideal paddling conditions was tough on both of us – the perceptions small cockpit was the challenge. Gordy never complained.   IF, there were a way to have avoided the first two days of shoals – then I’m absolutely sure that he would have completed the remainder of Suwannee where its more about paddlin.  As for me, the second night I thought that my sinus would take me out – but with fresh meds from my truck; the river ‘opened up’ before me.

(Note; Gordy returned the following April and easily completed the paddle to the Gulf)

I admired his fortitude and appreciated the ‘boost’ that he provided.  I learned prior to our paddle that a few of our mutual friends had him concerned that I would step out in a ‘speedo’ somewhere along the way (of course I didn’t), but I did ‘ride’ the joke; “it’s alligator skin Gordy – you know how to tell if it’s real??? – feel it!!!!!” 🙂 all in fun; thanks for the boost buddy..

An hour later the sun was out, I thought about Gordy and how this “would be my kind of luck.”  The first part had been the work – now the rest of this trip on the Suwannee would bear – the reward.

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After three and a half days of rain all’s things could do was to get better – and it did!  The sun came out, so much so that I had to find the shady side of the river while paddling.  With a reservation at the Holton Creek River Camp for the night I paddled on; but on arrival at 230 it was simply too early to stop.  I did have another place in mind so I called and canceled, paddling further to get the most out of the river, and the sunshine…..

In moving on I did have a place in mind, one that was noticed on the Holton Creek visit, “Shelley Run” – just before Gibson Park.  Originally I thought it was a ‘spring,’ but the water wasn’t truly clear enough for spring water, later I heard that it was an underground branch of the Alapaha riverthe Alapaha Rise. I’m not sure but it is a ‘boil’ which starts just above the private docking.

Such was day 4 – this was an awesome (and level) campsite – even though now I had to boil my own water….

day-4, 23 miles.

Facebook Post; “29 miles today to 130 rm, 3 and a half days of overcast and rain has taken its toll – but sunshine after lunch today – beautius afternoon, goin with the flow.”

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DAY-5 (Friday)

Gibson Park (136 rm) to Dowling Park River Camp (113 rm)

I slept very well, nothing around but the rushing water, the Owls – every night the owls….. sleeping on the level dock worked well – I was up and paddlin the Suwannee once again by 815 – there was lingering moisture from all the rain.

The morning is a great time, peace – lots of it.  Most of the time its a slow paddle watching the kingfishers or Ospreys, scanning or listening for the occasional gator to slide in – or wondering how close I could get to the turtles before they too dropped into the dark water – seemed all of the creatures were happy for the sunshine once again.

This fishing couple stopped and we talked a little about the areas fishing.  With boats in mind, most all of the boaters on the Suwannee showed respect for a canoe or kayak by slowing down – I appreciated the gesture, but usually gave them the notion that they could continue on – for myself, boat waves where annoying at times are ‘just part of kayaking.’  Only once has a boat wave caught me off guard and almost sent me rolling, at Lake Powell.  I usually deal with this part of paddling by going during weekdays – of course there is always the exceptions, the complete jerks – only one encountered the entire trip and after two near passes he went his own way.

My theory is to just paddle on…,”no maas.”

Its just paddle and ponder – the geology of this part of the Suwannee continues to be absolutely intriguing.

These layers of sediment were later identified as part of the crustacean period of 65 million years ago, a river of time.

It was just awesome, and after a little calibration, I paddled on.

Withlacoochee junction

At the Suwanee River State Park the Withlacoochee river joins forces with the Suwannee, adding a little more current before passing under the railroad trestle.  This bridge and area within the state park holds Civil War history..

Within the Suwannee River State Park there remains a Cemetery, Confederate Earth Works Fort, Ferry Landing, and Stage Coach Trail.

“The town of Columbus stood near the Confederate earth-works fort that guarded the old RR bridge. There was once a Stage Stop there and the town benefited from it along with the RailRoad, Ferry, Sawmill, and the Steamboat traffic. The cemetery, considered one of Florida’s oldest, is the only evidence left. It can be found on one of the nature trails. Nearby the earth fort was constructed by Confederate soldiers to protect the RR bridge from Union attack. This was very important to the Confederate forces since their meat at the time came almost entirely from Florida range cattle, sugar, and salt. At the time there were plenty of ‘Cowboys’ in Florida raising cattle left from Spanish occupation. The Union knew that if they could destroy the RR bridge it would shut off the meat supply for the troops. Union troops were sent from Federally occupied Jacksonville to destroy the bridge but were engaged at Olustee, in Columbia County, and defeated in February of 1864.” 

“The Columbus Post Office was established on February 17, 1842 and later moved across the Suwannee to serve the new sawmill town Ellaville in 1867.”

then another two sets of shoals before I-10, there were more shoals in the river than I expected, limiting the type of boats that run these waters to the smaller fishing boats.

This is several members of the group (Franks) encountered later at the Dowling Park River Camp, where they showed me some fossilized sand dollars and other fossils from the crustacean period.  These guys have taken an annual paddle for forty years….

Dowling Park River Camp

Dowling Park hut

These are the type of huts the river camps provide to paddlers and hikers (only), plus showers.  The Suwannee River Wilderness Trail is a cooperative effort of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection, the Suwannee River Water Management District, and the counties, cities, businesses and citizens of the Suwannee River Basin – its definitely a positive – ‘camp-host’ for this camp was Butch Elder, a retired army guy.

carts are on-hand and available to help haul gear from your boat ..

L to R – Frank, Frank, Frank, Frank, Frank, Frank, and Frank

This was the group of characters in the canoes that I shared camp with – from the Rome, Ga area.  As a whole they picked a place each year to paddle and camp a few days.  Teachers, businessmen, Doctor, scout-master – seems one or two have contributed to a high number of Eagle-scouts within their community.  They invited me over to supper where they had cooked up some ‘beaver,’ scout-style (another story) with peach turnover which led to a number of laughs – Frank (Ga Dawg fan) was still giggin his son-in-law about sending the grandkids to FSU.

I liked how they packed those canoes (Roy had the easiest load to carry), they had done this before, just a good bunch of guys missing their wives (you owe me) while Bill howled into the starry night – (when I said I might mention them in my post – they said their names were all “Frank’) – I really think they were in the witness protection program – It was a good time – another good thing about paddling the Suwannee River is the ‘like-minded’ folks that you meet along the way.

.more pictures day 4 and 5

Facebook post; “Day 5 half-way, 110 mile mark. Stream, creek, and now river – windy today, cool nights – Dowling Park for the night – nice places along the Suwannee River Trail, screened in elevated rooms, free when available – only one more that i might be able to use downriver – weekend crowd starting to show up, people :-).”

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The next day, paddle to Adams Tract;

  • Day 6 – to Adams Tract River Camp (85 rm)

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note: even though mentioned and shown on available maps – there are NO physical ‘river-mile’ indicators along the river.  For further Suwannee River mileage information, check this link – Suwannee River Mileage, Trip Agenda ideas.

Opinion; Marking existing landmarks such as bridges, ramps, and river camps with a numerical reference would provide basic orientation points (and emergency references) along the river (the Mississippi has them).

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