– post 7 of 8 –
Georgia to the Gulf, 225 river miles, 10 paddle days
A River of Time
Fanning Springs to Anderson River Camp, Suwannee, Fl
When I set up the tent last evening at the State Park in Fanning Springs the possibility of being idle on this date (due to passing weather) was real. Luckily the ‘front’ came through at 6am and was gone by 730 (I’ve slept through worse on the Mississippi). After packing a damp tent and tarp I rolled traveller down to the ramp, and while returning the dilapidated cart to its rightful place I headed to search for breakfast across the street.
The rangers at the gate/office informed me that the power in the vicinity had been knocked out by the passing storm, but they were about to make-a-run to a fast-food restaurant down the road to fetch themselves a biscuit. “Figure me in, I’ll take two please.”
It was good of them to offer – but it was at least 40 minutes before the rangers returned (as I sat and listened to another ‘chatty’ ranger wound up on coffee). They produced some ‘insta-biscuits from a grocery freezer, how could I complain? Nope, a big thanks – and on my way at 10:30!… munchin a microwaved biscuit and drinking a coke. Anyone that knows me knows that I hate ‘hanging around (hence the ‘bacshortly’) but then I continued to remind myself that I could be sitting in the tent listening to the wind and lightning have its way with my little speck of ground. Life is indeed good, and so were the folks as they offered to grab me a bite – thanks guys.
It was once again good to be working the shoreline, I did think about the Outward bound group of girls that had departed so late the evening before and wondered how they might have completed their night – you have to respect what those young leaders do.
In the area of Fanning Springs is Old Town, after the RR Trestle is an historical shipwreck (underwater) marked by buoys – The City Of Hawkinsville.
With the late start and the Gulf still 34 river miles away I prepared for a night of riverside camping – my dread was that the weather front that had just passed also meant a chilly night ahead, 40’s forecast – least if I had to sleep near a gator I might see his breath first.
The Suwannee’s now become flat and wide, the shoreline is only sporadically showing mans presence – fewer residences and more hunting and fishing type of camps. There were structures nestled sporadically between the cypress stumps, trees, and protected habitat.
Paddling into the clear water of the Manatee Spring (allowed April to Nov) I paddled past a single Manatee, huge with a rounded fin, a seemingly gentle and harmless giant – these animals were commonly referred to as ‘sea-cows’ when I was growing up in Ft. Myers. They have done alot to protect the Manatees, after you have seen one with propeller wounds across their back, you really appreciate the State’s efforts.
Paddled up to the boil point where further paddling is prohibited.
Mullet were active and schooling in the clear and comfortably warm waters.
– and then back out into the Suwannee. Camping is possible here, but the camp sites are just too far from the river – and your kayak. It was just after noon and I was surprised with covering the nine mile distance from Fanning Springs so quickly. I figure three mph at a ‘leisure’ paddle; maybe the current is helping more. Yesterday was tough against the wind, today – with the weather front through and the cool night ahead the wind was mostly from the north, behind and supporting me in its own quiet way towards the Gulf. Sometimes things just work out.
The homes that I did encounter were in groups or clusters – many bearing the sign of our times – “For Sale.” There were several along the way that I really liked, especially with Gulf access – the best of both worlds; since Branford I had noticed many homes for sale.
This was the only law-enforcement I saw in my complete paddle.
– a little later the Yellow Jacket campground @ 230 pm (23 rm) came out of ‘nowhere.’
The land is mostly protected with one side bearing the signs of a Federal Wildlife Reserve, the opposite side only rarely shows the signs of private use – forgotten camps and picnic tables with vegetation growing from the accumulated leaves rotting the tops from them.
It is a ‘wetlands’ wilderness type of setting – I saw few places to pitch a tent.
It was three thirty when I came upon the boat ramp at Fowler’s Bluff (17 rm), hoping for a land-sandwich and noticing a small group of folks at what appeared to be a diner – I paddled in and stopped.
They were kind folks in the process of getting the diner open for the ‘season,’ stating also that a couple paddling the river had camped at their picnic tables the week before. It was 330, and in hindsight maybe I should’ve just stayed right there for the night.
One fisherman explained that it took him about thirty minutes to make the town of Suwannee (when he ran ‘wide-open’ in his boat) – my inclination was to move-on (he also mentioned that there were few if any places to camp) – Fowlers Bluff was essentially ‘it’ (this was a true statement).
Update, 4/2012. Treasure Camp restaurant has opened and is awesome; ice, cold beverages, real land food – and primitive camping $7 per paddler. A good stop – but I didn’t.
My thinking at the time had to do with the cold-front moving in and while paddling away from Fowler’s bluff I felt a little more ‘pushed’ to cover the remaining 17 miles, not the way that I wanted to paddle this river.
Using the favorable winds I paddled a bit more steady reasoning that if it became necessary I could opt by setting up my tent on one of the two remaining boat ramps between here and the town of Suwannee.
In retrospect there really wasn’t a good place to camp between Fowlers Bluff and Suwannee – neither of the boat ramps were apparent – and I looked for them as I paddled.
Nearing 6 pm and without noticing any boat ramps, it was a good feeling to finally see some roof tops on the horizon ahead; could it be Suwannee? – no matter; my tent was going up somewhere among them, – soon.
Alongside was this Osprey nest, if you enlarge the pict you might notice the Osprey swooping down towards me.
The village of Suwannee, Fl ahead.
There are no markings for the Anderson River Camp from the Suwannee River, fortunately at the first canal a fisherman directed me into the canal and to my left – where eventually a small sign appeared.
‘Bill’s Fish Camp’ is where you sign-in to use the river camp, they also have rooms – 65 bucks a night (cash or check only). I considered a room with the cold front coming through but with thirty-two bucks cash it would be the screened porch, this worked out just fine at five bucks a night, awesome – “give me two nights, the shuttle is coming to pick me up Thursday and I’ll just take the ‘day-off’ tomorrow (the best choice).
Anderson River Camp was once part of Bills fish camp, not sure how the river folks worked this out – but its another awesome invitation for paddlers to explore the Suwannee River’s natural quality. They also have a primitive camping area plus allow use of this screened ‘porch’ when there are fewer campers (I was the only) – with a damp-packed tent from Fanning Springs it was a great room to set-up and allow it to dry, a luxury – now for the cool night ahead.
Last day, the canals of Suwannee;
The shower available is in one of the ‘least nice’ rooms of ‘dated’ motel, with no furniture inside. It’s almost ‘nasty’ after all of the newer showers in the other river camps upriver – but again, for five bucks a night its a luxury – and I know it was attended to by ‘Wallace’ and not overlooked. It was 41 degrees this night.
Facebook Post; “Tues – day 9; 31 miles with the wind at my back, 4-miles from Gulf in little town of Suwannee till Thursday, feet up. Now I know to where the Suwannee flows….”
Suwannee River Mile References
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).