Trip Report - April 5 -7, 2003

Suwannee at high water.
B Lonny Erickson
Posted 4/18/03

Hwy 6 Bridge to Suwannee Canoe Outpost
1 canoe
-   Lonny Erickson & Line Germain

Water Levels at White Springs (according to Suwannee River Water Management District Website http://www.srwmd.state.fl.us ) :
April 5th : 71.1
April 6th : 70
April 7th : 68.7

    I’ve tried to note some easy to spot reference points so you can estimate your spot on the river (and adjust compared to our paddling times)

-We had the Upper Suwannee Map from the Suwannee Canoe Outpost and a compass, no GPS unfortunately so locations are approximate.

- these levels are very high so the current sped up our paddling times.

-There were many dangerous trees (strainers) in the water- avoid at all costs!

-The Outpost Map is a great resource but isn’t detailed enough to show all turns on the river, so we were often guessing about our exact location. For those who prefer detailed topographic maps, you get them at topozone.com (1 :25 000 maps -free).   

Day 1: Saturday, April 5th
As Bill
Logan mentioned in his book, there is a Wal-Mart superstore just south of the Interstate in Live Oak (open 24 hours) great place to get your groceries and ice before putting in.

Put-in was at the Hwy 6 Bridge, Mile 195.5 on map @ 3 :30 PM. Road beside bridge was muddy because of receding floodwaters.  Saw a group from Blazing Paddles Canoe Club and set off to find our campsite.

Getting a good site was a priority because of the time of day and the high water. After checking out some sandy but too small sites and getting bitten by fire ants (thank god we had shoes on), we passed a few old trailers on the right. My partner then saw a small clearing on the right riverbank barely visible through the trees.  It was actually the end of a road/trail that made a great site- road was flooded 50 feet back so there was no risk of people driving up in the middle of the night.  

The variety of noises we heard was incredible- small animals rooting around in the bush, frogs, barking dogs, cows, the odd car or train in the distance, birds, whatever. At one point (2AM?) was unable to sleep but finally got used to it… 

The river dropped 6 inches during the night. We could see the high water marks on trees and debris caught in branches a few feet above the water level.  

Day 2: Sunday, April 6th
On the river at 8AM.
9:00:   We passed a good spot on the left at the beginning of a curve to the right of the river, perhaps around mile 190.5.  

9:25 Heading south, the river divided (surprise!) where there was a sandbar on the point. We took the large fork to the left. Point looked like a good camp spot. 

9:30 on a right curve, small river on left flowing out of the Suwannee. Perhaps some creeks have reversed at this level. 

9:50 sand and boat ramp on left.  

10:00 Wooden stairs on right leading up to a small camp (photo may follow)

 

10:05 concrete boat ramp on left grassy area and clearing  (Cone Bridge?) 

11:00 sandy area on right perhaps mile 183 

11:40 SRWMD boundary on left- red pole and yellow sign- at mile 181.5 

13:00 Remnants of Goodwin Bridge – you see 4 rusted metal poles and danger signs for Big Shoals. Keep left-there are a couple of red and white signs and before a right curve the portage is well indicated on a brown sign. This sign was just barely out of the water when we passed. (photo to come).  

At this level, Big Shoals was totally washed out. Many power boats were taking advantage of the high levels (it was Sunday) and were boating up Big Shoals which is rarely possible. We stopped to scout the rapids- LOTS of current but no large waves at this level. As we have a royalex canoe with flotation, all of our equipment was attached firmly in the canoe, and experience in class 3-4 whitewater, we ran the shoals in the middle cautiously, but a portage is definitely preferred as any problems would have meant a long and dangerous swim in strong current (and lots of rocks at lower levels). It is definitely worth putting in above Big Shoals (Goodwin Bridge Rd is one option) and the portage is easy and makes a good campsite also. 

13: 45 Little Shoals- totally washed out- didn’t see anything. Met a few motorboats asking how far it was to Big Shoals. 

15:05 passed the SR 136 bridge and the Spring hose on the right. If you refer to the picture on the Outpost Map, only 2 of the holes in the concrete were out of the water. 

We found a site on the right on a curve to the left across from a sandbar, probably at mile 165. There was a small path up to a clearing at the end of a road. Seemed to be undeveloped building lots. We elected to camp on a very small sandbar by the water’s edge. The fire ring should still be visible. Cell phone worked because of nearness to I-75. 

Saw a snake when looking for wood- beige with brown squares. (Webmaster Note:  OOPS!  No snakes here with "Squares"  However, tan with black and brown "Diamonds" are prevalent and are Eastern Diamondback rattlers. Keep your distance!   Remember when paddling at high water, snakes also seek high ground. Keep alert.)  This day was also interesting because we ‘saw’ 3 gators. They were enjoying the sun on the riverbank but leapt into the water when they saw us, making a big splash, so had to be quick to get a look. Also saw a deer. 

Day 3: Monday, April7th  Underway early at 7:10 AM. (from about mile 165). Went under I-75 bridge at 8:10, got a few friendly honks from truckers. 

In this area on left was a cabin with yellow ‘gator crossing’ sign. Just after this there was a paddleboat caught in a tree on the left. Perhaps it will still be there (but 10 feet in the air) if you paddle by.  

Around 159 to 157- many sites on R with sand bars. Saw a couple of turtles. 

9:40 beautiful sandbar site on right (around mile 153). 

9:50 gazebo on the right 

We ate lunch while more or less floating in the canoe- so did a lot more mileage. 

12 noon Suwannee Springs on the left- just before bridge. Wall was completely underwater- we paddled over it and into the spring.  

12:17 arrived at Canoe Outpost. Great trip! 

General comments: We had a hard time deciding which section to do because some prefer White Springs to the Outpost while others prefer from Fargo to White Springs. We ended up paddling a lot longer and putting in longer days than planned and came out a day early. I’d definitely recommend planning on a shorter section to have a more relaxed trip, but it’s good to do your research and consider how many hours of paddling per day you’d like to do, how many breaks, weather, number of people in group, etc.  

We were really glad to have seen both sections (from Hwy 6 to White Springs and from White Springs to the Canoe Outpost). The upper section was wilder but also had more current, while the lower section was wider, and slower with more sandbars. It was quite an experience to see it at this level and would be great to come back at ‘normal’ levels to see the difference.  

Hope this is useful -we’ll send some photos to be posted when we’ve scanned them. 

                                                                                                                    Lonny Erickson & Line Germain

 

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