Big Shoals  
6/7/01
Water Level -- 49.74 @ White Springs

 Photos taken on 6/4 -5-and 6/01

and Portage improvements.

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  Big Shoals is the only white water in Florida -- when the water level at White Springs is 57.0 or above.  To the best of my knowledge, Big Shoals has never had a Warning Buoy - ever!  As the result,  people have suddenly found themselves in swift water before they even knew the Shoals were there. By that time, it was too late and they were either jammed on the rocks or their boat or canoe capsized.  If canoers were lucky, and the water was not a Class III as it normally is when the water is high, they may have made it through. Experienced Kayakers are the only ones that can safely shoot the rapids today and many do so strictly for the thrill.  If you are not experienced, I highly recommend you not attempt it, and you should NEVER attempt it in a loaded canoe.

Pontoon2.jpg (103250 bytes)  This photo is a good example. It happened to an elderly couple out for a afternoon ride, in 1997.  It's a wonder they were not seriously injured.  Several hours later they were rescued by passing canoers. They did not know the Shoals were there and got into swift water  before they realized what was happening. Only slightly hurt, their ego, their boat and pocketbook  was badly bruised. It could have been much worse if the water had been higher.  Had there been a buoy with a warning sign, above the shoals, this would have never happened. There were signs, but in such poor shape and placed so high in the trees, they were not seen.  Suwannee River Water Management was aware the signs were in a poor state of repair and needed replacing more than 5 years ago, but did nothing.

  On the following work project, I put in on June 5th (01) and came out on June 8th. The purpose of this trip was to install a Warning Buoy, clean up all the campsite trash, and even devised a sanitary way to remove all the unsightly toilet paper -- (which was everywhere) added campsite benches around the fire pits, and added a ramp for easily sliding canoes up the hill from the pull-out, and added a white spot locator so one can see the pull-out from over 200 yards upriver. No more looking for the pull-out.  It is now very easily found.  UPDATE: I believe the spot has been washed away, though the post was buried deep and in concrete  AND THE RANGERS HAVE NEVER REPLACED IT.  Too bad, it was very useful in easily locating the pull-out from a distance.

First project, (And the most expensive)
   Because there was a real need for a Safety Warning Buoy, I decided to take it upon myself to build one.  The hope was that never again will anyone be surprised by the Shoals -- and hopefully, never again will anyone be hurt here. I wanted to build one that would last for at least 8 to 10 years. So, I spent two weeks building it with only the best of waterproof materials. Used marine wood, lots of brass screws, epoxy, and fiberglass. The 8 inch -- 5/16ths eyebolt the cables hook to was reinforced with 2 X 4s so it would withstand the hard rush of the water pulling at it continually for long periods of time. All joints were not only joined with brass screws, each joint was also glued with waterproof glue. The inside of the buoy is entirely filled with Styrofoam block.  The reason for this was some of the "good ole boys" probably will use it as a target and I didn't want it sinkable. It got a good coat of epoxy, when dry it was completely covered with fiberglass and another coat of epoxy. When dry, that got a final coat of epoxy -- with sanding in between each coat.  When that was all dry, all the edges were given a final smoothing and got another 4 inch fiberglass tape.  Then another last coat of epoxy -- then two coats of Marine deck paint.  Each coat took 24 hours to dry so at the last I had to resort to infrared heat lamps so it would be dry in time for leaving for the river.  A 1/2 inch plywood sign was mounted between 2X4s with 2X2s on top -- for strong support. It also got two coats of epoxy and two coats of marine paint.  It was mounted to the buoy with 2 - 4 inch stainless steel bolts so it can be removed later should the  lettering need to be replaced. The SS bolts were also coated with silicone when tightened to make the holes waterproof. You can see why it took two weeks to build. It had to last.  The buoy was the most costly item of all the projects. Many of the some 60 brass screws cost $.99 each -- some $.49 each. The epoxy and fiberglass alone was $64.00 -- which I had to buy more glass.  We used 140 feet of 1/4 steel cable (two 70 footers with two concrete blocks on the end of each as an anchor)  at almost a dollar a foot -- was used -- However -- on that I was fortunate and very appreciative that MAC, the owner of Cocoa's Travis Hardware donated the cable.   We thank him very much for his generosity and wanting to help keep people safe in the future. 4 inch fiberglass tape and Marine paint was another $20.00  and 4" sanding belts (4) at 4.95 each. Then there was the cost of the trip, food and gas for a 500 mile round trip. (about $60.00)  I mention prices since some people have been kind enough to donate after the fact,  toward the above and below projects.  I wanted them to know why my expenditures came to be almost $300.00

Here are some photos of this project.  All photos that you see the date in the lower right corner were taken by Margie Hunerwadel.  Thanks for your help Margie.

Construction of the buoy.
(A) Buoy_build1.jpg (55169 bytes) (B) Buoy_build2.jpg (70240 bytes) (C) Buoy_build3.jpg (69737 bytes) (D) Buoy_build4.jpg (70665 bytes)  
(E) Buoy_build5.jpg (53861 bytes)  (F) Buoy_build6.jpg (103536 bytes) 
A. Beginning framework and adding solid Styrofoam.
B. All parts had to be glued as well as screwed. (In case the 'good ole boys' use it for target practice)  All parts were tightly clamped while drying for added strength.
C. First coat of epoxy drying. Looking at it upside down.
D. Sign temporarily mounted, before last coat of epoxy and before 4" fiberglass tape installed and glassed again on all edges.
E. Unit complete and painted.  ( bottom ) Installed a 1-1/2" keel to help keep it straight in flowing current.
F. Me and the Buoy -- Ready for the water.
David and Debbie Pharr of Canoe Outpost did the sign lettering. Nice work guys!  Another UPDATE:  Rangers later removed the buoy.  Said it did not conform to the state's buoy descriptions. NOW, once again, there is no buoy to warn boaters.  What a crock.

Installing it.

(A) Buoy_build7.jpg (129760 bytes)  (B)   (C)  
(D)   (E)
Buoy_build8.jpg (75303 bytes)  (F)  Buoy_build9.jpg (144165 bytes)     BE SURE TO ENLARGE  E  AND  F            
          
A.   Towing it into position downriver from Godwin Bridge Park
B.   After unloading a barge load of tools, equipment and supplies, preparing to set the concrete anchors.
C.   David moves upstream to drop one set of the anchors.
D.   Final adjustments of the rear trailing weight attached to the keel to keep the balance toward the rear.

E.   Close up --
F In it's final resting place, centered in the middle of the river and installed roughly 150 yards above the top (and beginning) of the Shoals. Hopefully it will last many years and help keep all river travelers safe.  It can be easily seen the moment one rounds the bend in the river which is roughly 200 yards above the buoy

UPDATE:  Suwannee River Water Management first discussed maintaining the buoy -- then backed off.  Then complained that the buoy had no permit. (I went through US Coast Guard  not them.)  They would not give a variance. Then, as an excuse, they then said the buoy "was an obstruction" and a "hazard to boaters." Yeah!  Sure!  If any boater could not see that buoy from 100 yards away -- they shouldn't be on the water in the first place. They would have to be blind not to see it.  Never mind that SRWMG had never done anything about placing a warning buoy there in over 30 years. (Or ever will) And I doubt they even asked anyone else to.  Then, as we discussed it, I was told, "well, it wouldn't last anyway. It'll get washed downstream when we get high water."  I asked the guy if he had actually looked at the anchoring, etc. He said he "had seen it from the banks."  He had never bothered to go out to the buoy to see if the cables were a problem. Never bothered to check the amount of weight on each cable (there were two quarter inch - 70 feet long to allow for river rise and fall)   They had known from 1996 that the warning signs along the river banks upstream were in such poor condition that most people could not read them. They did not get off their duff to do anything constructive or to improve safety for all boaters --  UNTIL -- I put the buoy in.   Then,  suddenly, they now have posted new signs on the river upstream to warn boaters. Great.  It only took 6 years to get that done.  But, after speaking with the person at the State who is the authority -- and getting the "no permit story" again, I agreed to remove it.  When I was asked by her if there were any other means of warning boaters, I responded that the SRWMD had finally put up new signs.  She asked me how big and what shape --  when I told her -- Her flash went off ---  OOPS!  Seems the SRWMD   have now shot themselves in the foot.  According to the state, The signs they have installed are also illegal.  All warning signs on the river have to be diamond shape to meet state standards.  (Don't ask why)   Well, it's the old old story.  The more you stir it -- the more  it stinks.  If they had left things alone, maybe everybody, boaters, paddlers and SRWMD would have been far better off.  NOW--  the buoy is out, and the signs have to come down as well. But you watch, they'll ask for a variance for the signs --  which they said they could not for the buoy.  Boy!  Great job SRWMD!  I'm sure you'll feel very proud of yourselves when another elderly couple, or anyone else, gets hurt on those shoals.  And I'll be the first one to make sure you get the credit you so richly deserve.  If the above sounds angry -- it's meant to!  I'm very upset at your lack of wanting to help keep those shoals safe for all boaters and canoers.

Next project   --    Completed.
   Since I personally found it difficult to spot the Portage pull-out until right on top of it, and have had a few same complaints from others also, I decided to do something about that as well as long as I was already there.        
The major problem was that the sign posted -- "Big Shoals Portage" was back in the trees --(see last photo of the completion of the "spot")  and the same color as pine needles and trees, it was impossible to see unless you knew exactly where it was and what you were looking for. The big problem was, when the water level was above 54.00 at White Springs, the fast water of the Shoals started ONLY 75 feet below the pull-out.  A slight misjudgment of an inexperienced paddler and they were in  fast water in a heartbeat. Inexperienced -- in a rented canoe -- and they would be in trouble fast.  I wanted to eliminate that from ever happening.

   So, I moved down near the water, up high, and in direct line of sight of the bend in the river, and installed a two foot diameter white circle on a ten foot 4 X 4   planted  three feet in the ground and in concrete.

  Digging the hole     Pouring the concrete    Final!       

The circle is designed to be moved up or down as needed for the water level.  Among the greens and browns of the trees the white stands out well.  Before you go complaining about cluttering the environment, let me say -- it is far more important for the safety of all paddlers to have it than not have it.  The Park Ranger loved it -- so much so, they are now going to place their sign on top of the 4X4 post instead of back in the trees -- so instead of two signs -- there will only be one. Never again will any paddler not be able to find the pull-out.

Pull-out_Spot.jpg (139640 bytes)    Paddlers, this is what to look for. As stated, it can be seen all the way from the river bend.  By the way, in case you don't know, the Portage pull-out is on the left side, approximately 100 yards below the new Warning buoy.
White Ibis were feeding everywhere on the green shoals grasses.
Also, while working at the pull-out, this little guy kept me company.  He was only about four feet long.  But he was curious as to what I was doing. By the end of the second day, he came to within about 60 feet from me to get a good look,  though he never got closer.

Next Project.  --    Completed.
   Those who paddle solo and have to move their canoes alone should appreciate this one.   (Another $15.00 purchase) I purchased a "remnant" piece of outdoor carpet, 2.5 feet X 25  feet. I had taken along a Mattock  (pick axe) so it was not difficult to smooth most of the hard rock and clay lumps in the pull-out slot.  After about 20 minutes of work smoothing and tapering,  I 'laid' it right in the middle of the slot, up high enough it shouldn't be bothered by water for awhile. I then nailed it down with 10 - 8 inch spikes. Hopefully it will be around for awhile.

Carpet_Slide.jpg (113221 bytes)  This is what it looks like looking from the water to the portage trail.

Next Project. --    Completed!
   I raked up all three campsites, cleaned out all fire pits, removed  (and garbage bagged) all the unsanitary and unsightly toilet paper within all sites and within 20 feet of the road -- (and never had to touch it)  left by inconsiderate and/or unskilled campers. There were even diapers thrown into the bushes. We are aware who the culprit was in this case. Two Very inconsiderate mothers with no respect for those coming behind them. There was about 2/3 of a 48 Gallon garbage bag full of this unsightly mess. Now, the sites are clean. Please do your part to keep them that way.

 Campsite2.jpg (195430 bytes) This shot is of site 2 at the Shoals after cleaning, looking toward the river.

Next Project.  --    Completed!
   I have personally witnessed two people slip and fall on the slick mud area at the put-ins below the campsite. One was a male in my party, on our original trip, the other was female in her 40s. She was hurt. My guy was lucky and only his ego was damaged, though his bottom was sore. There has been no place to get footing and the mud there is extremely slick. As stated earlier, I had a pick axe with me so it was an easy chore to dig  steps into the bank where people can get up and down without being injured.  I did this on both put-ins.  Hopefully it will keep people from getting hurt.

Steps.jpg (101214 bytes)   This is the second put-in. The First one was done also.

Next Project.  --  Completed!
 David Pharr was generous to supply and cut the timber for seats I wanted to install in campsite one.  He also helped haul it -- along with other tools and supplies, to the Portage pull-out.  After getting my other projects done, I installed these campfire seats.  The benches are 2 X 6s cypress and the posts are 6 X 6s also cypress planted in the ground roughly 18 inches and in concrete.  (I took two 60 LB. bags of sack Crete with me)  Hopefully paddlers will enjoy these and not destroy them.

Benches.jpg (156578 bytes)          Final shots of project.
 Look to the center of the pic and you will see the fire pit is also clean. Seats were installed back far enough from the fire pits so people could enjoy the fire and not be too close to it.    This site contains five possible tent spots. All the area around them was completely raked and cleaned. You can't see it here since the night before I took this it rained with drops big as buckets for several hours.

Next Project.  --  Completed!
The area I mentioned where people have slipped and fell in the slick muddy area is at the edge of the first put-in. To try and dry out some of the upper area, I dug a couple inch deep cut into the dirt to try and drain off some of the seep so the top soil would be less wet and that upper area might hopefully dry out. 
Seep_drain.jpg (155742 bytes) After this photo was taken, Ranger Tyrone suggested I go an inch or so deeper, so I did.

David_Pharr_Outpost.jpg (172141 bytes)  David Pharr of the Suwannee Canoe Outpost, Live Oak, was a big help. Anchoring the buoy, supplying the lumber, making the sign and also helped move tools and supplies to the Portage.  Thanks David.

My Helpers.jpg (152383 bytes)  My great helpers who helped move my tools and supplies to the Portage. Unfortunately, David Pharr was not available for this photo. Left to right,  Big Shoals Ranger Morgan Tyrone, myself, Otto Hunerwadel, and Margie Hunerwadel. The latter two are both Canoers. They drove all the way from Dowling Park, Florida  just to be helpful. Very nice of them. It shows they also care about the Suwannee River.  Ranger Tyrone was extremely helpful.  He loaded all my trash, tools and gear in his 4-wheel drive truck -- at the Portage -- and ferried it back to the Godwin bridge parking area for me,  -- so us "ole fogies" wouldn't have to grunt and pant lugging it all up the very steep trail from the river. He was a God send.   I should also give the Hunerwadels another credit --  the next day after I arrived home,   I received an order for a video and a book from them as gifts to friends, and a $50.00 donation to help pay for expenses of the project.  That was generous and a big help.  As I said, they  love the Suwannee and live in Dowling Park on the river.    Outstanding people!

For your information:
For those who wish to put in at Godwin Bridge Park turnaround, here are a few things you should be aware of.
(1) The path opening in the fence, (from the road) down to the put-in is all the way around the loop at the very end.
(2)  The path going down to the put-in is roughly 150 yards long and down a steep dirt path. My guess is the incline is possibly roughly 30 - 35 degrees.
(3)  At the end of this path, there are nice but steep wooden steps going down to the water. The steps were built over a deep hole so at the very edge of the steps, the water is over six feet deep even at extreme low water. One must be very careful loading or entering their canoe or kayak.   (We had to heavily load three canoes here)  The reason we picked Godwin was because it is only one mile above Big Shoals. Cone bridge ramp is a far easier launch, however, it is eight miles farther upriver.
(4)  WARNING -- Ranger Tyrone asked me to warn all -- You must park outside the gate if leaving your vehicle overnight. In the past there have been several break-ins at this location.  Ranger Tyrone has just moved into a new house at the outer edge of the parking lot gate. If you plan on leaving your vehicle here, be sure and notify him of your plans so he can keep an eye on it.   Another solution is to call David at Canoe Outpost at 1-800-428-4147 and have him pick up your vehicle and park it in their patrolled secure area. (His rates are very reasonable) Another option would be to do the same with American Canoe Adventures -- Wendell Hannum,   right in White Springs    Reservations - 1-800-624-8081 or local - 904-397-1309  Then when you pull out at either place,  your car is there waiting for you.  (With all four tires)  {:o))

Godwin_launch.jpg (133679 bytes)    This is what the steep step launch looks like at Godwin Bridge park. Margie holding canoe while David and Otto load.

                                                            BIG SHOALS PHOTOS

(A)  Only_a_trickle.jpg (140110 bytes) (B) 
(C)  Dry_Shoals1.jpg (144952 bytes) ( D) Be sure to enlarge this one.       
(E)  Dry_Shoals2.jpg (164369 bytes) ( Ea)  
(F)     (G)
(H)     (I )   
(J) Portage_Trail.jpg (175813 bytes)  (K)  

A. Far side of the Shoals -- (right side - coming downstream) only a tiny little trickle of current. Only about 10 feet across and shallow enough to wade across, just above the small cascade.

B. Same location as A --  close up shot.

C. Standing on the high bank, at the first put-in, just below the campsite,  looking upstream.

D. Otto standing in the middle of the Shoals "rock bed,"-- you are looking upstream.

E. In the center of the shoals, looking straight up stream -- to give you an idea of how large the rock shelves are.
This shelf is probably over four feet high and almost a vertical drop from the top.   There are about three of these, two of which are this large.  Note the small pool below it.  WARNING  FYI --to mothers and fathers -- These little pools can be very dangerous to small children since they are very deceptive. They appear to be shallow, however, many have extremely deep holes that have very sharp limestone edges. I used a five foot stick to test depth. On some, I could not touch bottom. Others were around three feet or more. To a small child, thinking it was shallow, he would be over his head in a heartbeat. If he did not drown, he would probably be badly cut by the sharp limestone edges.  Remember, this water is the color of coffee. You cannot see bottom -- even on a shallow one foot deep pool.  There are many of these holes around the center of the Shoal.

E(a)  Same location, different shot.

F. For those who have been to the Shoals before and put in at the first put-in below the campsite, you will recognize this.  You are looking at the first put-in -- from down in the river bed. When we did our full 213 mile trip, when we put in here, the water was only about 5 feet from the top of the bank you see here. In fact, we tied our canoes to the roots of the small tree you see on the far right, while we launched the next canoe. You will see that in my video. 

G. If you have been to the Big Shoals portage area, this shot is from the edge of the first put-in, looking downstream.

H.  With almost no water flowing here, the grasses have grown up in the areas immediately above the rocky part of the shoals.  They are nice and green and it is these grasses that the Ibis find so interesting. Whatever it is they are eating is living in these grasses.

I.  With the water at this level, fossils and artifacts are easier to find.  This shot is of fossilized oyster shells.  I'm not a geologist, so my opinion is guesswork based on what little knowledge I have of Florida history.  These fossils date back to the time Florida was part of the ocean bed of the Atlantic ocean.  I believe that makes these fossils somewhere around 65 million years old. I left them where I found them.  It should be pointed out that when you find something like this, take pictures of it but leave it where you found it for others to enjoy. (and geologists to study) .

J.  I threw this in for those who have never been here.   I'm often asked questions about the Portage.  How far, and conditions of the trail, etc.  You will note the trail is well maintained, wide, and flat.  Making a relatively easy portage.  Obviously, now, with this low water, one much portage well over double the distance to find enough water to get your canoe in -- and load. It's a long walk if you don't have a canoe or kayak dolly.  If you are planning a trip on the Suwannee sometime soon and the water is very low, I highly recommend you invest in (or borrow) a dolly. You will sure be glad you did. You can load most of your gear in the canoe and transport everything in one trip. Otherwise, you will be making a half dozen trips of a little under a half mile each to get it all moved. I don't need to remind you what a chore that can be  -- especially in hot weather. At normal water (above 54.0) the portage is only roughly 1200 feet.

K.  When I was here, the buzzards had begun to roost in the trees near the beginning of the portage trail and trees around the river banks. There must have been nearly 100 of them in the evening. Needless to say, the smell was not pleasant.  Hopefully, they will move on to another location when the water comes up.

                         ADDITIONAL SUBJECTS -- REGARDING THE SHOALS CAMPSITE

 Tree_damage.jpg (170837 bytes)  A disgusting display of an immature camper -- damaging trees in the campsites. There had been a Scout troop in this site just ahead of me. Since all damage was fresh, and even initials carved in some trees, I'm reasonably certain the damage was made by scouts. Any parent, or Scout Leader -- who would allow a person in their group to do damage such as this to any plant or tree, just to show their Davie Crockett  hatchet skill, is criminal in my opinion. There was evidence of this on almost every tree in camp, though not this severe. Those people should be ashamed of themselves for not riding herd on their kids or teaching them to respect the environment. You know who you are.  I hope you read this and feel ashamed that you were totally lacking in leadership. Hopefully, you will learn from it and teach!!!!!!

                                               

I hope you find the above information useful. 
                                                                                                            Happy paddlin!
 

                                                                                                               Bill Logan