Another extreme low water feedback
report farther down river.

 By John Malinoski
 Jacksonville "Skiters"  
September 21, 22, 2002

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  Two Days and a moon-lit night on the beautiful black waters of the Historic Suwannee River;  6 kayaks and paddles, 6 paddlers, Male and Female, 6 tents, 5 rolls of bio-degradable, 6 top leaf, hand made Camacho cigars from the Jamastran Valley, Honduras, 3 Pounds of Fresh Salmon and a large cardboard box. What a trip it was and what a weekend which began early Saturday morning at the "American Canoe Adventures" outpost in White Springs literally across the street from the "Stephen Foster State Folk Culture Center"  where we left our vehicles  and hired Wendell to transport boats, paddles, paddlers (male and female), gear, Salmon and one large cardboard box to the Cone Bridge Boat Ramp which is just about 8 river miles south of the highway 6 bridge. Now ya'll know there is no bridge at the Cone Bridge Boat Ramp?   Hurricane Isidore was forecast to continue on a westerly heading after crossing the western tip of Cuba so we were confident that we would have a fairly dry and warm weekend, although we really do need several tropical storms to move across the Okefenokee and North Florida.  We checked the water level Friday night and the reading at White Springs was a scant 50.15 Ft. MSL and the discharge was at a meager 54 Cubic feet per Second ( the mean discharge is 2000) and this was very evident as soon as we slid those kayaks into that clear black water, no meaningful current, no discernable water movement but it also meant no other, or very few boats on the water this weekend which was just fine with us; we never saw another person until Wendell picked us up at the new canoe ramp at the SFSFCC.
 
       It was just after 10:00 AM by the time we set out, 6 boats and the Cardboard box, just a beautiful stretch of the mighty Suwannee this is, we soon passed "Roaring Creek on the right bank just a half mile or so beyond Cone Bridge (Roaring Creek was hardly roaring, in fact last weekend it was simply a dry creek bed that one would miss if you did not know it was there).  Our first rest stop, Three and a half leisurely miles later was a small enticing white sugar sand, sand bar at "Little Creek" on the left bank, a great place for lunch, a refreshing dip in the water and we even had a bit of time to explore the surrounds around  Little Creek and it's sister "Valentich Creek"  Unlike Roaring Creek, these two creeks were flowing and the cool water was indeed refreshing as the waters of the Suwannee was warm and the temperature was near 90 degrees.  What are those red, inch and a half long oval fruit that we pondered?  We thought they may be PawPaws but they were too small and the inside was not that of any PawPaw that I have seen, but anyway it gave us one more song to sing on the way down the river.  We passed several small fresh water springs flowing from the high banks, springs that I'm sure would not be visible when the water level is normal, but anymore, I'm not sure what normal is, and I don't think anyone knows for sure until they (who are they) figure out what is going to be done about the "Sill"  Our next stop was the Big Shoals SRWMD tract canoe launch, just a bit of a breather and another refreshing swim before the Big Shoals Portage Take out. 

     The Canoe launch is on the Right Bank with steps leading up to the Park grounds and probably three quarter mile from the portage take out.  It is now just after Three in the afternoon when we take out at the portage on the rivers left bank;  no fear this weekend of the current sweeping you over the shoals. The camp site above the shoals is a wonderful spot and it did not take long to set up camp and start preparing our evening meal, so you have been wondering where the box comes in?  Remember the fresh salmon?  The box was our smoker which became additional fuel for the camp fire when finished,  a mere 5 hours later we were dining on smoked salmon, roasted corn, potatoes, red and green peppers, a little red wine and several cans of Dublin's favorite, cool, but not cold Guinness.

 
Big Shoals (10 miles from Cone Bridge)
 
While the salmon was being smoked, it was time to scout the shoals to find out if we could run them in the Kayaks or whether we would be carrying the boats the half mile or so to the put-in just beyond the rocks. We could still hear the water rushing over the rocks, so we knew there may be a run.  Upon our first observation it did not look like it could be done but that is why we had Chuck along, he soon found the only passage  and thought we could all make it through with little or no trouble; short kayaks, yes; sea kayaks and any type of canoe, not at all.  I also doubt that even our yaks could have made it if the water level was another 6 inches lower than it was.  After a great meal, Chuck decided to take his boat through, Dave followed Chuck that evening while the girls and I decided to make the run in the morning (hoping that we would have a terrific  storm that would dump a few more inches of water in the river, but alas alack no rain). 

      The Run was challenging but some kind of fun, the kind that we wished we could have ran over and over, it made this trip on the Suwannee on of the best short trips on the river that we have had.  The only path over the shoals at this water level is along the right bank through 3 narrow chutes and then a hard left to the center of the river with the next drop through a  chute that takes a hard right, a left and another quick right while dropping 3 feet or so.  The last drop is just north of the southern most put in on the rivers left.  We finished loading the boats at 11:00 AM Sunday morning and headed south for White Springs.  A half mile south of the big shoals is one more drop and narrow chute to navigate, the last for several miles.

 
Little Shoals
 
From the last drop mentioned above, it was smooth paddling for the next two and a half miles until we hit the first rocks of the little shoals and in the next two miles or so until the highway 41 bridge we dropped another 4 times and at each drop, the chute that we found was the only way through, so again, a long sea kayak or canoe will not make it.  If you plan on "canoeing" this part of the river between the big shoals and the bridge at this water level, "DON'T" unless you enjoy carrying your canoe and gear over the rocks.  If you plan on running this stretch in a small kayak, you will have one enjoyable day.
 
White Springs (5 miles from the Big Shoals)
 
From the Highway 41 bridge through White springs is another 5 miles to the Stephen Foster Center, here you will begin to see the high cliffs of the Suwannee and the  Limestone outcroppings, another beautiful section of the river, about 2 and a half miles south of the 41 bridge look for a wonderful sugar sand, sand bar on your left, a perfect spot to rest, and take a refreshing dip in the river or as I did, gently paddle across the river at this point, lay back, close your eyes and enjoy the shade of a huge old oak, take out for this trip is only 30 minutes away. 
John Malinowski
Skiters Swamp Paddlers