(Audio - "Calico-rag")
The most beautiful part of the Suwannee,
White Springs to Suwannee River State Park.
Photo Album - Page 3 - contains photos of this section.
Though I use the term "sandbar" often, in actuality it is a misnomer. I do not mean 'sandbars' in the middle of the river. (water all around) The term "sandbar" actually applies to sandy strips along the banks of the river. Technically they are sandy beaches mostly, but some are flat and at the river's edge.
Last November 6th, we made another run down the Suwannee. This run I was mainly interested in capturing some fall colors and also making the superb run from White Springs to Suwannee River State Park. The weather was cool and clear and almost perfect canoeing weather. Our group was almost the same as our other runs except we were missing one regular who had an emergency at the last minute, and we had picked up one new person.
leaving our cars at the Canoe Outpost in Live Oak,
We arrived back at the Hwy 41 bridge North of White Springs, - at 2:15 PM
We loaded our canoes and got on the water about 3:10 - We passed the Stephen Foster Memorial Gazebo on the river at roughly 3:45 (NOTE! The Hwy 41 bridge, by river, is about two miles east of the town of White Springs. So it is not really White Springs. I use that term only as a landmark.)
Since it was getting late, we picked up our speed quite a bit in the last hour to make sure we arrived at our campsite. We were really planing...
There were no visible campsites along this stretch. (I am told there is a small site at some power lines right outside of White Springs) I highly recommend if you are going to make this run, to leave early in the morning and put down early in the afternoon. On this stretch I do not recommend you paddle to almost dark and then look for a site. You very well could end up paddling in the dark. NOT SWIFT.... especially at very low or very high water.
We arrived at a nice a sandbar on the
right for our campsite 1 hr. 45 minutes later. Averaging our speed ... I guestimate
at 4.5 MPH That was at our speed. Your speed may be faster or slower
... due to your experience, the weather and the water. So I suggest you use these times as
approximate. That would make the sandbar approximately 7.5 to 8 miles downstream from
White Springs. It was on the right up high - flat but narrow. There have been campers
there before. For identification, There is a road angling off at the far east end that
appeared to be used very little. I later discovered that this road is damaged about a
quarter mile back and is no longer usable so you don't need to worry about unwanted
(DEC. UPDATE) I again stopped on this sandbar (sandy beach) and stayed here three nights. During this time, I cleaned up the site, removed (leveled) three old campfires ... leveled the tent area some more, picked up trash and marked this site with three bright fluorescent orange ribbons around a tree highly visible from the water. Also, scratched a request in charcoal on a large log at the far end of the site for future campers, asking they only use the existing fire rings ... to conserve room for placing the tents. The road mentioned, leads back about a quarter mile to a very nice road that parallels the river. LOTS of deer and turkey tracks on the road... but each morning very early and each evening late... did not see any while letting my dog run. Only complaint I had about this site is one hears the noise from Hwy 75 since the bridge is only 40 minutes paddling time downstream.
Back to the Nov. Trip.....
The temperature during the night must have gotten down to near 30... the thermometer read 32 when we got up about 6:45 am We left this campsite at 10: am Thursday morning. For the next three bends downstream of the first campsite, there are shallow shoals. Take you time and carefully read the water before entering the chute. IF ... the water gage at White Springs is not below 51.5 you should be able to get through with little problem .... Below that you could have a problem in some areas. Below 51 is very shallow. You WILL have occasional problem areas.
We arrived at the Hwy 75 bridge at 10:40 am The temp was very comfortable in the high 50s.... So our campsite last night was about 40 minutes above HWY 75. At roughly 3 miles per hr. that would make it about 2 miles above the bridge.
At 11:15 we found a very large, flat and beautiful sandbar on the right, where we had lunch. We were here about 35-40 minutes. This sandbar was large enough to house 10 or 15 tents. That would put this sandbar about 1.75 miles below the Hwy 75 bridge. Beyond this, for nearly 2 miles there are only two small sandbars that would be worthy of camping on. In this area there is nothing else.... Almost NO campsites.
We arrived at the "Cubby Hole" (mentioned in detail in my book) at 1:55 PM That makes it 2 hrs. and 25 min. paddling time below the Hwy 75 Bridge. ( On the right) We noted it was now very high up on the bank. One would have to know what they were looking for to recognize it. The water had been almost 6 feet higher when we had made our other trips. Both times before we had used the Cubby Hole campsite. There are outside and inside photos of this site in the album so you will know what to look for.
NOTE ... the "Cubby Hole" is a campsite back inside about 35 feet. It looks like a rounded cutout in the river bank (from an old creek which has since filled with sand) On the Dec. trip, I found that high water had piled several feet of tiny leaves at the entrance which made walking back in more difficult than the normal sandy bank. Using my paddle as a shovel, I removed most of them so there is now a nice path back in. By the way, this is a very nice little site and will handle about three tents. Leaving a little room for fire and cooking, etc. If you need more tent room, there is more room up on top of the flat. We have used this site several times with as many as six of us and it was just fine. We like it especially since it is out of the wind should we get weather. (Believe it or not, though it is inside, we had very few mosquitoes) I marked this site also with the orange fluorescent tape. Two dangling from a limb just upstream... and two around the tree. Though the tape is helpful, I highly recommend you go to the "Photo Album 2" and see what this campsite looks like, or - you could pass right by it and never know it was there.
Back to the Nov. Trip:
At 2:00 p.m. we passed an extremely large sandbar on the left side.
(I believe this is the sandbar where I built "The grave of the Lost Canoer.") on this last trip.
Look for it. Cross at the head... feet sticking out at the bottom. (Grin)
Purpose... I had worn those great sneakers ten years ... and they had had it. I loved then because they were so darn comfortable and had lasted forever. I hated to throw them away and felt they deserved a fitting departure. (being also somewhat of a joker) ... I decided to give them a proper burial. It looks quite realistic.... If someone does not destroy it "looking for a body" (grin) .... youll see it on the upper part of this sandbar.
At 2:07 p.m., on the right side we passed a large sandbar that would make a nice campsite. (No tape)
At 2:30 on a hard right bend there is a large sandbar that is big enough for several tents. Not too flat but usable.
At 2:45, we arrived at the campsite where the
people with the Pomeranian (in my Video) had been camped. The river really destroyed this
beautiful bar. It is not nearly as nice now as it had been then. This sandbar is now steep
coming up from the river but up top it is very flat and there was plenty of room for our
tents. So this is where we put down for the night.
(This site is marked with tape - I believe I gave it a three)
We got on the water again the next morning at 9:40
There were NO more campsites until we came to an area on the right that had a
couple dozen colored flags strung from rope between the trees and large wooded steps going
up the bank. We arrived here at 10:25 There is a super camping area up above.
About a 100 yards farther on, a fast running creek comes in. This is "Crooked Creek." 4/25/00 UPDATE. This is now
private property, David Pharr of Suwannee Canoe Outpost, had been given permission for his canoers
to camp there. But the owner of the property has now leased it to hunters. Not
sure if it is posted yet so if you hazard to camp there you may be asked to
leave. There are smaller wooden steps going up here also. I'm told there is an excellent
regular tent area up top with plenty of room. Good flat ground.
If you see posted signs please respect them.
10:45 another sandbar that looked like it would have room for 2-3 tents in a tight.
At 11:00 we came to the area where the large canoe
group from the colleges had camped for the night on the right. From the river, it
appeared to be no more than an old sandy road about 20 feet wide and was relatively steep.
But there were 30 people who camped there so it has to be fairly good size up
DEC. UPDATE: On the December trip I went up and checked to see what it looked like up top. This is really a sleeper. From the river it does not look like much, but up top there is all kinds of room for dozens of tents... LOTS of room. And also good flat clean sandy ground. Very nice. However, it is a difficult chore to carry all your gear up that sandy bank.
I marked this site ... up high on a large tree to the left ... with three ribbons.
At 11:20 we arrived at an extremely large sandbar on the right. Room for 10 or 15 tents. This sandbar we stopped for lunch. We determined this to be THE best sandbar we had seen on the river up to this point. But it is out in the open with no protection whatsoever from sun or weather. It did have lots of firewood available from the drift wood lodged in the trees (DEC. UPDATE )I think I also marked this site with a three.) We had lunch there and left at 12:25
At 12:35, we passed another sandbar on the right that was steep. Not too good, but would do in an emergency.
At exactly 1:00 p.m. we passed under some power lines crossing the river. At that location, on the left side there was a quite good sandbar.
Right around the bend from these there was another sandbar but not too good. OK for a small group. 2-or-3 tents, in a pinch.
At 1:12 PM just before Suwannee Springs is a nice
sandbar on the left that the upper part would might make a good campsite ... about a
hundred yards before Suwannee Springs.
NOTE: In my book I said ... "from the river, one can tell you are at Suwannee Springs by the beautiful stone steps leading up to the spring."
DEC. UPDATE: This is no longer possible.
The high and fast water has piled a huge sandbar right in front of the steps and they cannot be seen from the river. There is a very small place at the downstream end of the sandbar where you can pull out to walk up to the spring. It is worth the effort. You are viewing some of Florida's history. Should you decide to camp on this sandbar, be advised there may be a few people from the spring milling around. They drive to the spring and park in a parking lot nearby.
You'll know this is the right place since by looking downstream a hundred yards you will see the high stone walls (on the left) built in the 20s to contain the spring.
We passed under the old abandoned bridge at 1:17 PM and about 10 minutes later we passed under the Hwy 129 bridge.
We arrived at Spirit of the Suwannee Campground at 1:45 PM We all went up to the campground for hot showers* and clean clothes. Did some reorganizing and got back on the water at 3:43 PM. * Be advised - You could be asked to pay for your hot shower privilege. The shower facilities are on - and owned by The Spirit of the Suwannee Campground. They are for "paid" campground customers. Ask David or Debbie if they will arrange this for you.
We did not see any sandbars anywhere until 5:00 PM. We put down here for the night. This sandbar was flat and low to the water. We did not have to carry our gear but a dozen feet to where we set up our tents. It was narrow but very nice and clean sand. Mac discovered a Timber Rattler when he went to build the latrine. (No tape markings below Spirit of the Suwannee)
We were on the water the following morning
(Monday) at 9:10 AM
and several minutes later a fair sandbar on the left side. Lots of firewood there.
On the right at 9:45 we passed a fair sandbar on the right.
We arrived at the Boys Ranch ramp and sandbar (on
the left) at 9:50 AM.
Though I have been given permission to camp there, I suggest that you not use this campsite unless you are running out of daylight. Though there is no danger ... I'm sure it would be appreciated by the administration of the Boys Ranch.
About 5 minutes from the Boys Ranch, there was a small sandbar on the right, right around the bend.
About 9:58 AM we came to a very nice spring on the right side. Said on tape it was "a good spot" but did not elaborate enough to give better description.
At 10:25 we came to another good sandbar on the
right that was quite large.
Steep but looked like it might be good on top.
At 10:30 on the left side is a small sandbar with room for a couple tents.
At 10:45 on a right bend another sandbar that has room for two maybe three tents.
At 10:55 on the right side there is a large creek
or spring with a high flow - (This could be "Holton Creek") that goes way back
in apparently. We did not stop to investigate.
At 11:00 on a left bend, on the left side, across from some houses is an exceptionally beautiful sandbar. VERY nice!
At 11:15 on a right bend another nice bar large, flat, and lots of firewood.
We stopped here for a short break and came back on the water at 11:35.
This would make a very good campsite.
12:40 we passed under Hwy 751 Bridge.
About 12:55 we passed the Alapaha River on the right.
At 1:15 we stopped for lunch on a sandbar... back on the water at 1:47
2:15 ... Approx. 2 miles before the State Park, on a right side on a bend, nice sandbar... nice and flat up on top.
3:15 on left ... before Suwannee River State Park... a very large spring coming up right at the edge of the river. Looks like a little cove. I believe this is called "Five Hole Spring"
3:20 we passed under the power lines just before the park. Also, large warning sign... pipeline crossing.
Huge spring on left at 3:25... just before and right beside the Park ramp.
We arrived at Suwannee River Park at 3:30 PM.
Once again, your speed may vary with
mine ... I suggest you use these times only as a reference.
Should you have a question, return to the Home Page and e-mail me.