For our 14th and final Suwannee Quest paddle, we paddled the river from Fowlers Bluff to the Gulf of Mexico, 16.5 River Miles or about 18.9 paddling miles over 2 days. We used the town of Suwannee as our base camp where the Anderson Landing River Camp provides tent camping with a single shower/toilet and a rustic but welcome screen house for cooking, eating and lounging away from the bugs. To the west of Anderson Landing is a very busy public concrete boat ramp, while Immediately to the east is Bill’s Fish Camp which offers RV sites and simple but very clean motel rooms with kitchenettes. The water level by the White Springs gauge was 49.92 – low low.
On Saturday morning Captain Kay from Suwannee Guides (suwanneguides.com) met us exactly on time at Anderson Landing to shuttle us up to our put-in at Weeks Landing. A couple of things to note here. First, Weeks Landing is in the Lower Suwannee National Wildlife Refuge and while the road is well maintained it can be flooded when the water is only sightly high. So check with the land manager or Suwannee Guides before deciding to use Weeks Landing as a launch or pick up site. Second, we had finished our previous Suwannee Quest paddle at Fowlers Bluff, but since it is on the east side of the river and we were on the west side and the nearest bridge across the Suwannee is up in Old Town, putting in at Fowlers Bluff would have added over an hour to our shuttle. Since it is only about a 1/2 mile paddle upstream from Weeks Landing to Fowlers Bluff, we decided it made more sense to paddle the extra mile than to drive over an hour around.
We were on the water by 9 am, under hazy blue skies. The 1/2 mile paddle upstream to Fowlers Bluff went by quickly and after a brief in-boat break we turned our boats around and headed downstream.
Nearing the end of its wandering path to the Gulf, the Suwannee is over 500 feet wide and with only a few exceptions the banks are low and swampy. Cypress trees form the overstory with lots of Spatterdock and bushy wildflowers along the water’s edge.
We saw a lot of Sweet Pepperbush, Late Purple Aster, Swamp Rose and Swamp Leatherflower along this section.
Around noon we stopped at the only real high spot of ground along this stretch – Fletcher Landing. We had a nice lunch and leg-stretch break and found some Florida Wild Iris (Iris virginica) growing nearby. Soon after settling down in the middle of the landing to eat we were joined by a Fiddler Crab.
After lunch we continued downstream, struggling against a strong headwind and passing several creeks that would be worth exploring. Around 4:30 pm we finally approached Demory Creek and saw the first houses of the town of Suwannee. Turning into Demory Creek and its maze of canals we took the first canal to the left then past the marina took a right into the canal leading to our campsite at Anderson Landing.
After a quick shower and change of clothes we gathered for dinner at the Salt Creek Restaurant where we celebrated with seafood, margaritas and a perfect sunset over the Gulf salt marshes.
On Sunday we were up early to pack and get back out on the water. The weather report was for 25 mph wind gusts in the afternoon, so we wanted to get going early. Just as we were leaving Captain Kay from Suwannee Guides showed up and gave us some advice on various routes out through the salt marshes and islands. We launched, following the canals back out through the town of Suwannee.
We paddled south following the channel between Goodson and Odlund Islands to an abandoned home at the end of the power lines. We had been told that this was the oldest remaining home in Suwannee. We took about a 1/2 hour break exploring the old home and its out buildings.
Afterward we headed west to the main channel into Suwannee and took some group pics around some of the channel markers. It was hard work keeping the kayaks together in the increasing wind!
From there we headed to the southern tip of Harris Island for a picnic lunch on the beach. The wind increased steadily and soon the sea was covered with white caps.
We put our heads down and paddled like hell straight into the wind to cross the shipping channel. 10 minutes of all-out hard work brought us back into the lee of the salt marshes on the pother side of the channel. Fortunately, no power boats came through the channel during the crossing. (Sorry, no pics of the crossing. I would have broached if I have taken my hands off of my paddle.) After that it was a fairly easy paddle back, using the salt marsh islands to protect us from the wind.
One thing to note when paddling this area. The salt marsh islands are over your head and cut by wandering channels, so visibility is limited. A map and compass and/or a GPS is really necessary to avoid becoming confused in the maze.
Back once again at Anderson Landing we quickly packed up and left, feeling a real sense of accomplishment at having paddled the entire Suwannee River within the state of Florida.