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A RIVER OF TIME

Fargo, Ga to Big Shoals

(Low water paddle)

10 Days on the Suwannee River, Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico – 225 miles


The Georgia Suwannee

Paddling the Suwannee River had been on my mind for quite a while; an inkling of a thought growing into a small tilt and then finally tangible movement.  I wanted to paddle the complete river – from Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico.  Following the Suwannee from a creek as it becomes a river would allow a better understanding of the changes surrounding the flow along the way.

As I threw out an offer for any to join up I also met-up with a local paddle group whom had planned a weekend ‘social’ trip – a great opportunity to grasp the logistics, shuttling, and intricacies of the Suwannee.  The Holton Creek weekend happened in February, I was planning an early April run at the river – Gordy, a friend (and brother-in law’s brother) from Delaware quickly signed on for the paddle, awesome.

 Gordy drove down from Delaware and we proceeded to The Suwanee River State Park where we camped on Sunday, the next day (Monday) we would take the shuttle from The Suwannee Outpost to Fargo, Ga – from Fargo it would be 221 river-miles to the Gulf, via the Suwannee.  There are other outfitters available but the Suwannee Outpost seemed the most convenient (our vehicles would be riverside and secure at the one-third mark, an advantage if restocking or adjustments were needed).

Dropped Off

Fargo, Ga. – DAY ONE, (Monday) – 221rm to 203 river mile = 18 work miles (10-days planned)

The lowest recommended paddle depth for this section of the river is a 51-foot reading at White Springs, on this date it was low-water 50.4 – a deterrent?, – naaa, too many things in motion, us being the largest factor.  It was a late 10 am drop off and start from the Highway-41 bridge in Fargo – a handshake, and Gordy and I were off.

A later high water paddle at 60.3 ft – same area/distance.

The Suwannee in Georgia

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Here the little creek 12 miles out of the Okefenokee Swamp really wasn’t much, but it was full of character – both natural and human, which on this date we found naturally stoic.  The shorelines were weathered and the ‘line’ of the river randomly altered, everything about the Suwannee was interesting – it remained that way the entire paddle to the Gulf (at Suwannee, Fl), cool.

With the White Springs reading at 50,’ the Georgia section of  the Suwannee shows all the signs of rapid fluctuation – a ravaged and beaten shoreline. On this date we saw it totally placid and seemingly dead-still – several times through the day we commented about the ‘peaceful nature’ of it all.

There were the anticipated areas of shoaling (movement of sand creating sand-bars or shallow water), and places between the slow water where stepping-out to cross or a simple hand-shove (low water) was necessary – not bad, just “part of it.”

The gnarly tree roots were ever-present, the natural rebellion of trees vs the elements to survive creates a myriad of character.  There were the occasions where an aged tree had lost the battle and crashed into the creek.  There were also reminders of the once vibrant era of nearby Ga highway-41 – where an occasional dated tire (50’s/60’s) peeked from the shoreline; fixture’s – not so much ‘trash,’ but adjusted within the setting as ‘relic’s’ to contemplate.

ever-dilligent Osprey

There were the kingfishers darting about, an Osprey (which I think remained with us the entire trip) continually working far ahead in search of prey that sensed our movements.  Like the Current River trip, I’m starting to believe that its an ‘opportunity’ that these birds use in catching prey ahead.

And there was the almighty ‘peace,’ surrounded.

We paddled until about five before setting up camp high on river-left – near the Fla/Ga state line.  Finishing the last half of our Subway sandwiches for supper and zzzzzzzz by seven, only the Owls stirred after that.

The first day had been overcast and misty – ‘just another part’ that anyone has to anticipate dampness when making a multi-day paddle.  Periods of lite rain arrived during the night.

Facebook Post – “Fargo to Ga/Fla line, late start, 16 miles – low water, getting lower, Overcast day with mist, kinda nice – felt like it was 80. Gnarley trees, owls, Osprey’s. Camped on suwannee, day 1 done, using battery power to post – alls good”

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DAY 2  (Tuesday)- 203 rm to @180 rm = 23 ‘easier’ river miles

For the most part the lite rain passed through the night – so we packed damp gear. It was insta-breakfast meals (not bad), and some ‘rough’ river-jolt (coffee).  Chewing on a few grinds we were bac on the water by 8a.

The creek now resembled a larger stream, there were longer and deeper sections of ‘slow-water’ and stepping out for shoaling was less frequent.  There were also occasional areas of rock shoaling where ‘picking a line‘ was necessary.  At the 50.4 ft water mark, locating the ‘right line’ (decision-making) through these shoals became a game.  At the same time – each narrowed current provided a simple and welcomed ride.

The bubbles (above) showing were from the water flowing over the porous rocks in combination with the tannic acid (natural coloring from the leaves, vegetation) composition of the water – not from any unwanted crap in the water.

In retrospect the Suwannee’s water had a ‘quality’ feel to it all the way to the Gulf.

Around 11 am we made the Hwy-6 bridge, an optional shuttle starting point for many paddlers from Live-Oak.

Around three pm we made the Cone Bridge Landing; interesting thing here was ‘as the crows fly’ the area between Cone Bridge Landing and Hwy-6 was 5 miles, but via  river it had been 9 river miles.. still alot less deviated than the Mississippi.  Just a note for this section; in between is ‘limp-dick’ bend, no kidding that’s the real name -if/when you look at the aerial view of this section – well, you figure it out.

The images within the trees along the river are incredible also, easily leaving room for similar landmark namesakes….

Our paddle rate was in the neighborhood of 2.5 mph, a comfortable rate – this would increase slightly downriver, but not by much.

 

This was not a trip to ‘paddle’ the Suwannee; it was a trip to ‘enjoy’ the Suwannee – while simply paddling it.

Not a bad day on the Suwannee – even though it was overcast with lite rain – the underlying current gave it a ‘soft’ comfortable ride.  It was a fine day in ‘the lawn chair‘ as our-buddy the Osprey remained diligently working the waters ahead.

(“my vessel is as comfortable as any ‘lawn-chair’ that I’ve ever sat in.” tgh)

We passed-up on a sandbar in the middle a few miles back and regretted it; not so many miles later we stopped near a private hunting camps boat ramp (@180 rm) – mosquitoes were present (but not a factor in the tent). With water levels a little higher I’m sure the camp-site on the Big-Shoals portage would have been achieved, but for this night; this ‘was-what-it-was’ – just a “part of it.”

Another night of movement in the woods and owls courting throughout the night; there were a few flashes of lightning crossing the sky.

Sleep was fleeting; the ‘pollen-lines’ that I had noticed earlier along the river haunted me. sinus stuff.

Still, mornings come – again up to Gordy’s boiling water, insta-food, and coffee – a ‘wet pack and damp start to day-3.

Next Day;

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More day 1 and 2 pictures

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more information this link; SUWANNEE RIVER MILEAGE INFORMATION, TRIP IDEAS

Suwannee River Mile References 

Note; the Suwannee river’s mile references are correct – yet there are no physical markers (signs) along the river to help with ‘exact’ orientation. Markers on any river are not absolutely necessary but after a career of emergency service – having ‘marks’ along the way seems prudent – and, just maybe I was a little spoiled from 1800 miles of the Mississippi River where those ‘benchmarks’ provided some entertainment on the long hot days.  The Current river is another frequented river which could benefit with certain signage and benchmark’s.

As for river-speed, just estimate a casual paddling rate of 2.5 to 3 mph (a solid mph greater with high water)

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240.o The Okefenokee Swamp – a tricky section with several short portages

221.0   Hwy 41 at Fargo, Ga from here it’s a nine day paddle to the Gulf.  Check the water table reading at White Springs;  below 52 feet (less water) = more paddle  53 to 61′ reading (more water) = nice ride, fluid paddle

206      Georgia/Fla line   (night-1 from Fargo, wilderness camp)

202.0 – Roline Ramp

197.7 – Turner Bridge ramp

195.7   Highway-6; some start here, three days two nights to SR Outpost – Big Shoals portage ahead

185 – ‘Limpdick’ bend

186.5 – Cone Bridge ramp

180   (our night 2 from Fargo, wilderness camp) – sandbar in river, or high water will get you to Big Shoals

177.1   Big Shoals State Park – to right

177.5   Big Shoals – to left, portage, signs, campsite – Fla’s only natural class III rapid –  N 30 21.19, W 82 41.24

171      Highway-41 at White Springs;  Great starting point for 2-day one night paddle to SR Outpost, ‘playful section’

168.3   Hwy 135   Stephen Foster State Park White Springs – Hub; Hubs are towns or parks  ‘ A wide range of goods and services are provided to meet visitors’ needs. Visitors can enjoy special events, shopping and other activities.

163.2 – Interstate 75 – Blue Sink Launch/ramp (night 3 from Fargo – Woods Ferry camp)

159.3   Woods Ferry River Camp – River Camps are located a day’s paddle between hubs. Accessible only from the river, the camps provide covered camping platforms, primitive camping and restrooms with hot showers – reservations; (800) 868 – 9914

158.0 – Woods Ferry Launch

150.0 – Suwannee Springs launch 

148.5   Good starting point to Gulf or shorter paddles. Suwannee River Outfitter at rear of Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park – place to leave vehicle.  Hub – Hubs are towns or parks  ‘ A wide range of goods and services are provided to meet visitors’ needs. Visitors can enjoy special events, shopping and other activities. (GPS – 2461 95th Dr, Live Oak, FL)

Our canoe start – Live Oak to Gulf – Spirit of the Suwannee Music Park ramp (eight days to the Gulf)

Nearby hotel (I-75, exit 439or Suwannee River State Park.  The Suwanee River Outpost – shortest access to Music Park (I-75 exit 451).  Easy, no hurry ‘first’ 10 mile ‘shake-down’ day with 2-mile paddle upriver to Suwannee Springs before heading downriver to Holton Creek River Camp for the night (very easy day)

140.9   Holton Creek River Camp  FREE to hikers and paddlers

River Camps are located a day’s paddle between hubs. Accessible only from the river, the camps provide covered camping platforms, primitive camping and restrooms with hot showers – reservations; (800) 868 – 9914

Night 1 from Live Oak, (night 4 from Fargo) On the river by 830, 20+ mile paddle/day. A couple light shoals below SR State Park, neat Geological layers along shore, exposed fossils – Stay at SR State park or Dowling Park river camp (it’s all “candy” after that)

135.6  Shelley Run (night camp option – private)

135.4   ALAPIA RIVER Gibson Park ramp

130.4 – BRIDGE – Road 141 ramp

127.7   Suwannee River State Park, camping/hot showers – fee. (Hub) Hubs are towns or parks  ‘ A wide range of goods and services are provided to meet visitors’ needs. Visitors can enjoy special events, shopping and other activities.

127.8   Withlacoochee River

113.0   Dowling Park River Camp       N 30 14.81, W 83 14.87    

River Camps are located a day’s paddle between hubs. Accessible only from the river, the camps provide covered camping platforms, primitive camping and restrooms with hot showers – reservations; (800) 868 – 9914

Day-3 from Live Oak (Wednesday), 29-mile paddle/day with stay at Adams Tract, or option of easier 19-mile Paddle day staying at Peacock Slough.- neat Springs along the way, laid back paddle rate – crystal clear springs, nice area.

106.5 – Charles Spring ramp

103.3   Lafayette Blue Springs State Park (Hub) Hubs are towns or parks  ‘ A wide range of goods and services are provided to meet visitors’ needs. Visitors can enjoy special events, shopping and other activities.

97.4 – Telford Springs ramp

95.8    Peacock Slough river campRiver Camps are located a day’s paddle between hubs. Accessible only from the river, the camps provide covered camping platforms, primitive camping and restrooms with hot showers – reservations; (800) 868 – 9914  (Night 3 from Live Oak)

Day-4 from Live Oak, More Springs, City-restaurant food ahead in Branford, paddle rate determines stop for the night with the Santa-Fe river as an Objective – Ivy Park at Branford has primitive/tent camp area – no showers

85.5     Adams Tract River CampRiver Camps are located a day’s paddle between hubs. Accessible only from the river, the camps provide covered camping platforms, primitive camping and restrooms with hot showers – reservations; (800) 868 – 9914   (night 6 from Fargo)

82.0 – Ruth Springs ramp

– Troy Springs – Little River Springs

76        Highway 247 at Branford, Fl (just before – easy walk up behind the old train depot – park is just after)

76        Ivey Memorial Park/ramp – Branford ; (Night 4 camp from Live Oak, primitive camp with land-food)

65.5     SANTA FE RIVER  RIVER  (Ichetucknee Springsbeautiful beach to camp on

56.6     Highway 340  /ramp – FOOD/COLD BEVERAGE STORE at top of ramp Rocky Bluff Store

55        Gornto Spring County Park ; Night 6 from live Oak, primitive camp at Park, fee – cold shower – (this place can be a ‘zoo’ on the weekends (‘locals’))

43.1     Hart Spring County Park /ramp            N 29 40.46, W 82 57.26

35.8     Highway 98  Suwannee Gables Ramp

34.2     Fanning Springs State Park Camping, cold-water showers – good food across street (Hub) Hubs are towns or parks  ‘ A wide range of goods and services are provided to meet visitors’ needs. Visitors can enjoy special events, shopping and other activities.

(Night 6 from Live Oak, night 8 from Fargo)

25.1     Manatee Springs State Park; camping, but sites are a long way from ramp.  Canoe/kayak friendly (paddle in) April 1 to Nov 1    N 29 29.34, W 82 58.67

22.7 – Yellow Jacket Ramp – campground

16.8 – Fowlers Bluff Ramp   primitive camp at Treasure Cove restaurant, land-food, live music, cold beverage.  natural-water (garden-hose) shower (Day 7 camp from Live Oak)

Day-8 to Suwannee, the town -expect ‘no-see-ums’ (flyin teeth)

3.9   Anderson Landing River Camp Camping (room or tent – no credit cards), hot-water showers, good food walking distance (Hub) Hubs are towns or parks  ‘ A wide range of goods and services are provided to meet visitors’ needs. Visitors can enjoy special events, shopping and other activities.  (Day 8 from Live Oak, Day 9 from Fargo)

(address)

(GPS – 18 SE 225 St, Old Town, FL)

Note; Live Oak to the Gulf trip with ‘green’ canoeists limited mileage to twenty a day – kayaks alone may average 25 to thirty miles a day – but hey, sometimes its good to slow down and appreciate the setting…..

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PAST TRIP OVERVIEWS

Fargo to the Gulf – kayak (225 miles) High water

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Live Oak to the Gulf – canoe (150 mile)

Suwannee River Grin – 4 posts

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Fargo to the Gulf – kayak (225 miles) Low water

A River of Time – 8 posts

  • Days 1 and 2 Fargo Ga, to riverside camp to just above Big Shoals (178rm)
  • Day 3 Big Shoals to Woods Ferry River Camp (159rm)
  • Days 4 and 5 – Woods Ferry to riverside camp (136rm) to Dowling Park River Camp (113 rm)
  • Day 6 – to Adams Tract River Camp (85 rm)
  • Day 7 – to riverside (56rm) just above Gornto Springs (56rm)
  • Day 8 – to Fanning Springs (34 rm)
  • Day 9 – to Anderson River Camp
  • Day 10 – Suwannee, Fl (03rm, Gulf)

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