-Trip report -
4 kayakers - from Fargo to the Gulf
in 7 days, at extreme low water.

By David Bracknell

Trip dates Feb 24 through Mar 3, 2007

 

This is an abbreviated report - but I hope it will help others to do any part of the Suwannee they can.  Just do it - it was an amazing trip for us.

4 kayakers, self-supported, 2 Current Designs Solstice, 1 QCC 700 (brand spanking new), and one Current Designs Storm. 

We used the services of Suwannee Canoe Outpost as suggested by Bill Logan to shuttle us to Fargo, GA and pick us up at Suwannee, FL.  Great guys.  Steve the owner didn't think we would make it.  Another good person to talk to is Wendell at American Canoe Adventures in White Springs - he was the one who put my fears at ease about starting in Fargo at low water - it was 51.5 at White Springs and we were thinking about starting at or after White Springs.  Wendell had recently done a trip and said for us to go for it - so we did.  Note that we were in fully loaded kayaks 17 to 18 feet long and they float a little higher than canoes.  The water was low and we had to avoid rocks and trees and go over many shallow shoals with fast moving water but that all made it more enjoyable for us.

Our trip was a great success.  We successfully completed the trip - a day ahead of schedule: Fargo to Suwannee in 7 days. We had a great trip and didn't feel we were pushing too hard. Well, three of us felt that way. Our fourth companion wasn't quite as good a paddler (poor technique) as we had hoped - he struggled somewhat to keep up the pace and to be fair, he had a plastic kayak while the rest of us had longer, composite (Kevlar and fiberglass) kayaks - but he made it!  Three of us are just fast paddlers and we really enjoy the ride even though we seem to be racing to most people. We had plenty of time to explore and enjoy the scenery.   That said, we decided to plan a kayak/exploring/hiking trip in the future where the daily mileage will be limited to 10 to 15 miles per day. On that trip we will fish and do more exploration of the areas.

The biggest obstacle was Big Shoals - the portage was brutal and dangerous. The water was so low we had to go further along the trail to find a launch site and the best place was still a mess.  The ground was rocky and muddy. I didn't think we would get all four kayaks across in one piece but we did. I will try to contact someone about that to see if we can talk them into making it a safer portage. We even got to "shoot" rapids - around 15 areas had swift water and a class 1 rapids with rocks all over the place. We bounced off/went over some rocks when going through the various rapids but we did great and had a blast. Just some minor scratches to the bottom and I'm not even sure if they were already there or not.

We paddled close to 30 miles each day with two days of 37 miles.  Day one we camped in the wilderness around 16 miles south of Georgia.  Next night at Suwannee  Valley Campground  in White Springs ( we onl went 23 miles due to portage at Big Shoals that day).   The campground is very nice and they have cabins available.  That night they also had a "Root Beer Float Social" which was a great way to end our day. 

Day 3 camped at Holton River Camp - an excellent place to stop with showers, bathrooms and very nice screened shelters to sleep in.  We left our kayaks down by the river - it would have been too strenuous to carry up the bank.

Day 4 we made it to Lafayette Springs (37 miles) and camped in their campground.  Just after we left Holton River camp the Alapaha River and Withlacoochee River joined Suwannee River and gave us a nice push with current around 1.5 mph according to my GPS.  That was nice and at times we were clocking over 6 mph without too much effort.

Day 5 we again paddled 37 miles and camped at a boat ramp near Branford - that set us up for a successful trip - having the extra miles under our belts so the last day we could have a leisurely paddle and make it to Suwannee since there are few places to camp between Fanning Springs and the Gulf.  Very nice area for camping - at the end of a 7-mile road with few houses around.  A local hangout where the good ol boys come to have a beer in the evening and talk.  It was neat to see a bunch of trucks pull up and everyone coming out to talk and then they left in an hour or so and we were all alone again. 

Day 6 we paddled to Fanning Springs and stopped to camp while under tornado warnings for the entire night.  The bad weather hit to the north of us so we were very lucky.  Had high winds and rain throughout the night and the next day.  It was still a nice paddle once we got started even in the rain, although chilly whenever we took breaks.

Day 7 paddled to Suwannee, FL and stopped at Manatee Springs where we saw 5 baby manatees.  If it wasn't so cold and rainy, we may have stayed a little longer but it got cold when we weren't expelling energy paddling.  Camped at the Angler's Resort (got permission from the owner) - no place really to camp so we were lucky to find this spot which was suggested by a few rangers we met at the springs we visited.  The site was sold to the state and they will be making it another river camp which will be great for river paddlers so now there will be a place to camp in Suwannee.

Day 8 we kayaked into the Gulf - 7 miles round trip from Suwannee - just to say we made it all the way.  Back in Suwannee, the outfitters picked us up and we returned to Live Oak , loaded our vehicles and headed home after a victory dinner at a Cracker Barrel just off the highway.

I posted photos on our website : http://paddleacrossflorida.home.att.net.  You can also contact Dave on this site if you have a question.
Bill, you are welcome to copy photos from our site to post on yours for a more permanent report - our site may change but not for a little while.

Dave   . . . . . . .