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PostPosted: January 7th, 2016, 11:46 am 
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I'm considering driving down to spend some time near Tampa Fla. in March. I also have a friend with a cabin west of Live Oak in north central Florida near the Suwannee River.

I'm considering paddling the Suwannee from Fargo Ga. to his cabin. It's a pretty developed, well used river - one report I read mentioned that they "played paintball" the first night out and "had fireworks" the second :o .
But there should be a few places where I can at least pretend that I'm "in the bush" and spend a couple of days camped, fishing and getting a "feel" for the place.

I'm also wondering if the hassle of bringing my own canoe is a good trade-off to the hassle of renting one when I'm there.

Any comments, or alternatives?

Here's a PDF map of the Suwannee:
http://www.mysuwanneeriver.com/Document ... /View/1224

And a link to a previous thread:
http://www.myccr.com/phpbbforum/viewtop ... 16&t=27574


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PostPosted: January 7th, 2016, 12:55 pm 
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No need to pretend. Since that post you cited, in a variety of trips I have done from Rt 6 to the Gulf ( I am missing some segments below Branford, out of your intended paddling areas)

The map you cited does a good job of outlining public and private shorelines. On the latter you can expect all sorts of behavior including fireworks. However that has not been in my experience.

Its not all that well developed, because it floods often. We tried to camp at Lafayette Blue Springs two years ago ( for paddling) and all of the campground was underwater.. We were still able to paddle though liveries do NOT rent during high water ( good for them!). We had our own gear and the rangers were fine when they saw the safety gear and the PFD's on.

From Rt 6 to Suwanee Music Park is a three day paddle. Mile 195 to 148. Mile 148 to Mile 127 is gorgeous.

You no doubt read a report from a good old yahoo.. or two. And its not the norm. In March that is.. ( cant vouch for the summer). It can still be near freezing at night so don't think its that other tropical Florida.


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PostPosted: January 7th, 2016, 2:13 pm 
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Thanks LRC, was counting on your input.

WRT cold nights - I don't go anywhere, even Florida, without long-johns and a fleece jacket at the bottom of my pack and a balaclava and warm socks in the bottom of my sleeping bag, but maybe I'll add a little extra.
But I do want it to be spring-like; do things start to green-up by the second half of March? If not, I might be able to wait until about the second week of April.
You mentioned Rangers - I thought this was free access, kinda' like crown land, and that I could come and go without asking/telling someone and camping wherever I wanted. Is this a regulated route? Like do I need a permit or reservations or the like?

I'm a put-up-the-tarp, cook with a fire type camper. Any issues with having a fire?

Also, I know you aren't a big fisher-person, but do you have any experience fishing the upper river?


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PostPosted: January 7th, 2016, 6:01 pm 
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Yes things will start to sprout in March at the end. The river is technically a Florida State Park but its free and there are no hassles. No permits. Patrolled because people occasionally do stupid things.

You can camp anywhere. If you want the more civilized River Camps, they take reservations. I have never used them so I don't know if you need them. River Camps are free.

https://www.floridastateparks.org/conte ... -conyers-1
Watch the fire ants. I have never tried fires. Sometimes my camps are on sandbars but it is not appealing to me to wander in the woods to find firewood. Welcome to the South where things either sting or tear at you. You will meet the saw palmetto!


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PostPosted: January 10th, 2016, 8:04 pm 
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Location: Venus, Florida
I have paddled the upper Swanee several times. The most undeveloped section is from Fargo dam (Georgia) to Route 6 (Florida.) I have been south as far as the huge Swanee Music Park. Past White Springs, you start getting some major power boats. Farther north, it is just the occasional small motor fishing boat. South of that area, there are some wonderful springs, but I have not headed that way, preferring to stay in the less traveled areas.

You need to check the water levels. In March you are most likely to see low water levels. There is a very short stretch of white water at White Springs. I am sure it is runnable at some water levels, but what always puts me off is that the rocks underneath are knife sharp. There is a well-beaten portage trail and campground at the site.

In general you can camp almost anywhere along the river, although some places are posted. Fires are not restricted to my knowledge. There is lots of dead wood close by, due to the flooding and deposition of driftwood. You do not have to register or pay for camping anywhere unless it is a state park or private campground.

There are alligators. They mostly are shy and do not cause trouble, unless they have been fed. If you hit a walkin fishing area, you will know it cause a gator will be chasing your bait. Also at very low water levels, the gators can get techy. As with bears in the north, the only really dangerous gators are the ones who have been fed, mothers with a next or newly hatched babies, and bulls looking for mates.

http://www.aca1.com/

The above business does shuttles. Unless they have changed hands, it is a locally owned business that has been there for a long time. I usually start at Fargo and then go to White Springs, or the Rt 6 bridge depending on time.

Erica


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PostPosted: January 10th, 2016, 8:25 pm 
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American Canoe Adventures is the outfitter I have used. They are very adaptable to your needs and conscientious. You can park at their facility with no charge. But they will not run a shuttle in a high water situation;they'd rather give up business than risk someone getting hurt. ( I understand that some paddlers will disagree).

They give great local information. I have never run Big Shoals. Its usually class 3 for me and wicked sharp limestone.

One of my favorite sections is at the confluence of the Alapaha. There the Alapaha River coming from Georgia emerges from underground

March -April is mating season for the gators. The bulls are pea brained, so beware. I have not seen them on the Suwanee main branch but they are there. Seen many in Okefenokee above Fargo and of course elsewhere south.

Water levels at White Spring should be at 52 feet for dragging avoidance. 55 great canoeing.. above that and your sandbars will be fewer.
Water level


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PostPosted: January 11th, 2016, 10:16 am 
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Great info guys, much appreciated.

Still planning things, just might be able to make this happen. Will keep you posted.


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PostPosted: February 5th, 2016, 10:53 am 
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Targeting putting-in at Fargo March 20th with provisions for 5 nights out. Will bring my tandem tripping boat and paddle with brother #1. Brother #2 will car-ferry us up from Tampa (where we'll be staying with Brother #3 - a bit of a reunion before we get too senile to recognize each other). No specific paddling plan but will scout out a parking place near mile 127 on my drive south. Will hire a ride if we over or under-shoot.

I'm curious about water levels. This link shows the river rising at White Springs from 56 ft above sea level this morning to 68.6 ft by 2/7/2016. So 12 ft in 2 days? Am I reading it right?
http://www.mysuwanneeriver.org/realtime ... levels.php

What about drinking water? It looks like it can be pretty stained. Can you re-hydrate and cook with it? Can you drink spring water unfiltered?

Also, is there any prohibition WRT alcoholic beverages?


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PostPosted: February 5th, 2016, 8:48 pm 
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There has been a lot of rain down there lately and tornadoes and good things wet. We will be in Apalachicola Wed and that river has been in flood for days. We hope the constant wet of Florida's usual "dry season" stops soon. Enough is enough. The Suwanee has high banks though and tends to run quite faster when river levels rise.

Yep you are reading it right. Florida and Georgia is pine country. Tannin stained water except at springs. Standard water filter like you use in Ontario is fine. You can drink spring water unfiltered but if the inflow from the river is carrying debris and boar shit you might think twice about that.
Yes I said boar.. not bear. The latter is more friendly.

Booze? Heck selling moonshine is legal in Georgia now that the tax man is involved. I suggest avoiding the tourist peach moonshine.


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PostPosted: February 7th, 2016, 4:23 pm 
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Location: Venus, Florida
In spite of this being our dry season, we have had a lot of rain. Most of the rivers and creeks rise quickly. I have seen the river so dry I have had to drag significant distances north of Route 6 bridge. In times of very high water, paddlers can lose the river because it expands so far into the flood plain and is so wooded there is no obvious channel.

Regarding drinking water, I know of no reason not to drink the water. Most southern paddlers I have met haul their own fluids in the form of sodas, bottled water and whatever other drinks one might want to partake of. There is only one portage at Big Shoals, although you may have to drag where Tom's Creek comes into the river. Sometimes that backs up with downed logs, etc. If the water is high enough you go right over.

For five days, instead of bringing dried food, you can bring canned food and skip the re-hydration. Just a preference that seems to be popular in the south.

One thing I have learned about hot southern paddling is that hot dinners and hot breakfasts are not to my liking. You might want to consider no cook meals. I typically bring sausage, cheese and crackers...granola for breakfast. Obviously this is a matter of taste.

Again, just my experience, leaving an unattended vehicle at a take out is asking for trouble. There is cell phone access, at least texting, along the entire river. You can text or call out for someone to meet you.

Erica


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PostPosted: March 6th, 2016, 11:14 am 
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Made it to Tampa.
Change of plan - will be heading up to paddle the Suwannee tomorrow, only be doing Fargo to White Spring, 3 nights out. Water levels look good at 54 ft. Weather forecast is for sunny and warm.
Going to have ACA car-ferry us up to the put-in - only $100. Parking is free if you use their services otherwise it's $3/day.
Looks like I'll have a few spare days around the 20th. Would like to spend a night in the Everglades - drive south from Tampa in the morning, paddle in for a few hours, camp overnight then back out the next day. Any suggestions?
Much appreciate the advice received so far.


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PostPosted: March 6th, 2016, 12:15 pm 
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Driving in to Everglades City from Tampa takes about three hours. There is a Ranger Station in Everglades City. You cannot reserve a permit more than 24 hours in advance and it must be in person for camping in Everglades National Park

Arriving at noon may very well mean there are no campsites available for that evening. I usually go the day before.

Time depends on wind and tides. If they are against you you will have slow going. Usually the winds come up about ten am and are 20-30 kph.

Jewell Key is a nice beach key and is about an 8 km paddle. Lopez is up a river about six miles from Everglades City.

Free launch is from Everglades City-Gulf Coast Ranger Station. Or almost free. this year it was a five buck charge. At low tide it is a mucky launch. For a fee there are other launch spots on Chokoloskee Island.

http://www.nps.gov/ever/upload/Wilderne ... r_2009.pdf

For one night if the tides/winds were favorable I would pick Camp Lulu about 8 mile paddle from Everglades City. It is outside the National Park boundaries and no permit needed. It has no bathroom. It may be spring break week and you will no doubt have company. Bring fresh water in a hard sided container.( raccoons will chew water bottles up but Nalgenes hold up)

Sunset is at six thirty. Lights go from on to off. There is no lingering sunset per se. Bring bug jacket.


The islands that are between Chokoloskee Bay and the Gulf of Mexico are mostly mangrove, but Jewel, Rabbit and Picnic and Tiger have nice beaches.

Another alternative is to leave from Collier Seminole State Park on US 41, pay the launch fee and go to Gullivan or White Horse key. Both with beaches. No permit needed; its outside the National Park.


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PostPosted: March 12th, 2016, 9:31 am 
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I got some good advice in this thread and it behooves me to “pay my dues” by contributing a bit of a trip report. So here it is, for what it’s worth:


Fargo Ga. to White Springs Fa on the Suwannee River, early March – I can highly recommend this little 3 day trip.

So, we arrived at ACA in White Springs about 11:00am. 10 minutes to stow our gear and tie the canoe onto their van, a 50 minute drive and we were at the put-in at Fargo. There, the Suwannee is little more than a largish creek. Down to the water’s edge to give an offering of tobacco on this our first meeting, I was surprised at the amount of tannin in the water. Its brown stain rivaled anything I’ve seen in the Canadian Shield, which is saying a lot.

Water levels at White Springs were about the 53 ft mark – pretty much perfect. Lots of water to paddle in and lots of exposed sand bars and banks. Temperatures in the low 20C range and a good forecast.

The 3 day paddle back to White Springs was basically 3 different scenes.

On day 1 the scenery had a magical look, exotic to my Boreal-bred eye. Cyprus trees lining the shore flanked by their honor guard of “knees” aligned neatly along the shore. (Knees are stump like growths up from the trees root to give them access to oxygen.)

Huge tupelo trees, some better than a meter through, were growing right in the middle of the river, their trunks disappearing down into the tannin-stained water. We puzzled over how they got there; if they started on a sand-bar that has now washed away then why are their roots not visible?

I admit the first alligator I saw momentarily scared the crap out of me. A deep, instinctive rush that I imagine came from the remnants of my own reptilian heritage, buried way at the back of my brain.

We were drifting along, quiet, just drinking in the scenery (and a deserved adult beverage). It was on a sandbar on river-left, broadside to us. At first glance to my untrained eye it appeared to be at least as long as my 17ft boat and was clearly on an intercept course with us lined up to be its lunch! Well, my excuse is that my sense of proportion was thrown off by the unfamiliar surroundings; it was maybe 9 ft long and was headed toward a deep-water escape route where it slowly sank and was gone.

Still, it was a large animal you wouldn’t want to mess with. An hour later a similar sized gator did come directly at us then turned and swirled the water with a great splash 10 ft in front of us. I presume it was a male letting us know that this was his place. OK, we’re leaving! And the next day we did see a really big one, clearly big enough to kill and eat me if it wanted to. But it didn’t.

The river is well used, and all its denizens are intimately familiar with canoe and kayak bearing humans. But it had a sense of wilderness to it and we had it to ourselves. We spent most of our time in silence, the occasional easy Canadian stroke to augment the mostly meager current. We saw some wildlife. A beaver that’s fur seemed tinged so red that we had a hard time telling what it was. Don’t know if that was an aberration or if beavers tend to that colour on the Suwannee. An otter, but we didn’t get close to it. An egret hop-scotched down the river in front of us, staying just out of picture range. And the occasional gator, usually from a distance, usually quite small, and usually just slowly sinking beneath the water.

I was surprised by the lack of birds and assume that, still being early in March, the local migrants were yet to arrive.

Anyways, I loved it.

So, following Erica's good advice to linger in the upper section we made an early camp on a random bank, now about 3 feet above the water. The surroundings were open, dry pine forest with lots of firewood laying about. We were mindful of snakes, but it didn’t feel like a snaky place and we didn’t see any.

We hadn’t seen any bugs all day but as the sun set the inevitable cadre of mosquitoes did show up. Some of the tiniest I’ve ever experienced, and I’ve met quite a variety of varieties. We swatted, and swiped them off, and smudged up the fire and sauntered through the smoke and basically lived with them, contributing some protein to the local ecology, without resorting to DEET.

It was only mildly disappointing that we could occasionally hear a truck on the distant highway. But we were “in the bush” and slept sound.

The next day took us into the second of the three sections of river. It was characterized by deeper banks lined with tall plantation pine trees. If you squinted your eyes a bit and replaced the low palmetto plants with Labrador tea and the tall pine with more spindly spruce it could stand in for a river back up in the boreal.

It was another easy day of basically enjoying just looking around, but we missed the fairy-land landscape of the day before. As we continued south we did notice more palm trees which were a nice reminded that we were in a semi-tropical environment, much different that what we were used to. It was great!

We started to see people. Early in the day we met a good-old-boy, a local who’s lived on the river all his life. He scooped a cup of water from the river and drank it, as a sort of exclamation point authenticating his bona fides. He called us to him with a friendly “Hey, y’all get over here!” as we drifted toward him.

Just then the young lady with him let out a squeal, hauled back on her fishing rod, and reefed in a fish that must have weighed a good 5 lbs. It was a mudfish, or bowfin, which are considered by most an inedible bottom-feeder but our new friend assured us of a traditional preparation that included an over-night soak in lemon juice that he’s enjoyed since he was a boy.

Turns out he was a bit of a local celebrity, starring in a program on the History channel about re-claiming underwater logs. I’d never heard of it but pretended that I had. We pushed on, appreciating the down-home good nature and friendliness we had shared.

We met the occasional fishing boat that had moved up or down stream from the rare road-access points we were passing. Like everywhere, some ignored us, rather rudely, and some almost insisted we stop and chat. And like everywhere, people you meet in the bush tend to be good people.

Stopped for lunch we saw a lone kayak approaching. It was a young lady, a college student, who was doing the same route as us but on a little faster schedule. We called her to share lunch with us and she pulled ashore, happy for the company of two grizzly old graybeards.

She had no gear to speak of: a tiny tent, a skimpy rain coat and some ready-to-eat no-cook food. That’s it. She did this route often and if it rained she got wet, if it was cold she got cold and she was alright with that. Nice to be young!

We had been on the look-out for snakes. I really wanted a picture of my brother harassing a poisonous snake with a stick, just because. The kayaker said she saw 3 cottonmouths that morning. We saw one water snake and that’s it for the trip, despite keeping a constant eye open for them.

We were starting to get into sections of the river where the land was privately owned as announced by signs tacked to trees along the banks. Obvious campsites not obviously on private property became less frequent. We followed a spring through an opening in the bush on river-right about 30 ft inland to a small clearing and set up camp between the clumps of palmetto.

About the palmetto – it’s a low shrub-like plant with leaves that not surprisingly resembling those of a palm tree. The large leaves were mostly dry and rustled loudly in the slightest breeze. Rustled like the sound of an approaching animal. Like a wild boar, whose sign we had seen near camp. But it was never a boar, as far as I know. Well, once it was my brother, who can be a bit of a bore (sorry for that <blush>)..

(Later we spent a day paddling the Hillsborough river in central Florida. Lingering in our canoe until just about dark, when sensible people had already left the water and the silence of the evening was settling in, we heard rustling in the bush along shore and a group of wild boar appeared. Startled by our presence they quickly disappeared back into the bush with a squeal. They had a bit of a reddish tinge to them and were smaller than I imagined they would be, stubbier and no bigger than the Yorkshires I used to raise. But there you go.)

The next day we got to the third section of river whose distinguishing feature was exposed jagged white limestone rock banks as the river continued to erode its way deeper into the land. About mid-day we arrived at “the Shoals”, Florida’s infamous sole RII/III rapid: two shelves perhaps a meter high guarded at this water level by sharp limestone rocks top and bottom.

I wanted to run them, just because, but there was no clear line through that didn’t end up against cruelly sharp rock. I thought about trying it empty, solo with a big tilt on, maybe dance my way through, but it was beyond my skill level and into the realm of pure luck and I didn’t want to risk my ride out. But we were able to line right to the edge of the ledge so that the portage was little more than a lift-over.

The next night I’m pretty sure we camped on private property. There were no signs but we found a lane that had recent tracks of a vehicle. We walked up the lane for a kilometer or so and there was nothing but bush so with dark approaching we decided to set up camp.

Tents up, supper cooked over a small fire and darkness settled in. My brother, on the way from the fire to his tent cast the light of his headlamp into the low grasses surrounding us. “Come check this out” he said. Reflected from his light were the sparkling eyes of a small creature. Casting the light back and forth we saw that there were a tiny set of eyes about every square meter, sparkling back at us like tiny diamonds. We were surrounded, and it was a little bit creepy.

Close inspections revealed that they were spiders. Most tiny but some not so tiny. Thus identified they lost some of their creepiness, but they were still spiders so they were still a little creepy. Later I checked out a book and think they were a kind of wolf spider but I’m not sure.

Despite wondering how many spiders had made it into the tent with me, and the rustling of palmetto leaves convincing me time and again that there was a large animal walking about our site I was soon asleep and slept well once again.

We were on the water early after carefully cleaning up our site. We left no sign save the evidence of our small cook fire. I felt no guilt at our trespass, but that’s just me.

Another easy paddle, just enjoying our surroundings. We arrived at the take-out, a bridge just upstream of White Springs mid-afternoon. By chance the ACA van was there picking up another party so we hitched a ride back to our vehicle and were shortly back loading up our canoe and gear and saying goodbye to the river.

I liked it. I want to go back.


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PostPosted: December 8th, 2016, 6:39 pm 
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So this year I'm looking at the 242 mile run from the Suwannee's origin in the Okefenokee swamp in Georgia to the Gulf of Mexico.


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PostPosted: March 5th, 2019, 4:22 am 
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We did the whole river. Best was the upper part. I'm glad we did from Branford to the coast, had some good times, but wouldn't do it again.


A 72 page PDF detailed guide to the river:

https://www.naturalnorthflorida.com/blo ... _Ver2a.pdf


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